Schools to teach history of the Ryukyu Islands

Schools to teach history of the Ryukyu Islands

March 4, 2013 Kenta Masuda of Ryukyu Shimpo

The Nakagusuku Education Board will permit elementary schools teach the history of the Ryukyu Islands from the 2014 academic year by taking advantage of a system that allows designated schools to create their own programs without strictly adhering to Education Ministry guidelines. The board aims to foster young people who are internationally active, and knowledgeable about local history. To start with they will allocate 15 hours a year, but they aim to eventually allocate 35 hours for such local content, which equates to one hour per week. The board has initiated an education reform project by utilizing subsidies that have been granted to municipalities by the central government since fiscal 2012. Teachers will begin to write the textbooks this April. Few education boards in Japan have taken advantage of this system for schools to teach their own local history, and this will be the first time that the history of the Ryukyu Islands will be taught.

Junior high schools are scheduled to begin the program in April 2015. The board will apply this summer to the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology to request approval of the program. Although elementary school students have been studying the history of the Ryukyu Islands in social studies classes using supplementary reading materials, the quality and quantity has heavily relied on the individual teacher, and only limited hours have been available to deliver the content. The board has confirmed the need to secure class hours for the program from kindergartens to junior high schools, and that the pupils need to be taught in a systematic manner.

Nakagusuku has Nakagusuku Castle, which is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site, and the Ryukyuan lord Gosamaru based himself in the district during the Ryukyu Dynasty period. However, there have been limited opportunities to learn about the history of Nakagusuku, and such knowledge is crucial for cultural inheritance. The village plans to create a historical museum focusing on Gosamaru, and has been raising awareness among locals by the naming of the Gosamaru Athletics Stadium, and by creating the mascot character Gosamaru-kun.

Village mayor keisuke Hamada said, “We learned about notable figures from Japanese history such as Nobunaga and Ieyasu but we never studied the Sho Dynasty that ruled the Ryukyu Kingdom. By expanding the education environment, I want to provide the opportunity for students to learn the history of the Ryukyu Islands, and know about their ancestors.”

Many schools use the system to allow them to teach English to early and middle elementary school pupils. As of April 2012, there had been 148 cases (affecting 1527 schools) in cities such as Ginowan and Kanazawa in which some of the hours allocated for teaching life environmental studies and comprehensive studies were replaced with those for English studies.

Terminology: A system that allows designated schools to create their own programs without having to follow Education Ministry guidelines.
Schools can make their own timetable by utilizing this system. The system is part of the project for structural reform that the Koizumi administration launched, and local governments can permit schools in designated districts to create their own programs without following the Education Ministry guidelines. It began in 2003, and was simplified to its current form in 2008. Schools must abide by the teaching hours determined in the Education Ministry guidelines, the Minister permits designated schools to adjust the teaching hours if the schools satisfy certain requirements based on an application submitted by municipal education boards. As of April 2012, 206 cases had been designated, affecting a total of 2591 schools.

(English translation by T&CT, Mark Ealey)

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