Fukui Prefecture, Regarding 30 Expected ALTs in September
On September 23rd, regarding Assistant Language Teachers (ALT) who are stationed across junior and senior high schools across Fukui Prefecture, Superintendent of Education Kinichi Toyokita disclosed, in a prefectural assembly for the general education standing committee, that 30 new ALTs expected to arrive in September were unable to come to Japan due to the effects of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) infection.
According to the Fukui Prefectural Board of Education (BoE), there were 106 ALTs across 74 public municipal junior high schools and 26 prefectural schools, within the prefecture. From August, ALTs work on a yearly contract, which can be extend to up to 5 years. This year, in relation to the anticipated Tokyo Olympic Games, the ALT contract start period was changed to the end of August.
Due to the restrictions on emigration and immigration, in response to the continuous spread of COVID-19 across the world, the 30 new ALTs expected to arrive this year were unable to come to Japan. During the end of July, the Prefectural BoE sent a notification to every school expressing “We are currently in a difficult state of affairs”, requesting to take on a flexible stance.
In a normal year, 1st and 2nd year junior high school students receive 1.5 hours of class time with an ALT per week, while 3rd year students receive 1 hour per week. Among the 76 ALTs whose contracts were renewed under the Prefectural BoE, schools have been managing with various measures, including having ALTs visit additional schools.
Superintendent Toyokita emphasized, “We will strive to secure education opportunities through measures including the use of those registered within the English Resource Bank (a registry of prefectural residents who are proficient in English).”
2019 Report, Third Year in a Row, 61% for 3rd Year JHS Students Have at Least EIKEN Grade 3 Proficiency
On July 15th, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) released an implementation status survey report regarding English education across public elementary, junior high, and senior high schools in Japan, during the 2019 fiscal year. Within Fukui Prefecture, 61.4% of third-year junior high school (JHS) students had an English proficiency equivalent to “EIKEN Grade 3 or higher” (a 0.2 point increase, from the previous year), and 58.4% of third-year senior high school (SHS) students had an English proficiency equivalent to “EIKEN Pre-Grade 2 or higher” (a 2.4 point increase); by prefecture, the numbers paced Fukui Prefecture in top place for the third year in a row.
The survey was carried out in December 2019, by prefecture and government ordinance city for JHS, and by prefecture for SHS. In addition to looking at English certificates obtained by the students (equivalent to EIKEN Grade 3 for JHS students, and EIKEN Pre-Grade 2 for SHS students), the teachers’ judgement on whether the student “has the equivalent proficiency”, based on the student’s grades, are also taken into account. With the national average of 44.0% of third-year JHS students with such proficiency, and 43.6% for third-year SHS students, Fukui Prefecture surpassed other prefectures under both categories by a large margin.
In Fukui Prefecture, the percentage of English teachers with at least an EIKEN Pre-Grade 1 certification is 59.7% within junior high schools (a 1.0 point increase, from the previous year), and 93.9% within senior high schools (a 2.5 point increase). Compared to the national average of 38.1% among JHS English teachers, and 72.0% among SHS English teachers, Fukui Prefecture also excelled within these categories.
Regarding the verification of the high English proficiency of the students and teachers, the Fukui Prefectural Board of Education provided their analysis, “Along with lessons being conventionally carried out in English, we are maintaining our path along continuous improvement. This is the result of the steady progress by both the students and teachers.”
Considering the Spread of COVID-19 at the Destination
In the midst of the anxiety concerning the second wave of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) infection, Fukui Prefectural Governor Tatsuji Sugimoto addressed the topic of having school trips by elementary, junior high, and senior high schools within the prefecture in a prefectural general interpellation, “Rather than cancelling school trips, I would like to endorse having it within the prefecture,” looking for destinations within the prefecture to be added as an option for school trips.
According to the Fukui Prefectural Board of Education, in a regular year, school trips outside the prefecture are carried out during spring or autumn for elementary schools, during May or June for junior high schools, and anytime between June and December for senior high schools. Due to the spread of COVID-19, school trips scheduled during spring of this year have been postponed to take place from autumn.
Prefectural Governor Sugimoto stressed, “The school trip is a major event, leaving students with some of their best memories. I believe that, while protecting the safety of the children, I wish for school trips to go forward and carried out.” Sugimoto continued by stating that the prefectural and every municipal education board, while maintaining clear standards, will create a system where each school can consult with its respective education board, and the “desire to endorse school trips to be held within the prefecture, if the original plan seems impossible (due to the spread of COVID-19 at the destination).”
Meanwhile, regarding a substitute tournament, in response to the suspended prefectural tournaments for junior high school sports clubs, Fukui Prefectural Board of Education Superintendent Kinichi Toyokita responded, “Based on the judgement by each district and municipalities’ sports association and school principals, a course towards an inter-league tournament is under review.” As for track-and-field and swimming, which normally does not hold regional preliminaries, a prefectural tournament is being planned by sports organizations.
Notice by the Fukui Municipal Board of Education, Heatstroke Countermeasure
By June 8th, every elementary and junior high school in Fukui City received a notice form the Fukui Municipal Board of Education (in Fukui Prefecture) stating that in order to prevent students from getting heatstroke, with the increased risk on days with high temperature and humidity, it has been approved that masks, which has been serving as a preventative tool against the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) infection, can be taken off while at school and while travelling to and from school.
According to the Fukui Municipal Board of Education, the Novel Coronavirus Countermeasure City Guidelines was revised on June 5th, after MEXT (the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology) indicated in the Hygiene Management Guidelines that masks are okay to be taken off in situations where the risk of heatstroke is high. In cases where masks are taken off, measures including room ventilation and having 1-2 metres of space between the students are asked to be carried out.
In the first version of the guideline, released in February, it was requested that, outside of lunch time, physical education classes, and during club activities, masks are to be continuously worn.
In a city council general interpellation on June 8th, Superintendent of Education Yuuji Yoshikawa expressed, “Because we are approaching the hot season, we are requesting the schools’ consideration,” responding to a question by councillor Ichii Hatta (Isshin Party).
All 40 Prefectural Schools, Resuming After Obon
On June 2nd, the Fukui Prefectural Board of Education disclosed to news media that all 40 prefectural schools will shorten its summer vacation period, and continue classes throughout July, after schools had been loved for roughly 3 months, as a preventative measure against the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) infection. While some schools will hold classes and supplementary lessons during the first week of August, almost all schools will start summer vacation from August 1st. From August 17th, classes will begin to resume.
According to the Fukui Prefectural Board of Education Administrative Regulations, prefectural schools’ summer vacation period is from July 21st to August 31st. However, because of the differences between the general and vocational education curriculums, the Prefectural Board of Education did not set one time period for how long the summer vacation period is reduced for all schools, and sought information from each school.
Results upon gathering information from every prefectural school showed that all 40 schools intend to continue classes throughout July. Excluding some schools, students will enter summer vacation from August 1st; six schools intend to resume classes from August 17th, while thirty schools plans to resume from the 24th.