Japanese textbooks to state rights over territories

Japanese textbooks to state rights over territories
The Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture.

The education ministry on Monday announced the results of its latest textbook screenings (see below) and the content of new textbooks to be used in middle schools from the next academic year.

All social studies textbooks for middle school students will include descriptions of the Takeshima islets and the Senkaku Islands as "territories inherently belonging to Japan," among other similar phrases, according to the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry.

This will be the first time that all social studies textbooks for middle schools will refer to both these islands and the northern territories off Hokkaido.

Publishers submitted for screening 104 textbooks on nine subjects, including Japanese and social studies. A total of 102 passed the ministry's checks after publishers made alterations.

Although two social studies textbooks were initially rejected, as they contained certain problems, they also eventually passed the screenings after corrections were made and new applications were submitted.

In addition to the northern territories, passages referring to the Takeshima islets in Shimane Prefecture and the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture were included in all 20 social textbooks for the first time.

In January last year, the ministry revised an instruction manual for curriculum guidelines, which serve as the criteria for editing social studies textbooks.

The manual stipulates the need to teach students that the Takeshima islets and the Senkaku Islands are "territories inherently belonging to Japan" and the history of how they became Japanese territories.

In addition to the revision of the manual, growing public interest in the nation's territories is also seen as contributing to the recent tendency to add passages about the territories to textbooks. Previously, few history textbooks for middle schools mentioned the Takeshima islets and the Senkaku Islands.

Regarding postwar compensation, more social studies textbooks have adopted the government's stance with a passage saying, "Compensation issues between countries have already been settled."

This was in response to the standard that the ministry added to the textbook screening criteria in January last year.

Under the new standard, when there is no clear consensus on matters of modern and contemporary history, textbooks should indicate that by referring to the government's stance, or using relevant descriptions based on rulings by the Supreme Court.

None of the textbooks currently in use at middle schools refer to so-called comfort women. This time, one publisher that newly applied for screening passed the ministry's examination by inserting the government's position.

Textbook screenings

The education ministry examines the content of textbooks based on curriculum guidelines before their publication. Each education board selects textbooks for public primary and middle schools, while the principals of private and national schools choose their textbooks by the end of August.

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