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80% of Japan cities offering online classes and some see them as useful post-pandemic

As the pandemic grinds into its third year, over 80% of Japan’s municipalities say they have introduced online classes at public elementary and junior high schools, and some see uses for web learning in a post-pandemic world.

The survey, conducted by Jiji Press and an affiliate research firm, covered a total of 74 major cities and wards. Of the 73 municipalities that gave valid answers, 62, or 84.9%, said that online classes are given at local schools.

In addition, the survey found that the 62 municipalities all plan to continue offering online classes even after the coronavirus subsides. Many of them said that classes can be held virtually in response to natural disasters or if students are having attendance issues.

The questionnaire survey covered boards of education in prefectural capitals, ordinance-designated cities and Tokyo’s 23 wards. It asked them about their situations as of November 2021.

It showed that schools in Sendai will switch to online classes when they close temporarily and those in the city of Nagano will do so when the government declares a COVID-19 state of emergency or when classes are closed.

The education ministry allows schools to conduct “special classes” online. But participating students are regarded, in principle, as the same as those on “attendance suspension,” a form of special leave. Of the 62 municipalities that have introduced online classes, 44 said that they follow this principle in counting attendance for students.

Students taking classes online in the cities of Kitakyushu and Miyazaki, however, are regarded as attending class. The remaining municipalities said they are using different attendance management systems.

A total of 37 municipalities are fully or conditionally in favor of treating online classes as attendance.

The board of education in the city of Kumamoto said that online classes “should be respected as a mean of granting various learning opportunities.”

Meanwhile, four municipalities voiced opposition to online classes. “It is difficult for school kids to establish academic abilities through online learning,” the city of Okayama said.

A total of 29 cities and wards did not clarify whether they are in favor of online classes. Three wards didn’t answer.

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