Japan's School Textbook Examination Procedure

June 2005
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The School Education Law enacted in 1947 created the current system of textbook approval. (Until the end of World War II, the government generally authored textbooks.) In this system nongovernmental publishers create textbooks and submit them for official examination and approval by the Ministry of Education. These books must meet the requirements of the Curriculum Guideline, a set of curriculum standards for Japanese schools; beyond this, however, the publishers have freedom to include their own learning methods and ideas in the material.

The process of textbook creation and approval involves several steps. First, a publisher gathers a team of academics and school teachers. This group writes a textbook, carrying out repeated discussions on content and editorial stance.

Once the book is complete, the publisher submits a sample to the Ministry of Education. There the Textbook Approval Research Council examines the text according to the Textbook Examination Standards. Based on recommendations from the council, the Ministry of Education requests that unsuitable passages undergo revision. The publishers resubmit their own revisions and if the Council decides them satisfactory, it recommends the textbook as an appropriate one. The recommendation is followed by the final decision of the Ministry of Education on the approval. (This process was considerably simplified in 1989, leaving publishers with more leeway in their presentation of the material. Requests for revisions do not mean rejection; such cases are extremely rare.)

Textbooks approved by the Ministry of Education are placed on display in local communities to allow public examination of them. The final decision on which books to use rests with local boards of education in the case of public schools, and with the schools themselves in the case of private institutions. Once the schools make decisions on the texts to go into their curricula, orders are placed with the publishers, and printing and distribution begins.

The entire process takes a considerable amount of time. Most textbook projects run at least three years from the launch of the writing committee to the actual use of books in classrooms.

Further information on this procedure is available, as follows, in English, Chinese, Korean and Japanese.

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