Something's (Very) Strange! Inclusive Education in Japan (12) What was the True Intention behind Schools Requiring Parental Consent Only for Parents of Special Needs Children? - Director's Blog



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Something's (Very) Strange! Inclusive Education in Japan (12) What was the True Intention behind Schools Requiring Parental Consent Only for Parents of Special Needs Children?

Japanese Chinese

This topic was introduced in the November 18 post, and recently, a study by the United Nations on the nature of inclusive education has shed light on other aspects.

I am referring to the notification issued by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) to all schools in Japan in April 2022 regarding "Appropriate Instruction and Management of Special Needs Classes." The main message was that activities of exchange between special needs and regular classes would be limited (decreased) to a maximum of three days a week.

Activities of exchange between regular classes and special needs classes consist of activities that are based on the idea of inclusive education, and it was for this reason that a United Nations committee interpreted such notification as regressive, i.e., in contradiction with policies of inclusive education.

Since I had this report in mind, it suddenly dawned on me what was going on when the mother of a boy with autistic spectrum who had been coming to me for treatment made a point to me about the following incident.

"Doctor, as parents of a child in the special needs classes, we have recently been told by the principal of the school to submit a letter of agreement. Looking at the content, we could not understand why only parents of children enrolled in special needs classes are required to submit this letter of agreement, and we are not at all convinced of the purpose."

The letter of agreement is shown as follows. Names of individuals and private information have been altered.

To all Guardians of Person(s) Enrolled in Special Needs Classes,

xx xx, Principal
◯◯Elementary School
September X, 2022

Regarding Temporary Restrictions on Social Activities to Prevent an Increase in New COVID-19 Infections


After discussing with the local Board of Education, consideration is now being given to temporarily discontinuing exchange activities between special needs classes and regular classes as a means of preventing the spread of COVID-19 infections.

Exchange will be carried out with the mutual understanding of the children and parents of the special-needs classes and regular classes. As such, please confirm the following matters of consideration. List your child as a participant in the exchange class and submit the document to the person in charge of the special needs class.

Matters for Consideration
□ Due to the circumstances of infection in the school and grades, scheduled exchanges and events are subject to change or be cancelled.
□ As measures to prevent the spread of infection, restricting the length of time and frequency are being considered instead of daily exchange activities.

*******************************Cut here*******************************

Addressed to Principal, ◯◯Elementary School

My child will (participate / not participate) in the activities of social exchange with regular classes from ◯(month)/◯(day) onwards.

Name of parent/guardian                              
Name of student                                           

At first glance, this appears to be a document by a school that casually states the overall policy regarding measures to be taken against the spread of COVID-19, but is actually a questionable document with its true intentions hiding behind the text.

There are two problems here. First, as the mother of a boy who came to me for consultation happened to mention, the parents of regular classes have not received this document. The document states that action will be taken and based on "mutual understanding," but this sort of document had not been distributed to the parents of children enrolled in regular classes.

That alone is a problem, but it involves more than just the school providing information on prevention of the spread of COVID-19 infections. Just below the dotted line to request submission, parents are asked to sign whether the person supports the school's policies or not. At first glance, it asks parents if they allow the child to participate in social activities. The two possible choices allow the respondent to answer freely, but in the main part of the text printed above the line, the principal has stated that a temporary suspension of exchange activities is now under consideration. If "participate" is circled and marked as a choice, it will express an opposition to the school's policy, making it difficult for parents to make a choice based on their position and current situation.

To make it easier to understand, try to imagine receiving a business or administrative order from a superior to which you are asked to clearly reply in writing and mark your answer regarding whether you intend to accept or follow the order or not (agree/do not agree).

However one considers it, the aims of the school (principal and Board of Education) that wrote these sentences were to "limit exchange activities under the name of COVID-19." In short, this can only be interpreted to mean "we wish to manage our school in accordance with the April notification from the education ministry (MEXT)." The message suddenly made sense to me.

I truly understand the disappointment of the mother who tearfully disclosed that she had to comply and submit the form.

This sort of sly tricky method testing the parents that seeks to segregate children with disabilities from regular education just reflects the policy of special needs education in Japan.

*Postscript: According to news reports, in Osaka, parents of children with disabilities filed a complaint through the Osaka Bar Association, stating that the ministry's notification in April was a violation of the human rights of children with disabilities.

sakakihara_2013.jpg Yoichi Sakakihara
M.D., Ph.D., Professor Emeritus, Ochanomizu University; Director of Child Research Net, Executive Advisor of Benesse Educational Research and Development Institute (BERD), President of Japanese Society of Child Science. Specializes in pediatric neurology, developmental neurology, in particular, treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Asperger's syndrome and other developmental disorders, and neuroscience. Born in 1951. Graduated from the Faculty of Medicine, the University of Tokyo in 1976 and taught as an instructor in the Department of the Pediatrics before working with Ochanomizu University.