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article imageOnly one Japanese elementary textbook to mention Fukushima

By Karen Graham     Apr 11, 2014 in Science
Teaching sixth graders about the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant disaster is apparently going to be difficult for Japanese educators next school year. Only one science textbook out of six approved by the education ministry met the guidelines.
As it is in the United States with our core-curriculum standards, Japan's education ministry also has curriculum guidelines for elementary science, and they do not include the words “atom” and “radiation.”
Five of the six textbook publishers attempted to tackle the issue of the triple meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi No. 1 nuclear power plant, and four publishers eventually gave up because they found it difficult to explain how a nuclear power plant works without using the word "atom."
The editor of another textbook explained their difficulty in coming up with a reasonable explanation because, “We could not deal with the issue negatively when our textbook is used in some municipalities hosting a nuclear plant.”
The Dainippon Tosho Publishing Company had the only science textbook that attempted to tell the story of the earthquake, tsunami and eventual power plant disaster. “The earthquake off the Pacific coast of the Tohoku region triggered an accident at a nuclear power plant.” The textbook also mentions the use of resources as a way of learning from the accident.
One textbook, submitted by the Gakko Tosho Company, went so far as trying to give a simple explanation for radiation, using the life of Nobel prize-winning physicist and chemist, Marie Curie, who did pioneering research on radioactivity. This information was covered at the bottom of a one-page column in the science book.
“(Radiation) is an issue we will face for years,” said Takahiro Yano, editor in chief of the Gakko Tosho Company's elementary school science textbook division. “We thought that if it is a science textbook, the issue should be included.”
In trying to relate the Fukushima accident to Marie Curie and radiation, the publisher included a two-line explanation of "water solutions," because water solutions are part of the sixth-grade curriculum, and Curie used water solutions in her research.
In rejecting the science textbook from Gakkp Tosho, the education ministry said, “There is no appropriate relation with the curriculum guidelines." Repeated discussions failed to change the ministry's view and the mention of Fukushima and Madame Curie and her water solutions was removed.
More about Japan, Elementary schools, science textbook, fukushima disaster, Sixth grade
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