Study on the Curriculum during the Pre-primary to Primary Transitional Period Developed at the Municipality Level in Japan

In this section, we share some initial findings from our analysis of the curricula during pre-primary to primary transitional period collected from municipal governments nationwide. This analysis is part of the larger study1 abovementioned.

  • The curriculum for young children during the pre-primary to primary transitions is comprised of the “Approaching Curriculum” (designed for 5/6 year-olds prior to entering elementary schools) and the “Starting Curriculum” (for early elementary school children). The former aims for meaningful connection of learning in pre-primary education building onto that in primary education, in order to help children ready for life and learning in primary school education and the latter is the integrated or relating curriculum2 implemented in primary schools aiming at smooth learning transitions at primary level inspired by the prior early learning and development environment.

  • “Study on Growing and Learning during the Transitional Period from Pre-primary to Primary Education and the Quality of Education and Care in Early Childhood (FY 2015-2016)”
  • An integrated curriculum is described as one that connects different areas of study by cutting across subject-matter lines and emphasizing unifying concepts.

< Status of the implementation of curriculum during pre-primary to primary transitional period at the municipality level >

Step 0: No intention
Step 1: Forward-looking but plans pending
Step 2: Some exchange activities have started between ECEC and elementary schools, such as children’s learning sessions and school events as well as teacher study groups. However, no activities specific to the curriculum alignment have been considered
Step 3: Regular exchange activities, such as children’s learning sessions and school events as well as teacher study groups, and the transitional curriculum has been created and applied
Step 4: Further improvement planning is underway based on the experience and lessons learned from the transitional curriculum implementation
Others: Not organized both in kindergartens and nursery centers
Survey on the Current Status of ECE in Japan, FY 2014 (MEXT, 2015)

Survey on the Current Status of ECE in Japan, FY 2014 (MEXT, 2015)

Purpose: To discern the current status and trends in the curriculum implementation during the transition period from pre-primary to primary education and to analyze characteristics of effectively organized curricula.

Scope of the study: In-depth review of “resource materials on ECEC-elementary connection” compiled and submitted by prefectural and municipal governments including teaching guides, guide books, case examples, pamphlets, etc. 51 municipalities have developed the curriculum in FY 2008-2011 period, and 96 in FY 2012-2015 (some overlaps).

Data collection and analytical methods: The MEXT requested for submission of the resource materials (as above) during the kindergarten section chiefs’ and officers’ meetings in FY 2012, 2014 and 2015. Among those collected, we extracted data concerning the curriculum during pre-primary to primary transitional period, and grouped them into the two groups - FY 2008-2011 group and the FY 2012-2015 group. Then, per each municipality, we undertook an in-depth review of the following aspects. They are: curriculum development status, content area, framework alignment, covering period (i.e. when the “Approaching Curriculum” starts, when the “Starting Curriculum” ends), purposes for exchange and coordination, relevant case examples, provision of guidance to teachers, innovative measures taken in terms of environment, educational materials, teacher support and guidance, cooperation with home/family, considerations for the special needs, and who have developed the curriculum.

Results: Some of the main findings are as follows.

1) The curriculum development status

  • Between FY2008-2011 and FY2012-2015, the number of municipalities which published and/or revised the curriculums which sustain the pre-primary to primary transition has nearly doubled from 51 to 96.
  • The proportion of the municipalities that have published both the “Approaching Curriculum” and the “Starting Curriculum” has been increasing.

2) Common framework alignment

  • * Increasing numbers of municipalities have developed the curriculums with common domain frameworks (setting up main pillars) throughout the transitional period. The number of the pillars ranges from 2 to 4, and most curriculums (91.4%) have 3 pillars.
  • * Some curriculums provide teachers’ viewpoints in more detail in items under sub-domains. Many curriculums are framed around the overall learning goals to acquire foundational skills for further learning and to foster balanced development leading to one’s "zest for living"

Analysis: Some characteristics of well-designed transitional curriculums are identified as follows.

  • Desired developmental outcomes of children are articulated well. Points of emphasis specific to a municipality are clearly provided.
  • The “Approaching Curriculum” and the “Starting Curriculum” are well aligned in terms of domain frameworks and detailed teacher viewpoints.
  • The curriculum documents address: exchange programs and coordination of activity plans between ECEC centers and primary schools; innovative arrangements of learning environment and learning activities (e.g. setting up a “fun time” in the morning, modular based learning sessions): ideas and concerns for assistance/support and guidance; cooperation with homes/families, and support for children with special needs (more detailed provision in additional volume).
  • Concrete case examples are featured with review comments in line with domain frameworks and more detailed perspectives. There are a number of innovative and effective measures to help facilitate alignments between pre-primary and primary school education, which aims to ensure the continuum of children’s learning and development (e.g. cooperative early learning, etc.) during early childhood.


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