Club Activities Reform

According to the ‘Explanation of the Courses of Study for Senior High Schools (Notification in 2008), Health and Physical Education, Physical Education’, ‘Athletic club activities are activities in which like-minded students with an interest in sports can experience the joy and pleasure of sports and enrich their school life by interacting with each other through sports and challenging themselves to higher levels of skills and records’. It is also extremely effective for improving physical fitness and health. School is also an extremely effective location for improving physical fitness and promoting health.

Junior high and high school athletic club activities have played a central role in the sports activities of Japan’s youth, taking place after school and on weekends at schools that students attend every day. Many of Japan’s athletes who have competed in international competitions such as the Olympics have become top athletes after participating in such activities.

On the other hand, it has been highlighted that athletic club activities in junior high and high schools have also contributed to the long working hours of teachers, especially those serving as advisory teachers for junior high school club activities in recent years, and a review of club activities has been promoted as part of the reform of teachers’ work styles. Issues such as the compulsory advisory system for all junior high school club activities and ensuring the professionalism of activity leaders have also been highlighted.

In September 2020, MEXT formulated the ‘Reform of Athletic Club Activities Based on the Reform of School Work Styles’. As a first step in the direction of reform, based on the fact that club activities do not necessarily require teachers to be involved in such work, MEXT decided to establish an environment where teachers are not required to be involved in club activity instruction or provide subject instruction during holidays. The first step in reforming club activities is to create an environment in which this can be achieved, to create a system in which teachers who wish to teach club activities can continue to do so during holidays, and to create an environment in which local sports and cultural activities can be conducted during holidays to ensure opportunities for students.

In addition, as concrete measures, we will include the following specific measures: i) Gradual transition of club activities during holidays to the local community (phased implementation from FY2023). ii) The specifics of i) include: (1) securing local human resources for coaching on holidays and leading children to tournaments (building a system to utilise private-sector human resources up to training and matching, and a system for dual employment), (2) cost sharing by parents, tax exemptions by local governments, and support by the government, and (3) promotion of practical research at base schools (regions) and nationwide deployment of the results. (iii) Promotion of practical research at base schools (regions) and nationwide deployment of the results of such research. Regarding the second point, the following were presented: (1) promotion of joint club activities with other schools in urban and depopulated areas based on local conditions, (2) promotion of the use of ICT to enable communication among students and leaders beyond geographical limitations, and (3) organisation of regional competitions (understanding of actual conditions, careful selection of competitions to participate in, and flexibility in eligibility for participation in competitions, etc.). The following is a summary of the proposals made by the Sports Agency (see ‘Reform of School Work Styles’ and ‘Overview of Reform of Club Activities Based on Reform of School Work Styles’ by the Sports Agency.)

In January 2021, the Sports Agency issued a public call for applications for the project to promote regional club activities during holidays and rational and efficient club activities nationwide by conducting practical research on the gradual shift to the former and promotion of the latter, and so on, in each region of Japan towards the realisation of sustainable club activities desirable for students and reform of school work styles, and by disseminating research results. In this project, 114 implementation sites, including two sites in 47 prefectures (cities, towns, and villages) and one site in each of the 20 ordinance-designated cities, were selected and are implementing the project.

Although the reform of club activities in junior high and high schools has only just begun, we will closely monitor future trends as it will fundamentally change the nature of athletic club activities, which have played a central role in youth sports, the next generation of sports in Japan.