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AN INCREASE IN the number of students refusing to attend school has been reported as a major social problem in Japan.1 The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology established a school counselor system in 1995 and started a conference of investigation research cooperators regarding refusal to attend school in September 2002. In March 2003 the Ministry reported the current state of the problem and provided a list of preventive measures to use in the school, home, and local community. Because it is important to examine the effect of the measures, we studied the number of students refusing to attend school among all the elementary and junior high schools in Japan from databases without individual information made available by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology2 during 1995–2006. The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology defines refusal to attend school as lack of attendance by students, who cannot do so for psychological, emotional, physical or social reasons, and who were absent from school for more than 30 days per year for reasons other than sickness or economic causes.

In the study period the number of students refusing to attend school increased from 81 591 (1995) to 138 722 (2001), and the levels were then maintained at around 120 000 or 130 000: 131 252 (2002), 126 226 (2003), 123 358 (2004), 122 287 (2005), and 126 764 (2006), in contrast to the gradual decrease in the number of total students from 12 940 636 (1995) to 10 788 944 (2006). The proportion of students refusing to attend school compared to the total number of students similarly increased from 0.63% (1995) to 1.23% (2001), and the levels were then sustained at around 1.13–1.18%: 1.18% (2002), 1.15% (2003), 1.14% (2004), 1.13% (2005), and 1.17% (2006). Therefore, the previous clear increase in the rate of students refusing to attend school ceased after 2002. This may suggest the effectiveness of the measures by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. We consider that the Ministry's measures with regard to school refusals were effective based on the increase in the number of schools where the school counselors were posted. The number of such schools will increase in the future in Japan, and improvement in the quality of school counselors is thought to contribute to the decrease in the number of school refusals. To further decrease the number of absentees, we conclude that cooperation is needed among the schools, the board of education, the school counselors, families, communities, medical institutions, and school administrators.

REFERENCES

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  • 1
    Iwamoto S, Yoshida K. School refusal in Japan: The recent dramatic increase in incidence is a cause for concern. Soc. Behav. Pers. 1997; 25: 315320.
  • 2
    The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. The Number of Students Refusing to Attend School in the Investigation Concerning Various Problems in Life Guidance among Student's problem behavior etc in 2006 (H18). [Cited 12 December 2007.] Available from URL: http://www.mext.go.jp/b_menu/houdou/19/08/07080133.htm (last accessed 12 December 2007).