Fukushima Disaster Fails to Make School Textbooks

In Other News - April 14th, 2014

Japan is no stranger to nuclear energy: It is the only nation to be hit by atomic bomb attacks during World War II, and it is still coping with one of the world’s worst nuclear disasters.

So for a nation deeply involved in the nuclear debate in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear crisis, it comes as a surprise that the issue failed to make the cut in some school textbooks.

The Asahi Shimbun newspaper said only one of six science textbooks approved for use at elementary schools covers the issue of the meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant caused by the earthquake and tsunami in 2011. Five of the six publishers considered taking up the topic, but four eventually dropped it.

The decision was reportedly based on the choice of words used to describe how a nuclear plant works. Words like “atom” or “radiation” are not included in the education ministry’s curriculum guidelines for science in elementary school.

Dainnipon Tosho Publishing Co offered a simple sentence mentioning the crisis. It read: “The earthquake off the Pacific coast of the Tohoku region triggered an accident at a nuclear power plant.”

Another publisher Gakko Tosho Co tried to include an analysis of radiation by physicist and chemist Marie Curie in its science textbook for sixth graders. The publisher tried to relate the column with the guidelines and included two lines on a water solution because Curie used the same method in her study.

“Radiation is an issue we will face for years,” said Takahiro Yano, editor in chief of the elementary school science textbooks division at Gakko Tosho. “We thought if it is a science textbook, the issue should be included.”

However, the textbook failed to pass the screening by the education ministry.

“There is no appropriate relation with the curriculum guidelines,” the education ministry said.

By Maesie Bertumen

Image: “Reading is fun” by 1Q78/Flickr