Pupils are failing to learn how to write properly. Surveys have revealed that many school-leavers do not know how to write some of the kanji symbols used in newspapers and magazines.
Basic literacy involves mastering the 2000 kanji specified by the education ministry. As well as learning how to read and write the kanji - the symbols or ideograms that represent syllables - pupils also have to understand the full meaning of the ideograms.
The decline in writing skills is being blamed on the increased use of computers and word processors which can print the complicated ideograms at the touch of a few keys. "I can read all of the most common characters," says 16-year-old Yuta Kobayashi, "but find it difficult to remember how to write some of the most complicated ones which involve 20 or more different strokes. "
The Cultural Agency's study of the impact of computers and word processors revealed that almost 40 per cent of its interviewees had forgotten how to write some of the most complicated kanji.
Forgetting the precise sequence of kanji strokes can change the meaning of what is written. One parent's shoddy writing meant that the opening honorific of a letter she sent to the principal of her son's school read as "your enlightened piece of waste" rather than "your enlightened worship".
Calligraphy teachers say the declining standards of writing is also due to timetable changes which leave less time for writing lessons to make more time for computer and other studies.