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Community service to teach the young morality


Mandatory community service for pupils of all ages is set to get the nod from the new nationalist, reform-minded prime minister Junichiro Koizumi.

A recent spate of killings by youngsters - and what has been viewed as a sharp decline in Japanese children's behaviour - has goaded the country's usually sluggish politicians into action.

The National Commission on Educational Reform, set up last year to advise the government, has recommended community service as the main pillar of a new moral education policy.

It suggested such work would instil in the young a sense of compassion - which some believe is needed to prevent more of he horrific crimes that have grabbed the headlines. These include murders for "kicks" and the beheading of an 11-year-old pupil by a 14-year-old.

The commission has been asked to flesh out draft proposals it presented last December, which would demand primary and middle-school students carry out two weeks of community service a year, and high-school students, a month each year. Work experience would include nursing care for the elderly, forestry management and farming, said the commission.

How Japanese students, already starved of free time by the pressure to study for exams, would fit in such demanding service was not explained.

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