School teachers across Japan have been grappling with how to deal with topics concerning nuclear power and radiation in their classes since disaster flared at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in March.
Education has a crucial role to play in helping children tackle this challenge, facing the risks of radiation and thinking about nuclear power generation is of vital importance for future generations.
What is the difference between radioactivity and radiation? It is not easy to help children understand such concepts, as most adults are unable to provide an adequate answer.
Japanese in their mid-40s and older learned in junior high school that atoms of radioactive elements change into atoms of different elements by emitting radiation.
Since the 1980s, however, the topic of radiation has been dropped off the science curriculum under a government policy of making school education free from pressure, which has significantly reduced educational content.
On the other hand, the government has been promoting education on nuclear power generation in line with its policy of expanding the use of atomic energy.
The education ministry often points out what it thinks are problematic descriptions concerning nuclear power generation in its screening of school textbooks.
The government also distributed supplementary readers containing statements stressing the safety of nuclear power generation, such as “Nuclear power plants are designed in a way that ensures they don’t release radioactive materials into the environment.”