size=4 face="Georgia, serif">The mayor of Osaka, Japan's third largest city, has warned that students will have to attend school on Saturdays as a way to improve educational standards and reduce juvenile delinquency.
Toru Hashimoto, who reportedly is a great admirer of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and her educational reforms, said the measure will become effective in April, according to the Daily Telegraph.
"Osaka's children are performing poorly and delinquency is high,” Hashimoto, 43, told reporters last week.
"I would like our teachers to do their best. To support them, we plan to spare no expense."
Japanese schools mandated Saturday classes up until about ten years ago when the practice was abolished. Critics believe that measure has led to a decline in educational standards.
Osaka has recently undergone a wave of violent behavior by unruly teenagers – six youths were just arrested for assault and robbing; they are also wanted for questioning in connection with the beating death of an elderly homeless man last month.
However, Osaka is also getting tough on schoolteachers.
Last month, the Asahi Shimbun newspaper reported that the Osaka prefectural government docked the wages of high school teachers who departed school grounds while classes were in session to smoke.
At least one of the teachers was ordered to return more than 500,000 yen ($6,270).
Osaka officials had imposed a smoking ban at all schools in April 2008.
More than 11 years ago, the Osaka school system suffered an incomprehensible tragedy.
On June 8, 2001, 37-year-old former janitor named Mamoru Takuma entered the Ikeda Elementary School, an elite primary school, and stabbed eight children to death and wounded more than a dozen other people.
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