Beating the Heat: Soaring Summer Temperatures Boost AC Installation at Japanese Public SchoolsSociety Education
In Japan, there is a growing concern of schoolchildren suffering heat exhaustion as spring and summers temperatures rise. In response to a startling upswing in cases during a record-breaking heatwave in 2018, the government allotted ¥82.2 billion in subsidies in its supplemental budget to promote air-conditioner installation in all ordinary classrooms at public schools.
Public kindergartens, elementary schools, junior high schools, high schools, and special-needs schools are eligible to receive the subsidy, spurring institutes around the country to install units. As of September 1, 2019, 78.4% of general classrooms have air conditioners, marking an 18.2% increase from the previous year. The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology (MEXT) anticipates that the installation rate will reach 90% by the end of the fiscal year in March 2020.
Around 334,000 of the nation’s 427,000 general classrooms currently have air conditioners. Installation in Japan’s approximately 413,000 special classrooms has also progressed, rising 6.5% compared to the previous year to 209,000, or 50.5%. However, the year-on-year increase for the roughly 34,000 school gymnasiums nationwide was only 1.2%, bringing the overall rate to just 3.2%.
The installation rate for ordinary classrooms at special-needs schools was highest at 89.7%, followed by 89.2% for nursery schools and kindergartens, 83.5% for high schools, and 77.1% for elementary and junior high schools. Meanwhile, only 43.7% of special classrooms at high schools and 48.5% at elementary and junior high schools had air conditioners, indicating that many schoolchildren still face sweltering conditions when the heat rises.
Looking at the situation by region, installation rates were lowest for schools in Japan’s northern prefectures, where spells of extreme heat are typically less common. However, installation has progressed in ordinary classrooms in prefectures stretching from the Kantō region southward to Okinawa and now exceeds 40%, with rates in Tokyo, Shiga, and Kagawa Prefectures reaching 100%.
(Translated from Japanese. Banner photo © tomwang/Pixta.)