Misuse of a falsified chart about the likelihood of conception in high-school education material in Japan

TANAKA Sigeto <http://tsigeto.info/16e>
(Tohoku University)
International Sociological Association, RC32 (Women in Society) Newsletter No. 2, pp. 9-10 (2015-09)

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Short URL: http://tsigeto.info/16e



In August 2015, Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology of Japan (MEXT) published a new edition of a side-reader for health education in high-school. It featured a chart about women's age profile of the likelihood of conception, which emphasizes the peak at age 22 and the sharp decline in the late-20s. This chart was immediately broadcasted by mass-media to arouse public attention. Shortly after that, however, it was detected that the chart was a falsified one. The original chart (Fig. 3 on O'Connor et al., 1998, Maturitas, 30(2): 127-136) gives more moderate impression and it shows a curve of “apparent fecundability” in the terminology of demography, which means not the same as the ability of conception as a medical topic. Since this scandal heated up on the Web, MEXT accepted that the side-reader contains an error. MEXT also announced that errata will be distributed to high-schools to correct the citations and the chart to show the same curve as the original, but there will be no change in the accompanied text explaining women's age profile in the likelihood of conception from a medical perspective.

The falsified chart was used as the first figure in a document co-authored by Japan Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology (JSOG) and other 8 academic associations, which was submitted to the government in January 2015 as a request to introduce medical knowledge about human reproduction into formal school education. Their request was one of the factors that prompted MEXT to publish the new side-reader. A newspaper (Mainichi Shinbun, August 25, 2015) reported that the falsified chart had been offered by Yoshimura Yasunori, the former President of JSOG and a Special Advisor to the Cabinet in charge of measures to counter the declining birthrate. However, he and the nine academic societies, as well as obstetrics/gynecology doctors and researchers, have so far made no explanation about the misuse of the falsified chart.

Some feminist scholars and activists are claiming the withdrawal of the side-reader, because it contains wrong interference with opportunities for youth to obtain scientific knowledge about their body and reproduction. In addition, we can make approaches toward this scandal with a variety of perspectives such as scientific knowledge manipulated for a political intention, ambitious academics invading the policy-making process, and government's intervention into school education. These are related to many subject areas of sociology. I would like to call attention of sociologists to mobilize sociological knowledge to clarify the social process and structure behind the scandal.


  1. The Mainichi (2015-09-02) “Fertility chart in high school education material once again found inappropriate” <http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20150902p2a00m0na011000c.html>
  2. Tanaka Sigeto (2015-09-04) “Pushing a falsified chart into high-school education material” <http://d.hatena.ne.jp/remcat/20150904>


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