1pm playtime, 2pm advanced biology

December 9, 2005

Professors at Japan's Kyoto University are giving lectures to primary school children in subjects ranging from biology to computer technology.

Rival universities have dismissed the initiative as a marketing ploy in the face of a declining population of 18-year-olds due to a low birth rate.

But the educational authorities maintain that the lectures will achieve what the national curriculum has failed to do - instil the joy of learning.

Academics will make presentations at 30 local primary schools to 11 and 12-year-olds. Their reaction so far has been positive. "I was surprised how well they understood what I was trying to get across," said Shoichi Kawada, biologist and professor emeritus.

Assistant professor Nobuaki Arai, who gave a 50-minute lecture on advanced technology in biological research, said he hoped some of the children would be interested in becoming scholars. "I think the children have a more positive view of academics after my lecture," he said.

But by 2008 there will not be enough 18-year-olds to fill undergraduate places at about 600 universities across the country. Resourceful private universities in Kyoto are preparing to establish their own primary schools to attract future students early on.

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