2007 major revisions to School Education Law

Major changes to School Education Laws in 2007:

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Q&A
New laws to reshape education system
By AKEMI NAKAMURA
Staff writer
Bills to revise four education-related laws were passed by the Diet on Wednesday.

Following are questions and answers concerning the revision of the School Education Law, the Law Concerning Organization and Functions of Local Educational Administration, the Education Personnel Certification Law, and the education personnel special law:

 

Why did the government want to change the laws?

The changes are part of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s overall education reform plan. When he took office last September, he pledged to reform the public education system in response to concerns about problems that include bullying and disruptive classroom environments.

To realize the pledge, the Education Rebuilding Council, a government advisory panel created last October, and the Central Council for Education, the main standing panel to the education minister, proposed changes to the laws.

What are the major changes to the School Education Law? How are the changes expected to affect public school education?

Following the revision to the Fundamental Law of Education last December, the School Education Law was changed to include instilling a sense of patriotism and discipline in students as goals of compulsory education.

In line with the revision, academic guidelines for elementary, junior high and high schools would be changed by the end of next March. Then, based on the new academic guidelines, textbooks would be revised, according to an education ministry official. These textbooks would be in schools a few years later.

Critics say the revision may force students to display patriotic attitudes that eventually revive the type of militant nationalism Japan saw in the
prewar era.

The revision also allows kindergartens, elementary schools and junior high schools to add more managerial posts, including vice principal, managing teacher and advising teacher, to improve school oversight and improve the instruction of both teachers and students. It will take effect next April 1.

According to the ministry, boards of education are likely to create new managerial posts at large schools to improve management efficiency.

The measure is a response to criticism that principals’ heavy workloads have prevented them from swiftly handling problems such as bullying and devoting time to improving teachers’ skills. But opponents fear such posts could give management too much power over teachers.

What are the major changes to the education personnel laws?

Under the Education Personnel Certification Law, teachers are required to renew their licenses every 10 years to update their skills. Currently, they do not renew their licenses. Roughly 100,000 teachers are expected to take such a training course every year.

The government plans to renew the licenses of those who go through a 30-hour training course and are judged competent by local boards of education. Those who do not take the course or are judged incompetent at the end of the course will lose their license.

Under the revised education personnel special law, boards of education can, on the basis of the opinions of students’ parents and educational and medical experts, deem teachers incompetent.

Teachers judged incompetent would have to take a special training course possibly lasting up to one year. The boards can take other measures,
including dismissal, against teachers who are judged incompetent again at the end of the training course.

What are the major changes to the local educational administration law?

The revision allows the education minister to order boards of education to take corrective action if they fail to follow education-related laws or
otherwise neglect their duties.

For example, last fall, local boards were criticized for allegedly overlooking the fact that more than 650 high schools had not offered enough
of the required classes for students to graduate. In such cases, the minister can step in and demand that the boards carry out corrective
measures.

In addition, the revision requires boards to include at least one parent ofa student, and allows more parents to serve as well. Currently, boards of education are composed of five to six people mainly from academia and former teachers.

What are some of the arguments against the revisions?

Some education experts and teachers have said changing the laws would have a negative impact on schools because they increase the government’s power over teachers and schools.

They argue that such strong government control over schools and teachers could discourage them from trying new ideas in the classroom or dampen the liberal environment for fear the central government may interfere with their attempts. This situation, they argue, could keep students from trying to do anything but take the safest path.

Will the revisions to the laws complete the government’s education reform drive?

No. The Education Rebuilding Council and the Central Council for Education are discussing further measures.

For instance, increasing class hours by 10 percent by abolishing the five-day school system next fiscal year is one idea proposed by the EDC. The panel says students’ academic levels have been deteriorating and Japan must rethink its more relaxed education policy, which was begun in 2002 with the cutting of textbook content by 30 percent and the dropping of Saturdays as a school day.

***
Education reform bills are enacted Thursday, June 21, 2007

By HIROKO NAKATA
Staff writer

The ruling bloc’s majority held sway Wednesday as the House of Councilors voted in a package of education reform bills, accomplishing a key goal of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and foiling the opposition’s last-ditch effort to halt their enactment.

The opposition camp’s failure follows on the heels of its earlier foiled bid to stop the ruling coalition from ramming the education bills and a bill to approve a two-year extension of the Air Self-Defense Force’s transport mission in Iraq through Upper House committees. The ruling bloc also plans to extend the Diet session by 12 days until July 5 to get other bills passed, and move back the planned July 22 Upper House election to July 29.

“It is really good to see the (education) bills passed because they are the most important bills for this Diet session and educational reform is the priority of my government,” Abe told reporters.”

The education bills, backed by the Liberal Democratic Party and coalition partner New Komeito, mainly aim to increase the central government’s control over teachers and schools.

The LDP rammed the government-sponsored education bills and other bills through the Lower House recently in an effort to underline Abe’s initiative before the Upper House election in July.

Along with improving the quality of public education, Abe and other conservative LDP politicians have long aimed at revising the School
Education Law to foster in young students a sense of patriotism.

The other two bills amend the local education administration law to give more power to the education minister over boards of education, and revise the teacher licensing law, which will require teachers to renew their licenses every 10 years.

Some experts, however, fear the bills may make Japan’s school system more rigid and discourage teachers. They also doubt the bills will help improve the quality of public education.

Earlier in the day, the opposition parties submitted motions demanding the resignations of the chairmen of two committees to protest the coalition’s railroading of the bills without due deliberation.

The ruling bloc hopes to pass other bills in the current Diet session, including one to reform the troubled Social Insurance Agency and one to
clamp down “amakudari,” the practice of retiring bureaucrats landing cushy posts in industries they once oversaw.

To this end, the coalition plans to extend the Diet session through July 5 and delay the July 22 poll until July 29.

 

Daily Yomiuri

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