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HOME  > Past issues  > 2012 February 29 - March 6  > Osaka’s education ordinance forces control and competition (Part 2)
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2012 February 29 - March 6 [EDUCATION]

Osaka’s education ordinance forces control and competition (Part 2)

March 3, 2012
Osaka City Mayor Hashimoto Toru and his local party Osaka Ishin-no-Kai intend to have the principles of efficiency and competition completely dominate education.

Osaka Prefecture’s draft ordinance on education states that a high school which fails to enroll a fixed number of students for three straight years should be a target for closing or merging. Osaka Governor Matsui Ichiro said, “High schools with many teachers and fewer students should be shut down, just like a shop with many salespersons and few customers.”

Sudden proposal to end school district system

A high school which is under-enrolled is likely to be suffering from various difficulties. Small class sizes will enable it to better look after troublesome students or students of low achievement.

The draft ordinance proposes to end the school district system in April 2014. The change will intensify the importance of ranking among public schools which in turn will drive junior high school students into even more intense competition.

Another aim of the draft ordinance in education is an introduction of a system that allows parents to send their children to public schools outside their school zones and publicizing each school’s ranking in national achievement tests. Osaka Mayor Hashimoto in the city assembly declared his intent to implement both proposals.

Britain introduced the combination of the optional school system and national achievement tests more than twenty years ago under the Thatcher administration. It intended to attract a greater number of students to schools with high marks, while schools with low marks were closed. It was based on neo-liberalist policy of trying to “revitalize” schools based on the free market principle.

This policy brought about higher land prices near high-ranking schools and only the rich could afford to enroll their children in such schools, thus, the educational gap between the rich and the rest widened. In 2008, a British House of Commons report warned that the intensity of studying for the tests have distorted the very nature of education.

Three out of four regions in Britain have suspended using the national achievement test.

Japan is following the British example from the past. In districts where the optional school system has been introduced, enrollment at many schools decreases while a few highly ranked schools become over-crowded. Ties with local communities become weak.

Classes grouped according to students’ learning abilities

Hashimoto called on the city education board to consider introducing a system to have students repeat another year at elementary and junior-high schools if they fail an exam and a system of grouping according to students’ learning abilities.

Hashimo is attempting to justify his proposal by saying that the change is intended to improve students with poor performance. If this is his intention, other approaches should be taken such as providing teachers to teach supplementary or individual lessons, drastically reducing the class size, and guaranteeing teachers sufficient time to prepare for lessons.

The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child has repeatedly advised the Japanese government to rectify extraordinarily competitive education system. Turning its back on this concept of children’s rights, the Ishin-no-Kai is trying to push children onto the outdated and dangerous competitive road.

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