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HOME  > Past issues  > 2008 January 16 - 22  > Abolish state control over education and improve educational conditions
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2008 January 16 - 22 [SOCIAL ISSUES]

Abolish state control over education and improve educational conditions

January 21, 2008
Akahata editorial (excerpts)

The Central Council for Education on January 17 submitted to the education minister a report recommending a revision of the official curriculum guideline that sets the standards of school curriculum, including school hours and contents of classes. Based on this report, the Education Ministry will draw up the curriculum guideline to be applied from 2011.

In response to the call for raising Japanese students’ academic abilities prevalent in political and business circles, the panel report advised increasing school hours and pushing students to compete with each other through national academic achievement tests, while imposing tougher control over the content that teachers teach in classes as well as the teaching methods they use.

The panel is attempting to consolidate the views on academic abilities and education methods that are essentially diverse. For example, the report is attaching importance to the “ability to express opinions,” but it says that students will be required to write their thoughts on “a piece of A4-size paper (about 1,000 Japanese characters).” Such an instruction in effect will force students to mechanically aim at “A4-size” opinions.

In contrast, in Finland, ranked “the world’s top country” in terms of academic abilities for three years in a row, the number of school hours is less than that in Japan, there is no uniform achievement tests, and teachers are allowed to enjoy academic freedom.

In the wake of an adverse revision of the Fundamental Law of Education last year, the panel report is also attempting to strengthen teaching to foster “attitudes of respect for our tradition and culture” as well as an “attitude to love the country and one’s hometown” across subjects. However, what tradition or patriotism means is a matter of conscience. It goes against the Constitution to impose specific attitudes on students and regiment them.

What’s worse, the report failed to value human rights or the rights of children that are essential to civil morals. Listening to students and building school life respecting human rights in cooperation with them must be placed at the core of such an education.

Instilling idealistic and uniform moral virtues in students is nothing but creating humans obedient to the existing society.

The panel has markedly changed its position by slashing hours for “integrated study” which was introduced with much fanfare as the centerpiece of the last thorough revision of the guidance 10 years ago. Students and schools are frustrated by such inconsistency in government policies.

The education ministry guidance should provide only a general framework, and the contents of classes and the number of school hours must be left to the decisions of each school.

Only when such freedom is secured will classes become ones in which students can help and learn from each other, enjoy study, and discuss social issues such as poverty, the growing social gap, and the destruction of the environment. Such classes would be welcomed by students.

The task that the government must seriously tackle is improvement in educational conditions. Japan’s standard class size is 40 compared to European countries that have class sizes limited to about 20.

Let us put an end to the government policy of imposing tougher state control over schools and abandoning its responsibility to truly improve educational conditions.
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