At the first meeting of the 15-member panel on education reform, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the creation of a strong Japan is dependent essentially on the revival of education. He stressed that this “is a top-priority issue, just as economic revival is.” The meeting is seen as the restart of the Education Rebuilding Council, which was created during Abe’s first stint as prime minister. The current panel, composed of scholars, business leaders and education-related Cabinet members, is set to meet twice a month.
During Abe’s first government, from 2006 to 2007, he successfully engineered amendments to the Basic Act on Education, where instilling a sense of patriotism on students was given more emphasis. In this new panel, a wide spectrum of issues will be discussed and, hopefully, resolved. One of the top priorities is the enactment of legislation that will focus on bullying in schools, and measures on how to prevent or handle them. The panel is aiming to bring this up during the Diet session, which will convene soon. Also a priority is a reform of the education boards nationwide. This, after the Osaka City Board of Education was criticized for its slow response regarding a high school basketball captain who committed suicide after being beaten by his coach.
Another issue that will be tackled is if Japan should change its 6-3-3-4 education system—6 years in elementary, 3 in junior high, 3 in high school and 4 in university. The Liberal Democratic Party has called for its review, suggesting that it should be made more flexible depending on the needs of the children. And, of course, there is that lingering debate of whether to transfer enrollment of universities on September, instead of the current April enrollment, so as to enhance the international competitiveness of Japanese universities.