The draft amendments[Japanese] to the Fundamental Law of Education in Japan passed the Diet on 15 December 2006 by way of the adoption by the House of Councilors. This is the first amendments to "the Constitution on Education", which has been considered as having a quasi-constitutional status in the field of education since its enactment in 1947.
The National Commission on Educational Reform, a private advisory body for the Prime Minister, recommended the revision of the Law in 2000, followed by the report of the Central Council for Education in 2003, On the Fundamental Law of Education that is suitable to the new age as well as the development of a Comprehensive Plan for the Promotion of Educational Measures[Japanese], which was prepared in response to the recommendation.
The draft amendments were developed on the basis of the report, with a view to directing education to the full development of personality as well as raising citizens, sound in mind and body, who shall be actively involved in the formulation of the state and society. Other aims of education identified in the revised law include: acquisition of knowledge and sophistication; individual worth; justice and responsibility; equality of both sexes; mutual esteem and cooperation; and respect for life and the nature. It also seeks to develop orientation to participate in society in accordance with the public spirit, respect for traditional cultures and love for one's country and hometown, while the original law aimed at "raising citizens, sound in mind and body, who shall ... be imbued with the independent spirit ...".
The period of compulsory education, which was specified as nine years in the original law, has been deleted and mandated to other legal provisions. Systematic and organized education shall be provided at school with a view to achieving the aims of education. New provisions have been introduced with regard to university education and private schools, whose independence shall be respected. The issue of family education has been also included in a new provision, which states that parents or other guardians shall have primary responsibility for the education of their children, calling for solidarity and cooperation among schools, families and communities.
With regard to the administration of education, the original law simply provided, "Education shall not be subject to improper control ...". The revised law has added that it should be "organized in accordance with the present and other laws". The revised law also requires the government to formulate a basic plan for the promotion of educational measures, while encouraging local municipalities to do so.
The Japan Federation of Bar Associations (JFBA) has expressed concern that the new provisions may eliminate the bulwarks against state interference into what is taught at school, which can be subject to legal control now. At the Special Committee of the House of Councilors on the Fundamental Law of Education, Mr. Bunmei Ibuki, Minister of Education, responded: "If the state administers education with the intention of, for example, putting certain political parties in a difficult position ..., it may be considered as improper control". The JFBA has opposed to the adoption of the draft amendments on other grounds as well, including that the provisions concerning the aims of education may lead to infringements on internal freedoms.
Many other organizations, including the Japan Society for the Study of Educational Law[Japanese] (JSSEL) and the Japan Society for the Study of Adult and Community Education (JSSACE), have opposed to the amendments as well. The JSSEL pointed out that the draft amendments would change the nature of the Fundamental Law of Education, from the guarantee of independence of education to the justification of state control on education, and impose nationalistic morals through education.
· Fundamental Law of Education before the amendments
· Draft amendments to the Fundamental Law of Education(Ministry of Education) [Japanese]
· Explanation by the Ministry of Education on the draft amendments(Ministry of Education) [Japanese]
· Proceedings of the Special Committee on the Fundamental Law of Education, the House of Councilors (Issue 2: 24 December 2006) [Japanese]
· Japan Federation of Bar Associations, "Draft amendments to the Fundamental Law of Education: We oppose the adoption without modifications" [Japanese]
· "Comments on New Fundamental Law of Education"
· Special Committee on the Fundamental Law of Education, Japan Society for the Study of Educational Law [Japanese]
See also: Information Center on the Amendments to the Fundamental Law of Education [Japanese]