Yomiuri: “Moral education upgrade” proposal shelved


Hi Blog. Yomiuri reports that one tenet of former PM Abe’s “Beautiful Country” master plan has been withdrawn since his resignation–that of upgrading moral education.

Good. I opposed this because these sorts of things, such as teaching (and grading) “patriotism”, would leave Japan’s children of international roots in a bind–how can they “love” Japan “properly”, in a way quantifiably gradable? Officially-sanctioned identity education is a very difficult subject to broach indeed (and it is by no means limited to Japan). But forcing young students to “love” Japan (and having their future possibly affected by bad grades for it) says more about the political elite and their families who would support this sort of policy, believing love and morality can be thusly commanded.

Anyway, the article on this follows, courtesy of guregu at the Life in Japan list. Arudou Debito

Plan to upgrade moral education to official subject shelved
The Yomiuri Shimbun Sep. 20, 2007


The Central Council for Education, an advisory panel to the education, science and technology minister, has decided to shelve a plan to upgrade moral education to an official subject in a revision of the official school curriculum guidelines scheduled for this fiscal year, according to sources.

The council concluded that “morals are related to the heart and mind and cannot be knocked into children via a textbook.”

The upgrading of moral education to an official subject was proposed by the Education Rebuilding Council, a Cabinet organ charged with education reform, in its second report released June.

Currently, the official school curriculum guidelines state that moral education should be taught for about one hour a week at primary and middle schools–using supplementary reading materials distributed by the ministry or books and videos edited by private educational material makers– with the aim of teaching values such as “compassion” and a “respect for life.”

However, unlike the five-grade system, pupil assessment is not required, as moral education is not a subject.

The Education Rebuilding Council’s proposal came amid rising public demand for moral and ethical teaching at schools in light of falling standards in society.

However, mandatory conditions that were to be attached to the upgrading, such as assessing students, the use of authorized textbooks and the creation of a new teachers license for the subject at middle and high schools, have been a source of debate. Opponents believed such conditions were not conducive to moral education. Some members of the Central Council for Education also have expressed skepticism, especially with regard to the authorized textbooks, saying, “It is unfeasible to screen textbooks for moral education, since they deal with issues in people’s minds.”

The Central Council for Education decided not to recommend the upgrading, while stressing the importance of moral education. The policy will be taken into consideration when the ministry revises the official school curriculum guidelines.


Prospects for education reform unclear

“The cultivation of normal consciousness” and improvements in academic ability were important pillars of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s education reforms. Shelving the moral education upgrade symbolized the uncertain outlook for education reforms.

From the outset, caution prevailed among the council members when discussing the upgrading of moral education to a full official subject. Some specialists have also pointed out that Abe’s sudden resignation announcement weakened the authority of the Education Rebuilding Council, as the body was established as a private advisory panel for the prime minister.

Meanwhile, the time allotted for moral education is being switched to other subjects in some schools.

(Sep. 20, 2007)

4 comments on “Yomiuri: “Moral education upgrade” proposal shelved

  • Is it just me, or is it strangely ironic that the the PM who was trying to instill “moral education” will enter the history books as leading short, scandal-racked and highly unpopular term in office?


    Education spending renders Japan second to last in OECD
    Japan Times/Kyodo News September 20, 2007

    Courtesy of Tony Silva

    The ratio of Japan’s spending on public education to its gross domestic product came to 3.5 percent in 2004, the second-lowest level among the 30 member states of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, according to an OECD report released Tuesday.

    The ratio — the second lowest after Greece’s 3.3 percent — was well below the OECD average of 5.0 percent and down from 3.7 percent in 2003, according to the report titled “Education at a Glance 2007.”

    Iceland topped the list at 7.2 percent, followed by Denmark, Sweden and Norway.

    Including spending on private education, Japan’s educational expenditures against GDP stood at 4.8 percent in 2004, up slightly from 4.7 percent in 1995 but again below the OECD average of 5.8 percent, the report says.

    The report also shows that among the OECD countries, Japan has the second-largest average class sizes at the primary level of education.

    The nation has 28.4 students per class for primary education and 33.5 students for secondary education, both the second highest after South Korea, the OECD said.

    Meanwhile, the Paris-based organization said that a growing number of international students are opting to study in Japan, with nearly 5 percent of foreign students worldwide enrolled at Japanese schools.

    This ranks sixth among the OECD states, following 22 percent for the United States, 12 percent for Britain, 10 percent for Germany, 9 percent for France and 6 percent for Australia.

    The Japan Times: Thursday, Sept. 20, 2007


    The trouble with one-party rule
    Sep 13th 2007, Leader
    From The Economist print edition
    After Shinzo Abe’s resignation, Japan needs more than just a new prime minister


    NOTHING in Shinzo Abe’s occupation of the Japanese prime minister’s office became him like the leaving of it: he made a mess of that too. But his departure on September 12th should be an occasion for more than lamenting his hapless year in office. The trouble is not one lousy prime minister but a political system that no longer works. The reign of Mr Abe’s starry predecessor, Junichiro Koizumi, helped disguise this failure. But he, not Mr Abe, was the aberration.

    Ill health may have precipitated the present crisis by forcing Mr Abe’s final blunder: the poor timing of his resignation. But thanks to a sorry saga of his cabinet’s incompetence, corruption and ill-fortune (see article) his poll ratings have been plumbing new depths for most of the year. At the end of July voters delivered the most damning of verdicts on his tenure, with a crushing defeat for his Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) in the upper house of the Diet, or parliament, where, for the first time since 1955, it is no longer the biggest party. In the past Japanese prime ministers have fallen on their metaphorical swords for much less. Yet he refused to resign. He then bought himself a little time by shuffling his cabinet, bringing in some LDP heavy-hitters who recalled the party’s history of corrupt faction-ridden politicking, but at least, in the public eye, went some way to filling the government’s competence deficit. He opened parliament, attended a regional summit in Sydney and then made a big policy speech on September 10th.

    Two days later he stood down on the flimsiest of excuses: that Ichiro Ozawa, leader of the main opposition Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), had refused to meet him to discuss a compromise over extending important anti-terrorism legislation. If Mr Ozawa did indeed refuse a meeting, it should surely have been taken merely as one skirmish in a campaign—for extension of the law—that Mr Abe regards as vitally important for Japan, rather than as a pretext for surrender.

    Mr Abe is right that the lapsing of the law, which would entail Japan’s calling off its operations refuelling ships in the Indian Ocean for the American-led campaign in Afghanistan, would damage Japan’s international standing. But his staking his position on the issue highlights four big problems facing the Japanese electorate. The first is that too many LDP leaders, including Mr Abe and his most likely successor, Taro Aso, are obsessed with Japan’s international stature and have lost touch with voters. They want to amend the pacifist constitution so that Japan can play a role in the world commensurate with its economic might. Voters are more interested in the economic might itself, and what it could do for them.

    That is the second problem. Mr Koizumi’s flair and common touch enabled him to sell voters a bill of goods which, on closer inspection, they do not like. His liberalising, market-friendly reforms will, if followed through, do much to sustain Japan’s recent economic revival. But in the short term they are bringing pain to many areas. Unlike Mr Abe, Mr Koizumi timed his departure well.

    Third, the DPJ’s ability to stall and ultimately thwart the anti-terror legislation is not a temporary phenomenon. The next upper-house elections are six years away; it may be 12 before the LDP wins its majority back. After a Koizumi-inspired landslide in the 2005 lower-house elections, the LDP can carry on governing. But Mr Ozawa has a stranglehold.

    Enough shuffling: time for a new deck

    That would not matter so much if he led a party that might form a credible government. He does not: indeed, he himself does not want to be prime minister and is in poor health. The fourth big problem is the lack of a serious opposition. The DPJ is less a coherent party than a job lot of competing factions: rather like the LDP, in fact, but without the experience of more than 50 years of nearly uninterrupted power.

    That one party has held sway for so long is of course itself a symptom of the sickness affecting Japanese politics. That is why many in Japan are hoping that the present mess does not, as usual, produce merely a factional compromise around an uninspiring new prime minister. Mr Koizumi is gone. But some of his followers are still around, frustrated by the return to the bad old days. They are mirrored by young Turks in the DPJ. For years idealists have dreamed of a realignment in Japanese politics, away from factional wheeler-dealing and towards true policy-based competition. In the present climate, hostile to Mr Koizumi’s legacy if not the man himself, such a reformist grouping would have its work cut out. But the disarray of the big parties is such that it is surely worth a try.



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