Opinions on Bills to Amend Three Educational Laws
The Japan Federation of Bar Associations (JFBA) compiled its opinions on June 14, 2007, concerning three bills currently under deliberation by the Diet to revise the School Education Law, the Law Concerning the Organization and Operation of Local Education Administration, and the Law for Certification of Educational Personnel.
Careful discussions over the bills are necessary since these bills contain problems mentioned below from the viewpoints of the JFBA Opinion Paper on Bill to Revise Fundamental Law of Education (September 15, 2006), the JFBA President's Comments on New Fundamental Law of Education (December 20, 2006), Articles 13, 23 and 26 of the Constitution of Japan, and the constitutional nature of the Fundamental Law of Education which binds the state's power. The JFBA opposes enacting the bills without resolving these problems.
- The government should be restrained from intervening in the content of education as much as possible based on the constitutional nature of the Constitution and the Fundamental Law of Education which restrict the state's power. Conflicting with this principle, a bill to amend the School Education Law intends to control the content of education, which possibly violates the freedom of thought and creed, the right to receive education, and the right to learn.
- Objectives of compulsory education stipulated in Article 21 of the bill include text such as "attitude of loving the nation" which could be interpreted in many meanings.
- However, the state or local governments would possibly uniformly interpret the text. It might violate the political neutrality, impartiality, independence, autonomy and fairness of education as well as the freedom of thought and creed of students and parents in the light of criteria set by the judgment rendered by the Grand Bench of the Supreme Court concerning the case of Asahikawa Scholastic Achievement Test (May 21, 1976), though the government clearly stated its support for the criteria during Diet deliberations.
- Article 33 of the bill authorizes the Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology to determine concrete curriculum such as the government guidelines for teaching. Furthermore, schools are uniformly obligated to assess themselves, take correct actions and improve education standards by Article 42 and to provide information by Article 43 in accordance with the standards set by the Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. The JFBA concerns that such a system might enable the state to control the content of education.
- A bill to amend the Law Concerning the Organization and Operation of Local Education Administration reinforces the supervision and control by the state and prefectural boards of education over municipal boards of education (Articles 48, 49, and 50) and over private schools (Article 27-2). It could undermine the principle of municipal autonomy and interfere in the independence of private schools.
- Problems that many high schools failed to fulfill the required curriculum or students have committed suicide due to bullying could not be reasons for this legislation because reinforcing interference of the government in local education administration would not solve the problems, especially, suicides due to bullying.
- If disobeying the clause of the government guidelines for teaching, which forces teachers to display the national flag and sing the national anthem at school ceremonies, falls under subjects of which correction is requested, it would institutionalize "improper control" over education.
- The bill authorizes prefectural governors to practically interfere, with advice and assistance of prefectural boards of education, in specialized matters concerning school education of private schools. It could restrict the uniqueness, independence, and autonomy of private schools.
- The license renewal system would reinforce control over teachers and undermine their independence and autonomy. It would discourage teachers from providing sufficient education to fulfill the children's right to learn.
A bill to amend the Law for Certification of Educational Personnel establishes the license renewal system and a bill to amend the Special Act on Public Officers in Public Schools includes a training system for improvement of teaching. These systems might undermine the independence and autonomy of teachers because teachers would tend to seek stability of their positions and conjecture thinking of persons who are authorized to appoint teachers or control licenses. Such adverse effect is harmful to secure professionals of education who satisfy the children's right of learn. It means that the government might not fulfill its responsibility to improve education to meet the children's right of learn provided by the Constitution of Japan, and would further strengthen control the content of education.
Japan Federation of Bar Associations
June 14, 2007