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Part 4 A Trend for Compulsory Education Reform
1.Background of Compulsory Education Reform
Compulsory education is offered for nine years from elementary to lower secondary school, forming the basis for personality development, and serves an essential role for acquiring common qualifications needed as members of society. As such, the Central Council for Education has deepened deliberations on the modality of compulsory education, which serves as the basis for all kinds of education.
Furthermore, the November 2004 agreement between the government and the ruling parties “Local Government Financial Reform,” which states that the fundamentals of compulsory education shall be maintained and the central government shall continue to take responsibility for them, requested that the Central Council for Education deliberate measures for implementing the funding proposals in the “Local Government Plan” and on the best way to maintain and raise educational standards and other basic issues of compulsory education.
In February 2005, the Central Council for Education established the Compulsory Education Special Committee directly under the general meeting, which conducted comprehensive deliberations on the modality of compulsory education.
|▲Deliberation at the First Meeting of the Compulsory Education Special Committee of the Central Council for Education (February 28, 2005)|
2.Central Council for Education Report “Redesigning Compulsory Education for a New Era”
(1) Overview of Deliberations
The Compulsory Education Special Committee held 41 meetings in eight months, and through more than 100 hours of deliberations, conducted comprehensive deliberations on the modality of compulsory education.
First, deliberations were held regarding the following: the current status of children, issues of academic ability, contents of education, the compulsory education system, the role of teachers and schools, the modality of the boards of education, the relation between the central and local governments, and the modality of the total education budget. Based on these, a deliberation on the modality of the shouldering of compulsory education expenditures was conducted.
In addition, regional hearings (one-day Central Council for Education) in Mito City and Kochi City, hearings from experts and concerned groups, and opinion polls from the people via mail and e-mail were conducted, which gave opportunities to hear opinions from a wide range of people.
After this process, the Central Council for Education compiled a report, “Redesigning Compulsory Education for a New Era,” on October 26, 2005, which was then submitted to the then Minister Nariaki Nakayama.
(2) School Meetings and Surveys on Attitude for Compulsory Education
Along with the meetings of the Central Council for Education, MEXT implemented school meetings and surveys on attitude for compulsory education to obtain various opinions from people from all walks of life.
School meetings involve observing actual education scenes, aiming to directly hear the voices of the guardians, teachers, and children, and utilize the opinions and requests for future compulsory education reform. From January through July of 2005, the Minister, Senior Vice Minister, Vice Minister, and MEXT staff attended a total of 380 schools in 47 prefectures, including elementary schools, lower secondary schools, schools for the blind, deaf, and otherwise disabled, and obtained various opinions from direct dialogues with teachers and parents or guardians (Figure 1-2). Contents of the dialogues were also reported at the Compulsory Education Special Committee and were reflected in deliberations.
|▲School meeting (January 2005, Minister Nakayama’s visit to his alma mater in Kobayashi City, Miyazaki Prefecture)|
The surveys on attitude for compulsory education were implement between March and April of 2005, and targeted a total of approximately 36,000 people nationally, including elementary and lower secondary students, guardians, school board of trustees, teachers, headmasters, and education superintendents. This survey was implemented to grasp the opinions and thoughts of a wide range of people about evaluating compulsory education and the modality of future reform. The survey was intended to be used in the Central Council for Education deliberations and future compulsory education reform.
(3) Overview of the Report
The report proposes structural reform to redesign compulsory education for a new era. The basic principles are to reform compulsory education into a structure that will ensure and improve the quality within the following framework:
|()||The central government shall take responsibility for setting goals and providing the infrastructure needed to achieve them.
|()||With this as a foundation, the powers and responsibilities of local municipalities and schools shall be expanded through decentralization.
|()||At the same time, the central government shall be responsible for examining educational outcomes. (Figure 1-3).|
To realize structural reform, the report proposes the need to clarify the roles of the central government, prefectures, and municipalities and strengthen their cooperation. The report clarifies that schools are the central bearer of compulsory education and that the central government, prefectures, and municipalities should cooperate to support schools.
To that end, the report points out the need to reform the system so that municipalities and schools have more authority and responsibility as the enforcer of compulsory education, on the condition that the central government guarantee the fundamentals of compulsory education (equal opportunity, high standards, free educational services) and that the prefectures take full responsibility of region-wide coordination (Figure 1-4).
On top of the structural reform of compulsory education and reorganizing of the relations among the central government, prefectures, and municipalities as stated above, the report points out the importance of educational infrastructure.
Concerning the burden of compulsory education costs, the following conclusions were made:
|While pursuing reform of compulsory education, we must be careful to protect the fundamentals of our compulsory education system and reaffirm the central government’s responsibility toward compulsory education by maintaining our current system of funding, whereby the central government subsidizes 50% of the costs of teacher salaries. This is an excellent system for guaranteeing education funding in that it ensures that the full cost of teacher salaries is covered by a combination of national and local government disbursements. With this system as a basis, we should institute improvements in the “block-grant” system to further expand the discretionary spending powers of local authorities.
We must also work to ensure full funding for such core needs for creating a better educational environment as the purchase of teaching materials and books for the school library.
With regard to construction and improvement of school facilities, while local authorities should be given more latitude, there is still a need for the central government to provide funding for specific purposes. For the safety of our children, it is especially important that the central government take responsibility to make schools earthquake-resistant.
Following these basic ideas, the report proposes the following four national strategies for compulsory education reform.
|Four national strategies proposed by the Central Council for Education report|
|Strategy 1 Guarantee Education Quality by Setting Clear Goals and Examining Outcomes
Strategy 2 Develop Unshakable Trust in Our Teachers
Strategy 3 Improve the Quality of Education by Giving Local Authorities and Schools More Autonomy and Encouraging them to Innovate
Strategy 4 Creating Optimum Conditions for Education
3.“Local Government Financial Reform” and Future Compulsory Education Reform
An agreement between the government and ruling parties “Local Government Financial Reform” was reached on November 30, 2005, approximately a month after the Central Council for Education report on October 26. The agreement states, “The fundamentals of compulsory education will be maintained and the National Grant for Compulsory Education will be firmly upheld. Within the framework of this basic policy, the central government's share of elementary and lower secondary school costs will be reduced to onethird, and subsidy cuts and tax-source transfers equivalent to approximately 0.85 trillion yen will be implemented without fail.”
Under the same agreement, the central government will abolish and cut a 17 billion yen subsidy for the development of public school facilities, 50 percent of which will be transferred to local governments. However, concerning programs for which the central government should be responsible to correct regional gaps, such as promoting earthquake-resistance, the central government will continue to ensure budgets for specific purposes.
Concerning improvement of the quality of teachers, the Central Council for Education compiled “Future Educational Personnel Training and Certificate System (interim report)” on December 8, 2005, based on the basic direction indicated by the previous report. For the interim report, considerations were made oriented toward () reforming teacher-training curriculums at universities to ensure that the minimum required qualities and abilities as teachers are acquired, and () reforming the educational personnel certificate system to ensure that the minimum required qualities and abilities as teachers are retained throughout their teaching career, in order that teachers gain far-reaching trust and respect of citizens and society. As such, the interim report makes the specific proposals concerning such matters as improving the qualitative standard of teacher-training curriculums, establishing a system of professional graduate schools for teacher training, and adopting a teacher certification renewal system.
Of the items pointed out in the report, deliberations are continuing on improving the education contents at the Subcommittee on Curriculum for the Central Council for Education, including the review of the Courses of Study.
MEXT has been deliberating on the direction of the future educational reform after having received the report titled, “Redesigning Compulsory Education for a New Era,” and the agreement between the government and ruling parties “Local Government Financial Reform.” As noted in Part 2, on January 17, 2006, Minister Kenji Kosaka announced the Essential Action Plans for Educational Reform (see Part 2 for details).
The Action Plans set the enhancement of compulsory education as the major theme and establish a Timetable for Compulsory Education Structural Reform (Figure 1-5) regarding the items proposed in the October 2005 Central Council for Education report, “Redesigning Compulsory Education for a New Era.” As such, the following specific efforts and timetable have been compiled according to the four national strategies mentioned above.
Based on these efforts, MEXT will advance structural reform of compulsory education in order to ensure the essentials of the compulsory education system and continue to fulfill the responsibility of the central government.
|-Four national strategies-(PDF：81KB)|
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