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1 The Establishment of the Department of Education

The Establishment of the Department of Education

In the period immediately following the Meiji Restoration, much of Japan remained under the jurisdiction of the various independent fiefs. Consequently the initial activities of the new Meiji government in education and other policy areas affected only the limited portion of the nation under its jurisdiction.

As we have already seen in the preceding chapter, the Grand School (Daigakko), which was established as the nation's main center for higher education, was given an additional task of being the central government's first agency for educational reform; and in 1870 it was renamed the University (Daigaku). Then on August 29, 1871, with the Abolition of the Fiefs and the Establishment of Prefectures throughout the country, the central government for the first time could begin to introduce a unified educational structure for the entire nation. The Department of Education (old Monbusho) was established on September 2, 1871, four days after the Abolition of the Fiefs, based on an grand council proclamation, to implement a policy of educational unification, at that time the University was abolished.

The first important central action was the Order Making All Prefectural Schools Subject to the Direct Control of the Department of Education, proclaimed on January 5, 1872, by the Grand Council (Dajokan). Next, the Gakusei Torishirabe Gakari were appointed by the Secretary of Education (Monbukyo) to devise a unified national system of education for persons of all walks of life. The works of this committee became the basis for drafting the Education System Order (Gakusei), which we will shortly turn to examine in details.

At the beginning of the establishment of the Department of Education Eto Shinpei (1834-1874) was appointed as the Deputy Secretary of Education (Monbutaifu), and as the first official responsible for educational affairs appointed many talented persons to his staff and, in consultation with Mitsukuri Rinsho (1846-1897), developed general principles for centralized educational administration that were to remain the guidelines for some time. Though Eto's tenure of office was only ten-odd days, he made a great contribution to the development of the structure for educational administration of the central government. Then on September 12, 1871, Oki Takato (1832-1899) was appointed as the first Secretary of Education, and shortly thereafter Eto Shinpei left the Department of Education to assume the duties in the Grand Council.

Of course, even with the Abolition of the Fiefs, the former fief lords were retained as prefectural governors thus limiting the central gbvernment's influence in local affairs. More substantial changes came about with the dissolution and reapportionment of the prefectures. While initially there were 305 prefectures, by January 2, 1872, these had been consolidated into 75 prefectures. New governors were appointed who had closer ties with the new Meiji government, and hence it became easier for the central government to obtain local cooperation.

In April, 1873, Secretary of Education Oki Takato gave up his post to become a Councillor (Sangi) leaving the duties of his office temporarily to Tanaka Fujimaro (1845-1909), a Department of Education official of the third rank. In January, 1874, Kido Takayoshi (1833-1877) was appointed Secretary while, at the same time, retaining his position as Councillor. Kido Takayoshi resigned in May of that year and for four years thereafter the post remained vacant until it was filled in May, 1878, by Saigo Tsugumichi (1843-1902) who also held a position as Councillor. During the interim Tanaka Fujimaro served as chief administrator of the Department. When Saigo Tsugumichi left to assume the duties as Secretary of the Army in December, 1878, Tanaka again took over until the following September when Terashima Munenori (1834-1893) was appointed Secretary. Thus the guiding spirit during the period from the proclamation of the Education System Order in 1872 to the proclamation of the 1879 Education Order (Kyoikurei) was Tanaka Fujimaro.

The internal structure of the Department of Education was altered during these seven years, but a fair idea of the organization and division of duties can be gained from the setup as it existed in November, 1874. At that time it comprised Divisions of Education, Reporting, Accounting, Publications as well as a Medical Bureau; there was also the Inspectors Office (Tokugakukyoku) as an external agency. In June, 1875, the Medical Bureau and the Publications Division were transferred to the Department of Home Affairs.

In October 1872, a month after the proclamation of the Education System Order, Inspectors (Tokugaku) were placed under the jurisdiction of the Department of Education, and in November of that year the Inspectors Office of the First University District was established as an independent agency. In July, 1873, a temporary Joint Inspectors Office of University Districts was set up to cover all the seven university districts. This was absorbed by the Department of Education as its external Inspectors Office mentioned immediately above in April, 1874.

David Murray (1830-1905), who had been invited to Japan from June, 1873, to work with the Department of Education, was appointed to the post of adviser to that Department in August of that year and Superintendent (Gakkan) in October, 1874. In one form or another the post continued up to the time of Murray's retirement in December, 1878.

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