The Board of Education System faces a critical stage. The Abe government tries to review the system so that the board may straightly reflect intentions of the head of local administrative body. The government will reexamine roles of the chief of Board of Education and the selection scheme of board members.
PURPOSE IS TO STATE CONTROL OVER SCHOOL EDUCATION
The current Board of Education system has a history. It was introduced after WWII by the GHQ, or the General Headquarters of the United States, which arranged a school education system here, relying on a report compiled by a delegation of US education experts. The purpose was to prevent Japan from repeating wars of aggression waged by the nation of Emperor. The new system is based on stability and neutrality of education policy and on a public election and council system independent of the head of municipality.
Later, however, in 1957 the Kishi Government of Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) changed the system; the newly written Municipality-level Education Administration Act (on organization and management) specifies that the head of municipality shall designate members of the board. It was because the government feared of ideological conflicts to be brought in school education.
Trial of Nakano-Ward, Tokyo - Public Election System
Under the circumstances in 1979 in Nakano-Ward, Tokyo, the local government introduced a sub-public election system by which the head of Nakano-Ward would appoint from the members nominated by residents. The system was an outcome of a people's movement. Twenty thousand signatures had been collected from residents with an initiative of a critic, Ms Tawara Moeko (who passed away), to set up an election system.
Elections were held in 1981, 85, 89 and 93, in total four times. Residents participated in casting votes and Ms Tawara was elected as a board member. She was appointed by the local community chief in 1981 when the system was implemented for the first time.
Members of new Board of Education were involved in various, creative projects and reforms. For instance, a meeting of the board was held during evening time so that working people could join and watch it. Recording and taking photos were allowed and the audience was even given a chance to speak in the meeting.
When a bullying incident happened at Fujimi Public Junior High School in 1986, in which a student committed a suicide (the case was known as a funeral game), some of the board members went to the school for investigation.
But in 1995 the election system was abolished due to low voting rates of residents - influenced by the social trend -, involvement of the Ministry of Education and a boycott of LDP members in the local assembly. The ministry intensified offensive to cancel the election system, saying 'it violated the law' and 'political neutrality was questioned'. The majority of local assembly was held by the LDP and the then-Democratic Socialist Party.
Thus, today the Nakano-Ward authority has a recommendation system which reflects the original idea of public election system.
Direct Reflect of Intention of Municipality Chief
Now a Board of Education is influenced by a political will, being far from the noble spirit the local law stipulates. Nevertheless, the Abe government is planned to change the board of education system pursuant to its concrete schedule.
The agendum is explicitly advocated by the LDP which proposes 'revitalization of education' and the Ishin-no-kai, or the Japan Restoration Party, which insists that the state may control over school education.
The Basic Act of Education was already revised by the first-round Abe government to incorporate an article on patriotic education. The coming amendment aims to facilitate the chief of local government to express his/her intention in the school education policy. Political neutrality of education will be lost if that happens, although it has been maintained in a formative way up to today. School education that the Ministry wants will come directly down to schools through a local board of education.
We cannot accept aggravation of the Board of Education System. Let's defend democratic school education.
May 28, 2013