the last election of the House of Councilors the ruling coalition government
won the majority. The consumption tax rate will be surged in October as scheduled. In parallel the
pledge of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) made during the 2017 general
election will be implemented – free education for children in a kindergarten
and a nursery school. A question remains – does the policy’s priority rightly
respond to urgent needs?
NUMBER OF CHILDREN CAN ENJOY BENEFITS
policy that will start in October covers ‘all children between three and five
years old who attend a kindergarten or a nursery school and those between zero
and two years old attending a nursery whose parents are categorized as a
few children do not attend a kindergarten or nursery school when they are between
three years old and five. For infants from zero to two years old tuition fee is
higher than that for 3-5 years old children. Many infants wait for vacancy of a
nursery school. Priority should be given to those younger children between zero
and two years old.
pay for lunch
state sets standards for school lunch: 3,000 Yen for rice and 4,500 Yen for side
dishes, or meat/fish and vegetable, a month, respectively. For a kindergarten
child his/her parents pay for actual costs for the both, while for a nursery
school child his/her parents pay for the actual cost for rice when the child is
between 3 and 5 years old. The actual costs for dishes are included in the
monthly fee. For children between zero and two all lunch costs are included in
the monthly fee.
a certified nursery school, the monthly fee is calculated on the basis of the
income of parents in the proportional ratio. A lunch is not charged separately.
And therefore, some municipalities will charge lunch and some will not (because
administrative procedures are complicated), or will remain the same as today.
Cabinet Office decided last May on an exemption measure for a household whose
annual income does not reach 3.6 million Yen; they are exempted from paying for
costs of side dishes of lunch.
government’s new policy for children has contradictions.
to the Asahi Shimbun newspaper (dated August 31), the number of children waiting
for vacancy of a nursery school counts around 17 thousand as of April 1this
year, which is the record lowest (in 2017 the figure was 17,926, which was the
lowest). For parents who cannot send their children to a nursery school the new
policy does not bring any benefits.
government announced a decision ‘to build nursery facilities to accept 320
thousand children by the end of the 2020 fiscal to reduce the number of waiting
children’. This may be a goal, and priority should be put on this urgent need.
new policy covers no-certified nursery schools, too. Certified nursery schools increase
in number these days in the vicinity of big cities. No-certified nursery,
basically, should not exist. In fact accidents occur more frequently than in
the certified school. Even though among new nursery schools a few are publicly
constructed and managed. Many of them are publicly built but managed by a
private sector, or privately built and managed. They do not have their own yard
for children to play. Sometimes they have scrambles in the parks. Furthermore,
nursery teachers are scarce as privatization worsens working conditions of
investments for children
new policy covers a limited number of children. It has contradictions. If the
government talks about a support system for childcare, it must propose a
comprehensive program in which all children should enjoy free education programs
before entering the elementary school, no children should wait for vacancy of a
nursery school, nursery teachers should enjoy right working conditions and
parents should receive right childcare allowances. The government should invest
in childcare plans as the future relies on the younger generations.