Education-system review sought

Education minister Atsuko Toyama asked an advisory panel Thursday to conduct a comprehensive review of the education system from kindergarten to high school.

Toyama presented to the Central Education Council a list of matters to consider, including one on introducing flexibility to the timing of children entering elementary school by allowing admission one year earlier or later than the norm, depending on the level of development.

The minister also asked the council to weigh wether coordination between kindergartens and elementary schools, as well as between elementary and junior high schools, needs to be bolstered to improve curriculum links.

According to the list, Toyama wants the panel to consider the role division between the central government and local authorities in terms of the state’s contribution to compulsory education, with a view to obtaining the panel’s endorsement for continued central government funding.

Another panel, the Council for Decentralization Reform, an advisory body to the prime minister on decentralization of education administration, has been seeking a reduction of the government’s share of compulsory education costs.

Under the current scheme, the government pays half the salaries of the teaching staff at public schools, with the other half being paid by local authorities. The state’s burden reaches about 3 trillion yen annually.

Six years of elementary school and three years of junior high school education are mandatory.

Other themes Toyama wants her panel to ponder include the growing use of the semester system at schools run by local governments, allowing stock corporations to run such schools, and commissioning the private sector to manage public schools.

The government’s three-year deregulation program covering three academic years starting in April 2001 has called for involvement of the private sector in public education, but the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology has expressed opposition to the idea.