Elementary schools face new mandate: Patriotism, ‘Kimigayo’

Kyodo News

The education ministry published a revised education curriculum guideline Friday for elementary and junior high schools that calls for promoting patriotism and for making children between the first and sixth grades sing the “Kimigayo” national anthem.

The ministry said it will fully implement the revised guideline in elementary schools in the 2011 school year that starts April 1 that year and in junior high schools a year later in the 2012 school year.

The revision to the education guideline is the first since the Fundamental Law of Education was revised in 2006 by the administration of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to instill patriotism in classrooms.

The revised guideline states: “Moral education shall be aimed at nurturing respect for (Japan’s) tradition and culture, and sentiment of loving our country and our homeland that have cultivated them . . . and at cultivating morality.”

The wording is newly added in a modification of a draft unveiled in February that simply called for “succeeding and developing (Japan’s) tradition and culture . . . and for cultivating morality.”

The new guideline also urges elementary schools to teach pupils to sing “Kimigayo,” the national anthem, in all six elementary school grades, putting the emphasis on making children sing the song.

In comparison, the draft guideline released in February only called for “teaching ‘Kimigayo’ at any (elementary school) grade,” but made no reference to pupils singing the anthem.

The Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry said it made the modifications after soliciting public comments and after taking into consideration the spirit of the revised Fundamental Law of Education, deliberations in the Diet and discussions with the ruling bloc.

The ministry said it has made no important changes from the draft document, adding it has no intention of forcing elementary school children to sing “Kimigayo.”

But in fact, teachers harbor opposition to “Kimigayo” and the country’s Hinomaru national flag because of their association with Japan’s militaristic past. Many have also been punished for not observing the symbols during school ceremonies.

There is no official English translation for Hinomaru and “Kimigayo.” Hinomaru is unofficially translated as the sun flag, and “Kimigayo” as “His Majesty’s Reign.”

Some education affairs experts are critical of the ministry for making a number of modifications on patriotism, saying the draft guideline was compiled on the basis of discussions at a government panel, the Central Council for Education.

On elementary school Japanese-language education, the latest guideline calls for learning “folk tales and myths as well as legendary stories,” adding myths from the draft’s “folk tales and legendary stories.”

In high school social studies, the revised guideline urges schools to “make students think about our country’s national security and defense as well as international contribution.” Japan’s international contribution was added from the draft guideline.

It also urges schools to “conduct education on politics and religion,” compared with the draft, which simply calls on schools to cultivate students’ fair judgment.