Education minister Hakubun Shimomura has instructed Okinawa Prefecture’s board of education to take action over the refusal by a small town’s school board to adopt a conservative social studies textbook.
For the second school year in a row, the town of Taketomi has rejected a textbook by Ikuhosha Publishing Inc. selected by the textbook adoption council.
The law covering the distribution of free textbooks includes a provision requiring that the same teaching resources be used throughout the region under that adoption council’s purview.
The education ministry judged that Taketomi is violating this provision, and Shimomura issued the instruction Friday to the prefectural board in the first-ever use of the Local Autonomy Law to seek redress in educational affairs.
After a corrective action order, the local government is required by law to consider a response, but no penalty will be imposed if it does not comply with the order.
The Taketomi board of education has decided to use a textbook by Tokyo Shoseki Co. in place of the Ikuhosha textbook.
The Ikuhosha text is known for its conservative tone, as shown in a relative lack of references to Okinawa’s burden of hosting U.S. military bases.
Because Taketomi opted out of the free textbook, it has to pay for the other book, which it has been doing with private donations.
The town, with a population of about 4,100, needed less than ¥30,000 for around 30 textbooks this year.
“We have given instructions repeatedly to Taketomi town,” Shimomura said at a news conference. “I hope they will abide by the rules in a country ruled by law.”
Taketomi has not indicated any change in policy and if it continues to refuse the textbook, the ministry could bring the case to court, a move some officials said is being considered.
The textbook adoption council covering the town also encompasses the city of Ishigaki and the town of Yonaguni.
The Ikuhosha textbook was first chosen by the council in August 2011 for the 2012 academic year.
The council was chaired by an official picked by conservative Ishigaki Mayor Yoshitaka Nakayama, who was elected with the backing of the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito.
Taketomi officials objected to the council’s decision, taking issue with a selection process that unlike previous years excluded teachers. The Ikuhosha book is not popular among teachers in Okinawa, where anti-war sentiment remains strong.
The local education administration law says each municipal board of education has the authority to adopt textbooks, while the textbook law requires the same resource be used within a given district covering several municipalities.
Given this discrepancy, the education ministry is planning to revise the textbook law to ensure uniformity within districts.
The Okinawa board is scheduled to discuss the minister’s instruction at a meeting Wednesday.