Increasing number of schools have FTC officials teaching antitrust class

JIJI

An increasing number of schools are introducing classes for students to learn about the antimonopoly law from officials dispatched by the Fair Trade Commission.

“The antimonopoly law provides basic rules for competition, which is important for the market economy. The FTC issues guidance and exercises supervision (to administer the law),” an FTC official told 29 second-year students in a class held at Tokyo Metropolitan Kokusai High School in Meguro Ward last November.

The 45-minute class involved a simulation game, including a mock raid by investigators. The students were divided into six groups that played the roles of mobile phone stores or consumers. While the “stores” adopted discounts or other marketing strategies, the “consumers” sorted through them for choice.

A mock raid was then carried out, based on the assumption that the stores had formed a cartel to raise prices. Mikio Miyazaki, 36, social studies teacher at the class, was questioned as president of a store by an FTC official acting as an investigator in the case. Students were also involved in the process.

After the animated class, Riko Kato, 17, said, “I felt close to the antimonopoly law and learned things that will be important when I start working for a company in the future.”

“The class by a real FTC official was persuasive,” Miyazaki said. “Getting the students involved was good.”

The antimonopoly law is often referred to as the “constitution of the economy” and is aimed at protecting consumer interests through competition between companies.

The FTC began sending officials to junior high schools in fiscal 2002 and to high schools and universities in fiscal 2006. While simulation games are used for junior high and high school students, university students in principle listen to lectures.

The number of schools and universities that conducted classes on the antitrust law has increased annually, reaching 112 in fiscal 2012 from 23 in fiscal 2006.

But there are wide gaps between prefectures in terms of the number of schools holding classes. According to data through last October, Tokyo had more schools with classes than any other prefecture, at 92, followed by Aichi, at 32. But Mie had none and Tottori had only one, while Gunma and Yamanashi prefectures each had two, indicating the need for the FTC to promote the program in prefectures where few schools have classes on the law.

Officials from the FTC’s head office in Tokyo and regional offices visit seminars for teachers of social studies to promote the program. But such efforts are limited because the FTC does not have offices in every prefecture.

Miyazaki said, “If the FTC provides its teaching materials to schools, similar classes can be held” to those in which officials from the commission are present.