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Comments which some took to be Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori’s plans for educational reform were dismissed Thursday by Chief Cabinet Secretary Mikio Aoki as mere “personal opinions” not on the government’s policy agenda.

During a speech Wednesday in Mie, Oita Prefecture, Mori said junior high and high school education should be unified into a single six-year secondary education system.

Mori also said that the academic year at universities and colleges should start in September, instead of April under the current system, to avoid inconveniences to Japanese students who return from prolonged stays in other countries, as well as to those planning to undertake higher education studies overseas.

He went on to say that he would ask the National Council for Education Reform — an advisory panel to the prime minister — to study such proposals.

But Aoki told Thursday’s regular news conference that the government has not previously discussed such reform plans.

“No such specific issues have been discussed yet,” Aoki said. “I think (Mori) was talking about his personal opinions.”

Mori, a former education minister, may have been trying to demonstrate strong leadership by making proposals on educational reform ahead of the Lower House general election on Sunday, but Aoki’s subsequent comments appear to point to a lack of communication between Mori and his top government spokesman.