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The Fundamental Law of Education should be revised in ways that would encourage children to regain a sense of patriotism and learn about religion, according to the new education minister, Takeo Kawamura.

Revising the 1947 law, which set the basic direction of school education in postwar Japan, has been a key issue on the policy agenda of the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry.

A report submitted in March by the Central Council for Education to Kawamura’s predecessor, Atsuko Toyama, suggests that the law should be revised in ways to encourage children to acquire a love for their nation.

“It is important (for Japanese) to regain patriotism,” said Kawamura, asserting that patriotism is a universal value. “It is unfortunate that people (after World War II) came to connect the concept to war.”

Kawamura said that although the basic concept of the current law, which emphasizes the pursuit of peace as a primary goal of education, should be maintained, it should be revised to address current educational problems.

Kawamura, who served previously as director of the Liberal Democratic Party’s education panel, chairman of the Lower House committee on education and vice education minister, said the law should stipulate the importance of teaching children about religion.

The current law states that children should be taught to be tolerant of various religions. But with the law also stating that public schools should not teach specific religions, teachers have generally avoided broaching religious issues in their classrooms, he said.

“People need to think about the meaning of life, from the point they were born and until they die,” Kawamura said. “In that sense, it is necessary to teach (about religion at schools.)”

Although the LDP tried to submit a bill to revise the law during the last regular Diet session, it failed to reach a consensus on the matter with its key coalition partner, New Komeito, which is reluctant to include patriotism as a key concept in the law.

Kawamura said he would try to promote discussion on the revision within the ruling coalition.

Regarding English-language education in Japan, Kawamura said that improving school curricula and teaching methods is an urgent matter, stating that more people should be able to express themselves in English.

Under the ministry’s current curriculum, many elementary schools started to teach English last year, not as a compulsory subject but as one of the topics studied in “comprehensive studies” classes, which sees each school take up any theme at its own discretion.

“If we try to increase the number of fluent English speakers, we need to think whether it is necessary to start teaching the foreign language (as a compulsory subject) at elementary schools,” said Kawamura, adding that the ministry has not yet reached a conclusion on the matter.

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