Education Minister Takeo Kawamura formally announced Tuesday an education system reform plan that includes continuing subsidies, allowing local governments to change the number of years students study at elementary and junior high schools and introducing a teaching license renewal system.

The minister's plan to maintain 2.5 trillion yen in annual subsidies to local governments, which covers half of teachers' salaries at public elementary and junior high schools, is at odds with the home affairs ministry's goals.

The Public Management, Home Affairs, Posts and Telecommunications Ministry wants to cut the education subsidies as part of an attempt to lessen by 3 trillion yen overall annual payments to local governments by the end of fiscal 2006.

Kawamura said if the subsidies for education are cut, academic standards at public schools may deteriorate.

"The current system (to finance the teachers' salaries) has been a base to provide equal education opportunities to children anywhere in Japan and maintain the nation's high academic standards," Kawamura said. "It should be maintained."

Another reform will be to give local governments discretion in setting the number of years of elementary and junior high school study.

Currently, the periods are set out in the Fundamental Law of Education at six years for elementary school and three years for junior high.

The ministry also wants to introduce a teaching license renewal system and new graduate programs for teaching.

Currently, teaching licenses are granted after individuals receive a certain number of credits in particular university subjects, and the license is valid until they retire.