An advisory group on education reform urged the government Monday to form a third-party body tasked with keeping an eye on local boards of education to improve the national education system.

The subcommittee of the Education Rebuilding Council, which advises Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, was meeting to discuss how to reform the education board system.

“Local education boards are responsible for the management of public schools. But this does not work well,” Motoyuki Ono, a member of the subcommittee, said afterward.

Each prefectural and municipal government has a board of education composed of five to six members appointed by the heads of local governments. The boards supervise the operation, curricula and personnel matters at each public school.

The boards, however, have recently been criticized for shirking their duties.

For example, some failed to take action when it was discovered that students at hundreds of high schools weren’t offered the nationally required courses for graduation.

Also, a series of suicides at public schools last year underlined their inability to stop bullying, which has become a national problem, observers said.

The subcommittee is now proposing that the central government take control of education by establishing a policy that spells out the roles boards of education should play. They also want residents and local assemblies to monitor the boards’ activities and a third party to evaluate them.

The proposal will be included in the panel’s first interim report, which is expected to be compiled and released Friday, Ono said. The report will include various proposals on education reform.

Abe established the panel in October, when he made education reform his top priority.

Japan has been struggling to address problems ranging from bullying and “classroom collapse” to disintegrating social discipline and academic performance.

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