Publisher Sanseido Co. apologized Monday for wining and dining school principals at a meeting in August 2014, raising suspicions it was attempting to influence the textbook selection process of local governments.
Sanseido submitted a report to the education ministry admitting that it held an “editorial meeting” on Aug. 23, 2014, in which it received opinions from 11 school principals and others regarding its English textbook being screened by the ministry. The participants were paid ¥50,000 each as “editing fees.”
The company also said it will “take a hard look” at itself.
“The suspicion that we entertained them in the hope that doing so would work in favor of (textbook) adoption cannot be avoided,” the report said.
Publishers are not allowed to show to outsiders any textbooks that are subject to government screening. Local boards of education, after receiving advice from school principals and teachers, choose which textbooks to use in their public schools from among those that have cleared the screening.
While Sanseido has denied seeking to influence the participants of the meeting, the education ministry will look into whether the publisher’s action affected the textbook adoption process.
Prior to submitting the report, Sanseido President Katsuhiko Kitaguchi told education minister Hiroshi Hase, “I am sorry for creating a situation that could erode confidence in the school textbook industry.”
Hase replied, “It is a grave situation that could trigger a sense of disappointment among people using textbooks.”
According to the report and other sources, Sanseido began holding the editorial meetings after starting publication of Japanese-language textbooks for elementary schools from the fiscal 2009 screening process.
The company held such meetings twice in 2009 and four times in 2010, in addition to the meeting in August 2014. A total of 53 people, including school principals from 26 prefectures, took part in the gatherings. Participants were paid the editing fees and their hotel and dining expenses were covered.
The 2014 meeting was convened at a Tokyo hotel with the aim of improving Sanseido’s English textbook for junior high schools.
Of the 11 participants, five later served in positions connected to their local textbook selection process.
The details of the meetings in 2009 and 2010 remain unknown because no records were kept, according to Sanseido.
The ministry issued a written warning to Sanseido in October, saying its action raised doubts about the fairness of the textbook adoption process.
The wining and dining came to light after the ministry was informed in October last year that the company had shown the prospective textbook to outsiders, although Sanseido did not mention having paid the fees when it reported to the ministry the following month.
The details of payments were revealed after the ministry received fresh information in September.
In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.