The ruling Liberal Democratic Party may push to amend the Constitution to ensure financial factors do not deprive Japanese of the opportunity to get an education, party sources said Sunday.
In May, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who is also president of the LDP, embarked on a campaign to amend the postwar document for the first time ever. He proposed discussing making universities and other institutions of higher education free, and pushed his lifelong goal of amending war-renouncing Article 9, which his administration is trying to undermine.
The LDP’s constitutional reform panel is seeking to add a statement to Article 26 to ensure equal opportunity in education, the sources said. An idea has also been floated to add a clause that obliges the state to improve education.
Article 26 says “all people shall have the right to receive an equal education corresponding to their ability.” It also states that compulsory education from the elementary to junior high school levels be provided for free.
Despite Abe’s call for debate on making higher education free, the LDP panel does not plan to recommend doing so because of budgetary constraints, the sources said.
According to the education ministry, more than ¥3 trillion ($27 billion) is required to make public and private universities tuition-free.
Abe made his grand proposals in a video message to a gathering marking the 70th anniversary of the charter’s promulgation.
Komeito, the LDP’s junior partner in the ruling bloc, is also reluctant to expand the scope of free education, given the steep budgetary challenges.
“There are various opinions on the matter, given the budgetary constraints,” a senior official on the LDP committee said.
The group will instead consider enacting a law aimed at eventually making advanced education free, the official added.
The committee will accelerate its efforts to compile a draft clause because Abe wants to present it to the constitutional commissions of both Diet chambers at during the extraordinary session expected this fall.
The Constitution has never been revised since it took effect in 1947, nor has a bid been made to initiate a formal amendment process, partly because of the high hurdle posed by the requirements for doing so.