Prime Minister Shinzo Abe suggested Wednesday his government may consider a proposal to introduce a school year starting in September, in the wake of the novel coronavirus pandemic in Japan.
“I would like to study various options at a time when our country faces major changes” amid the virus crisis, he said at a meeting of the Lower House Budget Committee in response to Yuichiro Tamaki, head of the major opposition Democratic Party for the People.
At the same time, Abe said, “Some people are cautious about the September enrollment system, arguing that it would have major impacts (on society), and I’m fully aware of such opinions.”
Abe’s remarks came after education minister Koichi Hagiuda said Tuesday that September enrollment is an option.
Ruling coalition officials are cautious about an opposition party proposal to delay the start of the school year, normally in April, to September amid school closures due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Many officials in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party said it would be difficult to introduce such a system this year, as they believe a sufficient preparatory period would be essential.
“If we forcibly introduce it, that will cause a huge mess,” said an LDP lawmaker who once served as a Cabinet minister.
“It’s the same for everyone from kindergartens to colleges, to remain as students for six more months,” Hiroshige Seko, a senior Upper House lawmaker from the LDP, told a news conference Tuesday. “Is that bearable for the society? We’ll have many cost issues as well,” he said.
Seko, who also serves as chairman of Kindai University in Higashiosaka, Osaka Prefecture, said delays in classes should be caught up on through online or summer supplementary classes, rather than pushing back the start of the academic year to September.
“It’d be a big change, so we need to discuss it well,” LDP parliamentary affairs chief Hiroshi Moriyama told reporters.
“This is an issue we should discuss for next year,” a former cabinet minister said. “It’s not something we should jump on in a hurry.”
Meanwhile, the DPP, aiming to realize September school enrollment, plans to discuss the matter with fellow opposition party the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan.
CDP leader Yukio Edano has said that his party will give consideration to both the merits and demerits of September enrollment.
Nippon Ishin no Kai, another opposition party, on Monday drew up a proposal that all education courses should be revised to start in September.
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