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The Lower House has passed three education reform-related bills that will pave the way for more control of education by the central government. Regrettably, the Lower House did not make sufficient efforts to protect the education scene from unnecessary intervention. The Upper House must thoroughly discuss problems contained in the bills.

A bill to revise the school education law lists “public spirit” and an “attitude that loves the nation” as important education goals. Since these concepts concern students’ inner thoughts, the Upper House must press the government to make clear who will define these concepts, what the definitions will be and how teachers will assess students.

The bill also says students must be led to “correct understanding” of the nation’s history. This could lead to imposition of the government’s own interpretation of history on students. Lawmakers must examine the inherent danger of this provision.

A revision bill for the teacher’s license law calls for renewing the license every 10 years. Teachers must undergo 30 hours of training to have their licenses renewed. The education ministry will decide the content of the courses and the criteria for license renewal. This could serve as a mechanism to impose uniformity on teachers. The license-renewal system would also likely deter university students from becoming teachers.

Under a bill to revise the local education administration law, the ministry will be able to issue a demand to local boards of education for corrective action if it becomes clear that the students’ right to receive education is being violated.

The three bills are based on an idea that the more control the education ministry has, the better the quality of education becomes. But increased control will only stifle autonomous efforts by schools and teachers to improve education. It is inconceivable that the education ministry, far removed from the actual education scene, can solve difficult problems teachers and students are facing. What it should do is increase the education budget so that teachers can devote more time to taking care of students.

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