Japan: new Education Minister: PERFECT JAPANESE BEFORE ENGLISH:

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at ccat.sas.upenn.edu
Tue Oct 3 10:16:14 UTC 2006


Education chief wants traditional values restored

Staff writer

To newly appointed education minister Bunmei Ibuki, traditional values
hinge on the education system, and Diet passage of a bill to revise the
Fundamental Law of Education is "the starting point" of reform."We want to
establish a constitution of education that encourages schools and
communities to teach (children) Japan's traditional social norms" by
revising the law, Ibuki told The Japan Times after he was appointed. The
Liberal Democratic Party and its junior coalition partner, New Komeito,
submitted a bill to the Diet in April to revise the 1947 education law.
The bill emphasizes respect for tradition and the roles of home and
community in educating children and fostering "patriotism," which spurred
opposition from critics who view this tack as a throwback to Japan's
wartime militarism.

With educational reform a key goal of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Ibuki
faces a daunting task as head of the Education, Culture, Sports, Science
and Technology Ministry. He expressed hope of having the bill passed as
soon as possible after it is discussed during the current special Diet
session. Ibuki, 68, an LDP conservative, feels Japanese are losing certain
social norms, including the notion that relying too much on others is
shameful, and that successful people should offer a helping hand to those
who have tried to reach their goals but failed. "Japan's social order was
maintained because people respected (such)  social rules, which were not
written in law," he said. Ibuki said a moral breakdown of late is behind
recent scandals like the one involving high-flying Internet entrepreneur
Takafumi Horie, the Livedoor Co. founder now on trial for violating
securities law, and prominent investment fund boss Yoshiaki Murakami, who
has been charged with insider trading.

Coming from a family involved in the Kyoto textile wholesale trade since
the Edo Period (1603-1868), Ibuki heads the LDP faction that bears his
name. The members came from the faction that had been led by Shizuka
Kamei, who was ousted from the LDP last year over postal reform and was
re-elected to the Lower House on the ticket of Kokumin Shinto (People's
New Party), beating LDP-endorsed independent rival Horie. A former Finance
Ministry bureaucrat, Ibuki admitted he is not an expert on education. Past
posts include labor minister, chief of the National Public Safety
Commission and minister in charge of crisis management and disaster
prevention. But Ibuki believes one of the reasons for his appointment is
that his faction shares Abe's policy goal of placing greater emphasis on
reviving traditional values and social norms. Ibuki is thus reluctant to
introduce English education as a formal subject at public elementary

A subcommittee of the education ministry's Central Council for Education
recommended in March that fifth- and sixth-graders at public elementary
schools study English as a formal subject once a week. The council's upper
panel is still discussing the issue and is expected to compile a final
report by the end of March. "I wonder if (schools) teach children (the)
social rules they should know as Japanese," Ibuki said. "Students'
academic abilities have been declining, and there are (many) children who
do not write and speak decent Japanese. (Schools) should not teach a
foreign language" before improving the situation. To promote education
reform, Ibuki needs to cooperate with Eriko Yamatani, Abe's special
adviser who will lead an education reform panel the prime minister plans
to create. The panel will draw up a large framework, while the education
ministry will work on concrete measures to achieve the reforms, Ibuki



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