EI and its member organisations around the world strongly support Nikkyoso, the Japan Teachers' Union, in its call for the withdrawal of a proposal by the present government to amend the "Fundamental Law of Education" (FLE).
The amendment was introduced in the last Diet on 28 April 2006 and was carried over to the next session, scheduled for this summer. Nikkyoso strongly opposes the bill, listing several points to support its argument:
- Nikkyoso objects to the change in the basic idea of the public education: The amendment changes the very basic idea of public education as stipulated in the FLE, and sees it as a means to produce the adequate human resources for Japan to survive the global competition. As such, it ignores the widening gap between the rich and poor, and creates an adverse education environment for all children. Nikkyoso believes that it is the government's responsibility to narrow the wealth gap, not widen it.
- The Amendment could violate the Constitution and jeopardise the autonomy of education workers: There are several points in the amendment that could violate the Japanese Constitution. The goals of education as stated in the amendment include "the respect for traditions and culture" and "the love of the nation and homeland" - which are contrary to the right of the freedom of thought as stipulated in the Constitution. The amendment will also increase the government's authority over the education system by jeopardising the autonomy of teachers and other education workers.
- Careful considerations and ample consultation need to take place before any amendment is made to the FLE: The FLE is the education constitution of the country. Before the introduction of any amendments to it, the government should have examined in greater considerations the present education policies as well as putting in place a broader consultation with both education workers and all other citizens before making such a historical decision.
On 27 May, a huge assembly was held in Tokyo to oppose the amendment bill. More than 5000 education workers from all over the country turned up to support the campaign. In his speech, Nikkyoso President, Yasuo Morikoshi stated that the freedoms of speech and thought cannot and should not be compromised. A demonstration was held soon after the assembly where participants walked for 4km down the streets of Tokyo. More than 1 800 000 signatures were gathered to support the teachers' request for the government to take enough time to discuss the necessity of the amendment.
On 22 June, Nikkyoso held its 146th Executive Board assembly where 134 board members voted in a motion to oppose the amendment bill.
For more information, please visit Nikkyoso's website, or contact them at [email protected].
Below is EI's message of solidarity in English to Nikkyoso, the Japan Teachers' Union, dated 18 May 2006:
MESSAGE OF SOLIDARITY WITH THE JAPAN TEACHERS’ UNION (Nikkyoso)
Dear Mr. Morikoshi,
Education International’s 30 million member teachers and education workers worldwide stand in full solidarity with their Japanese colleagues in their legitimate struggle against amendments to the Fundamental Law of Education which the ruling parties will be pushing for adoption by the Diet by June 18th.
The amendments proposed by the ruling parties aim to strengthen the spirit of competition in the Japanese education system, to the detriment of human and social values, and to weaken the autonomy of teachers and support staff in the practice of their profession.
We understand that the Japan Teachers’ Union is not opposed to the principle of making amendments to the Fundamental Law of Education. However, if and when amendments are necessary, they require beforehand far greater consideration than has been given by the Diet and more consultations with those working in education and particularly with Nikkyoso.
EI is of the opinion, Dear Mr. Morikoshi, Dear Colleagues, that Nikkyoso’s position is legitimate and deserves the support of the international teacher trade union movement. We wish you all the very best in your struggle and ask you to convey our warmest solidarity greetings to all Nikkyoso members.
Fred van Leeuwen