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2013年12月16日 (月)

教育委員会改革 首長の暴走食い止められるか

The Yomiuri Shimbun December 15, 2013
Board of education reform could lead to abuse of power by local govt heads
教育委員会改革 首長の暴走食い止められるか(12月15日付・読売社説)

In a move that could lead to far-reaching changes in education administration by local entities, the Central Council for Education, an advisory panel, has submitted recommendations to Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Minister Hakubun Shimomura.

The most conspicuous among the recommendations is that the panel favors transferring final authority on educational matters to local government heads from boards of education, while redefining the status of school superintendents, to be appointed by municipal heads to serve as their subordinates, as chief officials in charge of administrative work.

The proposed revamping of education administration comes in the wake of increasing criticism that the existing board of education system, under which decision-making is made through mutual consent among board members—part-time officials selected from among experts in local entities—fails to determine where the responsibility for decisions lies.

It also has been claimed that boards of education often fail to act swiftly when confronted by a serious situation, such as the case of a middle school boy in Otsu who committed suicide in 2011 because of bullying.

The panel’s recommendations are timely as they are intended to improve the ability of local entities to cope with various problems occurring at schools by giving municipality heads and full-time school superintendents both the authority and responsibility.

If the recommendations are put into practice, boards of education, which are currently independent, will be placed under the direction of local government heads, so board members can engage in discussions about broad education policies laid down by those local government heads.

At present, boards of education are spending far too much time doing perfunctory jobs such as dealing with education personnel affairs by holding meetings two or more times a month.

Advisories nonbinding

If the subjects of discussion are narrowed down to such key matters as leading education principles, boards of education will be able to hold in-depth deliberations about what local entities should pursue.

However, there is a danger that the powers wielded by municipal heads could become too strong, jeopardizing the principle of political neutrality of education administration.

During discussions by the advisory panel, a number of members warned of this risk.

To prevent municipal heads from acting arbitrarily on their own authority, the council’s recommendations have limited the scope of directions from local government heads to school superintendents to special circumstances requiring urgent action, such as dealing with serious cases of bullying.

Boards of education to be created in line with the recommendations would be in charge of checking and evaluating the enforcement of education administration by local government heads and school superintendents, and issue advisories when necessary.

The panel’s recommendations, however, fall short of giving the advisories any binding power. For example, in the event of a local government head arbitrarily setting education measures that have not been scrupulously studied, in an irresponsible attempt to secure reelection, it is questionable whether a board of education would be able to stop this.

Should educational goals and a policy of adopting certain school textbooks be changed every time a new local government head is elected, there is a risk of school education being plunged into total confusion.

Having received the panel’s recommendations, the education ministry is scheduled to submit a bill for the revision of the Local Education Administration Law to the ordinary Diet session to be convened next month.

New Komeito, the coalition partner of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, is wary of strengthening the powers of local government heads.

Many tasks need further study, such as how to create a new framework to ensure stability and continuity of education administration.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 15, 2013)
(2013年12月15日01時25分  読売新聞)


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