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2014年6月20日 (金)

教育委員会改革 首長と二人三脚で課題克服を

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Local leaders, new councils must work together closely to fix education problems
教育委員会改革 首長と二人三脚で課題克服を

The board of education system introduced after World War II is at a major turning point. We hope this leads to an overhaul of education administration in regions across the nation.

A bill to revise the Local Education Administration Law was enacted last week by a majority vote in the House of Councillors with support from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, New Komeito and other parties. The revised law will come into force in April.

The crux of the revision is that the heads of prefectural and municipal governments will be able to have a stronger influence on local education administration, which has hitherto been guided by decisions made by boards of education. Despite the change, the authority to select textbooks and teaching personnel will remain with the boards.

The opposition Democratic Party of Japan and Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) submitted a counterproposal that would have extensively strengthened the power of governors and mayors over education matters and abolished boards of education. However, education administration demands political neutrality. To prevent local leaders from acting recklessly, the revised law quite rightly keeps boards of education in place to retain fairness in the authority over schooling matters.

The move to revise the law was sparked by the 2011 suicide of an Otsu middle school student who had been viciously bullied. This case exposed the local board of education’s inability to respond quickly and take appropriate action to deal with bullying. It also shed light on difficulties in pinpointing where responsibility lies due to the fact that they must work in tandem with superintendents in charge of practical matters and education board chiefs representing the boards.

The new legislation creates the post of school superintendent, who will assume the responsibilities currently held by superintendents and heads of boards of education. It also gives governors and mayors the right to directly appoint and dismiss the person in this new role. The designation of responsibility has become clearer.

We urge the superintendents to strengthen the ability of boards of education to deal with crises and work hard to resolve problems that arise at schools.

Putting an end to bias

Many employees of the secretariat, which handles the administrative side of education board matters, were previously teachers. Some observers have said that such employees tend to be lenient when dealing with schools that become embroiled in misconduct or scandal, as they feel a sense of camaraderie due to their shared background. The closed nature of boards of education also needs to be improved.

The concentration of power in the hands of the school superintendent makes the appointment of this role an important task. Governors and mayors should not simply choose someone who holds political views similar to their own. Rather, they must appoint the best candidate after carefully evaluating whether each has the skills and acumen to handle educational and administrative affairs.

The new law also stipulates that “comprehensive education councils” will be set up in each municipality. Headed by the local governor or mayor, these councils will comprise school superintendents and representatives of boards of education.

As well as deciding on the basic direction of education administration in their own regions, the councils will serve as a forum where local leaders and boards of education can discuss important issues that affect budget allocations, such as improvements to school facilities and increasing the number of teachers.

One nagging concern we have is how a comprehensive education council will react if the governor or mayor becomes locked in a fierce dispute with board of education representatives.

The council’s failure to settle on the direction of education policies could cause confusion in the classroom.

To ensure that children and students receive the best possible education, these councils must be able to reach a consensus on key matters.

It is imperative that governors and mayors put aside election considerations and firmly resist the temptation to forcefully impose their own views on the councils.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 19, 2014)


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