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Thursday, Nov. 16, 2006

Ruling coalition education bill nears passage

Staff writer

The Liberal Democratic Party and its junior ruling bloc partner, New Komeito, rammed a contentious bill to revise the Fundamental Law of Education through a key Diet committee Wednesday, as opposition parties boycotted the proceedings.

The ruling coalition endorsed the bill in the absence of the Democratic Party of Japan, the Japanese Communist Party, the Social Democratic Party of Japan and the People's New Party.

It is expected to clear the full Lower House session Thursday, and then will be sent to the Upper House for deliberation.

Passage of the bill is a key step in Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's effort to revise the law, which he argues will promote more love of country and discipline in schools.

It still remains unclear, however, whether the bill will be passed before the Diet session ends on Dec. 15.

Opponents say the legislation will foster narrow nationalism at schools. Abe has said revising the education law is a key part of his educational reform drive.

"Rebuilding the education (system) is my Cabinet's priority," Abe told reporters Wednesday evening after the committee vote.

Yukio Hatoyama, secretary general of the DPJ, the largest opposition party, slammed the vote, which went ahead despite the opposition boycott.

"It is unbelievable that (the ruling parties) forcefully approved the education bill," Hatoyama told reporters afterward. "(We will let) the public be the judge" of the results.

Hatoyama said the Diet should address more serious problems at schools before revising the 1947 education law, such as the recent suicides of students who were alleged victims of bullying by classmates.

The opposition camp is expected to step up efforts to block the education bill by boycotting or disrupting deliberations in the Diet to draw voter attention to the issue.

LDP lawmakers brushed the opposition complaints over the committee vote aside, saying it debated the bill for more than 100 hours.

"It is disappointing that the opposition parties, which have been entrusted to (deliberate the bill) on behalf of the public, (did not) appear to debate and vote (on the bill)," education minister Bunmei Ibuki said after the vote.

The main point in the revision proposed by the government is to instill a sense of "patriotism."

The revision bill, among other things, calls for cultivating "an attitude that respects tradition and culture and love of the national homeland that has fostered them."

Conservative lawmakers often argued that the current education law, which embraces respect for individuality and the full development of one's personality, has allowed students and teachers to indulge in too much freedom at schools.

Abe, who is regarded by many as a conservative hawk, has long advocated education reforms to help nurture patriotism.

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The Japan Times

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