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Thursday, June 21, 2007

Education reform bills are enacted

Staff writer

The ruling bloc's majority held sway Wednesday as the House of Councilors voted in a package of education reform bills, accomplishing a key goal of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and foiling the opposition's last-ditch effort to halt their enactment.

The opposition camp's failure follows on the heels of its earlier foiled bid to stop the ruling coalition from ramming the education bills and a bill to approve a two-year extension of the Air Self-Defense Force's transport mission in Iraq through Upper House committees. The ruling bloc also plans to extend the Diet session by 12 days until July 5 to get other bills passed, and move back the planned July 22 Upper House election to July 29.

"It is really good to see the (education) bills passed because they are the most important bills for this Diet session and educational reform is the priority of my government," Abe told reporters."

The education bills, backed by the Liberal Democratic Party and coalition partner New Komeito, mainly aim to increase the central government's control over teachers and schools.

The LDP rammed the government-sponsored education bills and other bills through the Lower House recently in an effort to underline Abe's initiative before the Upper House election in July.

Along with improving the quality of public education, Abe and other conservative LDP politicians have long aimed at revising the School Education Law to foster in young students a sense of patriotism.

The other two bills amend the local education administration law to give more power to the education minister over boards of education, and revise the teacher licensing law, which will require teachers to renew their licenses every 10 years.

Some experts, however, fear the bills may make Japan's school system more rigid and discourage teachers. They also doubt the bills will help improve the quality of public education.

Earlier in the day, the opposition parties submitted motions demanding the resignations of the chairmen of two committees to protest the coalition's railroading of the bills without due deliberation.

The ruling bloc hopes to pass other bills in the current Diet session, including one to reform the troubled Social Insurance Agency and one to clamp down "amakudari," the practice of retiring bureaucrats landing cushy posts in industries they once oversaw.

To this end, the coalition plans to extend the Diet session through July 5 and delay the July 22 poll until July 29.

For related story:
Education Q&A — New laws to reshape education system

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