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Thursday, April 1, 2010
Public school tuition waived
Pro-Pyongyang institutions may get subsidies
By ALEX MARTIN
The Diet enacted a law Wednesday waiving public high school tuition, a key promise in the Democratic Party of Japan's election campaign last year.
Starting Thursday, students of public high schools will be exempt from tuition, while private high schools will receive a subsidy of ¥120,000 to ¥240,000 a year per student depending on household income.
Education minister Tatsuo Kawabata has indicated that international schools and those with curricula of other countries will be eligible for the program if they pass an evaluation, with some receiving subsidies as soon as this month.
The government plans to include pro-Pyongyang schools in the program, but each school will first have to be screened by a third-party panel established by the education ministry. Specific procedures and criteria for the screening process are expected to be decided after the summer Upper House election.
During the day's Upper House plenary session, the Liberal Democratic Party, the main opposition force, slammed the DPJ for ramming a "hastily formed and sloppy" bill through the Diet without adequate deliberation.
LDP lawmaker Hiroyuki Yoshiie said such an important bill needed at least a year of debate on the national level. "But the DPJ cut short deliberations so it could be enacted before the Upper House election," he said. "It's nothing but pork-barrel, and definitely not for the benefit of our children."
The question of whether North Korean-inclined schools should be included has been controversial.
Hiroshi Nakai, state minister in charge of abduction issues involving North Korea, tried in February to exclude high schools that have a close relationship with Chongryon, or the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan, an organization supporting the isolated regime.
But Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama judged it appropriate not to exclude the schools after the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination raised concerns.
The education ministry plans to classify the Korean schools as schools with curricula similar to Japanese schools that the education minister designates for screening.