EDU-JPN:Kake Gakuen Scandal: Maekawa’s Word against Prime Minister Abe’s

Education in Japan(Natalie Collor)

For more than a decade, MEXT has not granted approval for any higher education academic institution’s wish to create a veterinary program with the belief that more programs would create unnecessary competition in the field. Last November, however, Prime Minister Abe approved Kake Gakuen’s request for a veterinary program. Abe, who is publically known to be good friends with the institution’s chairman Kotaro Kake, granted this special permission only to Kake Gakuen and all other institutions were denied their expansion requests.
The documents, including transcripts from the approval meetings, as well as the influence of Prime Minister Abe’s opinion on this matter, hold great weight in this scandal, but MEXT first announced that it could not locate the documents. Soon after this, bureaucrat Kihei Maekawa stated publically that he knew for sure that the documents existed, suggesting that MEXT was hiding something in their inability to produce the documents.
An interesting twist to this scandal involved a Yomiuri Newspaper article outing Kihei Maekawa for going to a risqué bar. For a national newspaper to focus on the personal life of a politician is very rare, and the public may be wondering why such an article was written. Did Yomiuri, a newspaper in support of Prime Minister Abe’s Administration, want to scare off Maekawa and his claims concerning Abe’s statements in the official documents? The public knows so little about the hidden interactions involved in this matter, so the best they can do is speculate.
Upon a second search, MEXT found the documents that Maekawa spoke of. The words of Prime Minister Abe in these transcripts have since been scrutinized by the media and other politicians. Was he overly persuasive in encouraging his inferiors to approve this request for personal gain, or was he so passionate in his speech because he truly believed Kake Gakuen would benefit from the expansion?
While details from this scandal are still being released and the public may never know Abe’s true intentions or motives, there is one alarming implication from this scandal. If the suspicions about Abe’s personal interests in this matter, as well as Yomiuri’s intentional outing of Maekawa are true, Japan would become yet another country whose government leaks private information in order to protect its own interests. Although this is primarily speculation, many Japanese people—even politicians—are in disbelief that such questionable behavior could possibly occur in this country.




コロンビア特別区と18州の司法長官は6日、連邦教育省とデヴォス教育長官を提訴した。オバマ政権下で決定していた、悪質あるいは違法な手法で営利目的大学に勧誘され、質の疑わしい教育や学位のために多額の学生ローンを負うことになった学生を救済するための規則(“the Borrower Defense Rule”)が7月1日付で有効になるはずであったが、これをデヴォス長官が突如延期したのは違法であると司法長官らは訴えている。悪質な勧誘と巨額の学生ローンの被害にあっている学生の多くは、2015年に倒産したコリンシアン・カレッジ(Corinthian Colleges, Inc.)のような営利目的の大学経営チェーンの学生である。オバマ政権が定めた規則は、こうした被害に合った学生が連邦政府ローンを返済できない場合、それを納税者ではなく大学に負わせることや、大学が学生に対し大学を相手取った訴訟を起こさないことを誓約させることを禁止するというものであったが、デヴォス長官はこの規則を改訂するために準備中であるとしている。


EDU-JPN:Moritomo Gakuen Scandal Part 2: The latest developments

Education in Japan(Natalie Collor)

One major development in the Moritomo Gakuen scandal is the loss of official documents. At the beginning of this month, it was revealed that the written documents and digital data from official land purchasing negotiations between Moritomo Gakuen and the government had been destroyed by the Ministry of Finance. Because of this event, the ministry had to update its information systems by the 2nd of this month.

Therefore, NEC, the company entrusted with the ministry’s data and documents has begun its efforts to retrieve them. One worry is that without these documents, getting to the truth of this scandal will become nearly impossible. The Ministry of Finance is requesting that NEC retrieve physical data by July 31st of this year. On the other hand, the opposition party worries that, in its honest efforts to bring back the original data for the sake of this investigation, the public will think they are concealing information and develop a negative view. Therefore, one representative, Mr. Takashi Takai, was hoping for a freeze on the data retrieval, but the Ministry of Finance did not grant his request.

It has also become a court order for Moritomo Gakuen employee computer data to be restored on the belief that today’s technology is so advanced that even if all the data was once deleted, there are ways to retrieve it. The attorney involved in this case believes there is certainly a way to retrieve the data and that this data from the official negotiations is the key to understanding what really happened between Moritomo Gakuen and the government. 

Both the communist and democratic parties want to protect the transparency of this issue, so they jointly submitted a revised record of their national assets to the House of Councilors. Since news of this scandal has come to light, more than four months have passed. However, an accurate explanation of what truly happened and an appropriate resolution for the parties involved are likely still months away.




銃乱射事件と銃の事故が後を絶たないアメリカでは、学校で教師が生徒の命を守るために銃を携帯するべきかどうか、またそれ以外のどのような安全対策・危機管理が学校でできるかという点に関して議論が続いている。市民による銃保持の権利保護を目指す全米ライフル協会(National Rifle Association:NRA )は、子供向けに、エディー・イーグルというマスコットを起用した「銃を見つけても触らない、その場を離れる、大人を呼ぶ」を基本方針とする銃使用に関する教育プログラムを行っている。また全米各地に、市民の武器保有・携帯を認める憲法修正第2条を擁護する団体などの援助や警察との連携のもとに、現役教員に銃使用の訓練を行う研修などもある。公共の場での銃の携帯を許可している州の多くでは、大学を含む公立学校での銃の所持を原則として禁止していない場合もある。他方、教室での銃携帯は銃による事故を増やすだけであるとして、Educators Demand Actionなど、学校での銃携帯を推進する動きや政策に反対する団体も各地に存在する。また、大学や小中学校などでも、武器を持った不審者侵入に対する訓練やワークショップを定期的に行っているところもある。銃の使用をめぐる自治体や学校単位での方針の行方とともに教育プログラムや訓練の効果と弊害についても議論が深まっていくことが期待される。

  • 学校関係者向けの銃使用訓練を展開する団体FASTER(Faculty / Administrator Safety Training & Emergency Response): http://fastersaveslives.org/


EDU-JPN:Moritomo Gakuen Scandal Part 1: A Summary

Education in Japan(Natalie Collor)

In February of this year, it was revealed that an Osaka-based education entity called Moritomo Gakuen purchased government land at a discounted rate. This institution had plans to build a one-of-a-kind private school that educated students based on conservative, nationalist views, but its construction plans were put on hold after this controversial incident. The news that a conservative, nationalist institution may have worked closely with the government to illegally obtain cheap land unsurprisingly caused a nationwide scandal, but this was only the beginning of the story.

Yasunori Kagoike, the then Moritomo Gakuen Chairman, publically announced that the institution received a donation of 1 million yen, roughly 9,000 dollars, from Prime Minister Abe for the school’s construction. Kagoike claimed that the donation was given to him through Akie Abe, the prime minister’s wife. Less than two weeks later, Prime Minister Abe gave an official response that if he or his wife were found to be involved with this deal, he would give up his roles as prime minister and a member of the Diet.

In late March, Kagoike was summoned to the National Diet for testimony regarding this scandal, and he again claimed that he received a donation directly from Akie Abe. In addition, he testified that there were other Diet members from Osaka involved in this scandal, thus generating even more attention from the media.

In April, Kagoike stepped down as the Chairman, and those duties were passed on to his oldest daughter, Mrs. Chinami. Moritomo Gakuen adopted an altered plan for the construction of its school, and at the end of the month, the city of Osaka decided to begin paperwork to implement these plans and move forward with the construction of this school, despite not having answers to very important questions regarding this messy situation.


EDU-JPN:An even shorter summer vacation?

Education in Japan(Natalie Collor)

Summer vacation for most Japanese schools lasts between three and five weeks. When Japanese children hear about the length of summer vacation in other countries, they are often shocked at the long duration of this break. For example, most schools in the U.S. have at least two months off for summer break. Although the summer breaks in Japan may already seem short when compared to elsewhere, the government has decided to shorten it even more. Starting during the 2018-2019 school year, it has been decided by the Japanese government that public elementary, middle, and high schools will have a shortened summer break.

The specific dates and length of summer break will likely still vary according to the region, but the main idea is to shorten summer break by about five days in order to extend spring and fall breaks by a couple days to a ten-day break. The rationale behind this decision is to create a nationwide “Kid’s Week” during which working parents can also take days off from work and the whole family can go on trips together. Another belief is that having balanced breaks from school will allow students and teachers to establish more consistency at school.

Other changes to the curriculum and education system, such as the inclusion of English as a regular subject for 3rd and 4th grade elementary school students in 2020 as well as the English interview component to entrance exams in the same year, are thought to also benefit from this schedule change. In the coming months, local governments will meet to discuss these new changes and decide the specific dates of spring, summer, fall, and winter breaks according to their specific region.




トランプ政権下で教育予算削減が焦点となっている一方、ニューヨーク州やミシガン大学では、4年制大学の授業料無料化が本格的に始動している。今年初めに全米初となる4年制州立大学の授業料無料化を発表したニューヨークは、そのためのエクセルシオール奨学金(Excelsior Scholarship)の募集を開始した。奨学金受給対象者は、州内に住む世帯年収が10万ドル以下(2019年までに12万5千ドル以下に拡大予定)で、ニューヨーク州立大学システムに参加している4年制大学と2年制大学の全プログラムに在籍する学生。およそ94万世帯が対象になると推定される。受給者は4年あるいは2年で卒業し、卒業後は受給年数分ニューヨーク州内に居住し働くことが義務付けられている。



EDU-JPN:How much do parents know about the STEM Curriculum?

 Education in japan(Natalie Collor)

In a recent JustSystems Corporation survey of over 1,600 parents with elementary school children, it was reported that just under 40% of parents knew that programming will become a required subject as of 2020. Almost half the parents responded that they send their children to programming lessons in order to increase their creative power, and about 40% of parents believe skills built during programming lessons are applicable to other subjects. Building programming skills is the first step for success within the STEM Curriculum.

Around 70% of parents see the merits of the STEM Curriculum and around the same percentage feel this type of curriculum is important, but only 11% feel that they can explain the curriculum and its goals to another person.

From the results of this survey, the administers can infer that the general awareness of the STEM Curriculum among parents has spread widely, but most of these parents do not know the specific details of the curriculum and how it will affect future generations of children. In the coming months and years, more detailed information will surely reach these parents. MEXT and other educational organizations have already decided to start promoting programming educational materials aimed at elementary school students.


EDU-JPN:Financial Support for Impoverished Children

Education in Japan(Natalie Collar)

The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology held a hearing on March 23rd to discuss the public comments based on previously announced plans for educational reform. Among forty groups of people and individuals, there were over 150 opinions submitted. The majority of the comments dealt with the current situation of education in Japan, the problems it faces, and general plans for future education policies. Most of the opinions geared towards the state of education mentioned the need for implementing a plan to address the serious problem of supporting children living in poverty. Although the specific details for plans to address the needs for financial support for impoverished children have yet to be announced, it is an issue that is likely to remain central to the committee’s discussions. 

Earlier this month, the Wakayama Prefectural Board of Education announced that it was seeking opinions of residents regarding the treatment of impoverished children. The prefecture recently made public its new five-year plan to take action to help children living in poverty, so it would like to hear opinions and ideas from all types of people living in Wakayama. Included in the proposal are twenty indices including percentages of children’s continuation rate to college and the percentages of jobs among single-parent households. The prefectural leaders have divided the plan into four parts: Education Support, Lifestyle Support, Employment Support for Guardians, and Economical Support. They even introduced plans for supporting children in attaining meals at a reduced price.


EDU-JPN:What is the STEM Curriculum?

 Education in japan(Natalie Collor)

STEM is an acronym for an educational curriculum that emphasizes the following four pillars: Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. The primary goal is to prepare students with awareness and skills that will serve them well in a high-tech industry. The STEM Curriculum got its start in America in the 1990s, but it was not widely accepted by the nation until 2010 with President Obama’s support.

Starting in the 2020 school year, elementary schools in Japan will be introducing computer programming as an official subject. This change is seen as a part of a larger plan to prepare Japanese children for high-tech society of the future. The inclusion of programming in the official elementary school curriculum is considered to be the first step for climbing up the STEM Curriculum ladder. Administrators are rationalizing the decision to expose children to this aspect of the STEM Curriculum at a young age in order to help build their interest in computer-related content. They also hope this early exposure will provide a foundation for the difficult material in their middle and high school classes.

Future outlook on jobs may also be a source of rationale for the implementation of a new curriculum. In order to prevent today’s children from being jobless once they reach adulthood, teaching them the computer and technology skills they will need in this already AI and IT-based society is a must.