TV & Radio
The Japan Times
Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2006
PERFECT JAPANESE BEFORE ENGLISH: IBUKI
Education chief wants traditional values restored
By AKEMI NAKAMURA
To newly appointed education minister Bunmei Ibuki, traditional values hinge on the education system, and Diet passage of a bill to revise the Fundamental Law of Education is "the starting point" of reform.
"We want to establish a constitution of education that encourages schools and communities to teach (children) Japan's traditional social norms" by revising the law, Ibuki told The Japan Times after he was appointed.
The Liberal Democratic Party and its junior coalition partner, New Komeito, submitted a bill to the Diet in April to revise the 1947 education law.
The bill emphasizes respect for tradition and the roles of home and community in educating children and fostering "patriotism," which spurred opposition from critics who view this tack as a throwback to Japan's wartime militarism.
With educational reform a key goal of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Ibuki faces a daunting task as head of the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry. He expressed hope of having the bill passed as soon as possible after it is discussed during the current special Diet session.
Ibuki, 68, an LDP conservative, feels Japanese are losing certain social norms, including the notion that relying too much on others is shameful, and that successful people should offer a helping hand to those who have tried to reach their goals but failed.
"Japan's social order was maintained because people respected (such) social rules, which were not written in law," he said.
Ibuki said a moral breakdown of late is behind recent scandals like the one involving high-flying Internet entrepreneur Takafumi Horie, the Livedoor Co. founder now on trial for violating securities law, and prominent investment fund boss Yoshiaki Murakami, who has been charged with insider trading.
Coming from a family involved in the Kyoto textile wholesale trade since the Edo Period (1603-1868), Ibuki heads the LDP faction that bears his name. The members came from the faction that had been led by Shizuka Kamei, who was ousted from the LDP last year over postal reform and was re-elected to the Lower House on the ticket of Kokumin Shinto (People's New Party), beating LDP-endorsed independent rival Horie.
A former Finance Ministry bureaucrat, Ibuki admitted he is not an expert on education. Past posts include labor minister, chief of the National Public Safety Commission and minister in charge of crisis management and disaster prevention.
But Ibuki believes one of the reasons for his appointment is that his faction shares Abe's policy goal of placing greater emphasis on reviving traditional values and social norms.
Ibuki is thus reluctant to introduce English education as a formal subject at public elementary schools.
A subcommittee of the education ministry's Central Council for Education recommended in March that fifth- and sixth-graders at public elementary schools study English as a formal subject once a week. The council's upper panel is still discussing the issue and is expected to compile a final report by the end of March.
"I wonder if (schools) teach children (the) social rules they should know as Japanese," Ibuki said. "Students' academic abilities have been declining, and there are (many) children who do not write and speak decent Japanese. (Schools) should not teach a foreign language" before improving the situation.
To promote education reform, Ibuki needs to cooperate with Eriko Yamatani, Abe's special adviser who will lead an education reform panel the prime minister plans to create.
The panel will draw up a large framework, while the education ministry will work on concrete measures to achieve the reforms, Ibuki said.
The Japan Times
(C) All rights reserved