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'Free of charge' absent from new LDP constitutional revision draft for education

Liberal Democratic Party Headquarters for the Promotion of Revision to the Constitution Director Hiroyuki Hosoda, second from left, addresses the general assembly at the party's headquarters in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward on Nov. 28, 2017. (Mainichi)

While the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) made a campaign promise for the Oct. 22 House of Representatives election to include free education in its outline for constitutional reform, the phrase "free of charge" itself was absent from a recent proposal draft.

Members of the LDP's Headquarters for the Promotion of Revision to the Constitution gathered for a general meeting at the party's headquarters on the morning of Nov. 28 to discuss making education free of charge. However, though the draft proposal for constitutional revision put forth by the leading members of the party did not expressly use the phrase "free of charge" while including the government's responsibility to ensure access to education, none of the members present objected to the plan, and decided to move discussion toward creating a draft of the text.

Under the current Constitution, the first paragraph of Article 26 guarantees the "right to receive an equal education" for all people, while the second paragraph requires the education of all children and stipulates that this compulsory education should be free. In the LDP's draft for constitutional amendment released in 2012, a stipulation that the government must be responsible for making efforts to maintain the educational environment was added. The draft put forward by the upper echelon of the LDP on Nov. 28 proposes the establishment of a third paragraph to Article 26 roughly to this effect.

In addition, the insertion of the wording that "the right to education shall not be taken away due to economic reasons" to the first paragraph was also suggested. It appears that the push to adopt this particular phrasing is in response to the Nippon Ishin (Japan Innovation Party) including it in its proposed constitutional revisions.

The LDP also suggested revision to Article 89, which states that no public funds should be awarded for the "use, benefit or maintenance" of private religious, charitable, or educational organizations, and can be interpreted as prohibiting government subsidies for private educational institutions. The change would clarify that matching funds for these schools would not be unconstitutional.

Surrounding the issue of cost-free education, LDP President and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said this May that "we must make higher education truly more accessible," and showed his intention to establish new constitutional clauses related to making education free. However, for the constitutional reform promotion headquarters, because it is necessary to secure an enormous monetary resource, among other issues, in order to accomplish free higher education across the board, it was decided not to use "free of charge" in the draft document.

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