LDP calls for free education among other areas of Constitution change

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party said Thursday that free education could be one of the issues that deserve consideration in a constitutional revision, in addition to amendment of the war-renouncing article of the supreme law.

The LDP made the proposal at a meeting of the House of Representatives’ Constitution Commission, but Komeito, the LDP’s junior coalition ally, was cautious about the idea amid concerns over how to fund such steps. The main opposition Democratic Party opposed the plan, saying that the issue can be dealt with by creating laws.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said in his constitutional amendment proposal on May 3 that adding a reference to the Self-Defense Forces in the war-renouncing Article 9 is worth debating, while touching on free education as another area that should be subject to discussion.

At the lower house panel meeting, LDP member Hajime Funada said the current Constitution stipulates the right to education in Article 26, but there are cases in which it is not fully guaranteed due to economic constraints.

He proposed revising the article with the aim of guaranteeing the right to receive education “regardless of economic reasons.”

For Japanese nationals, six years at elementary school and three years at junior high school are compulsory and Article 26 says “compulsory education shall be free.”

Abe, in his remarks on May 3, said higher education must also be “truly open to all people.” Funada said at the lower house panel that LDP members are discussing which levels of education — either preschool or high school — need to be cost-free.

Abe and the LDP are apparently turning to the education issue, which is a topic of interest to the Japan Innovation Party, to win the reform-minded smaller opposition party over to its side in moving ahead with the country’s first-ever revision of the postwar Constitution.

The opposition party based in the western city of Osaka has been calling for the need to make education free at every stage through a constitutional amendment.

One of its members, Yasushi Adachi, said, “If the matter is written in the Constitution, it will not be affected by policy changes of the government of the time.”

Democratic Party member Shiori Yamao, however, said, “It is appropriate to delve into the issue by discussing how to fund the measures through laws.” The tiny opposition Social Democratic Party took a similar position.

Komeito’s Tetsuo Saito, meanwhile, called for cautious discussions on the issue.

The LDP, Komeito, the Japan Innovation Party and other pro-constitutional reform forces currently occupy a two-thirds majority in both houses of the Diet, which is required to initiate an amendment. The proposal then must be approved by a majority of voters in a national referendum.