Fundamental Law of Education

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The Fundamental Law of Education (教育基本法 kyōiku kihonhō?) is a Japanese law which sets the standards for the Japanese education system.


The Fundamental Law of Education, as the name suggests, is a law concerning the foundation of Japanese education. Because it acts as the basis for the interpretation and application of various laws & ordinances regarding education, it is also known as "The Education Constitution" (教育憲法 kyōiku kenpō?) and "The Charter of Education" (教育憲章 kyōiku kenshō?). The old law before its revision on December 22, 2006 used to be short, consisting of a preamble, 11 regulations, as well as supplementary provisions. It was brought into effect one month before the constitution of Japan, on March 31, 1947, but was revised on December 22, 2006.[1]

The preamble of the old Education Constitution states that, in order to realize the ideals enshrined by the Japanese Constitution, education is crucial. It proclaims the desire to educate a people who seek truth and peace.

The bill of the old Education Constitution was composed of 11 regulations altogether,[1] the substance of the law being found in Articles 1 through 10, with other related ordinances found in Article 11. According to the law, the purpose of education is "the full development of personality" (人格の完成 jinkaku no kansei?).

Education shall aim at the full development of personality, striving for the rearing of the people, sound in mind and body, who shall love truth and justice, esteem individual value, respect labor and have a deep sense of responsibility, and be imbued with the independent spirit, as builders of peaceful state and society. (Article 1)

The old law also set regulations regarding equal opportunity in education, compulsory education, coeducation, social education, political education, religious education, educational administration, etc.

It is often said that the old Fundamental Law of Education was written in the spirit of the new Japanese Constitution, representing a radical means of education reform, and replacing the pre-World War II Imperial Rescript on Education, which was based on Imperialist and Confucianist thought.


The old law was created under the auspices of SCAP, enacted by the 90th session of the Imperial Japanese Diet, which would be the last Imperial Diet conducted under the Imperial Japanese Constitution.

During the debate about constitutional reform, it was argued that provisions regarding education should be included in the national constitution itself. However, the Minister of Education at that time, Kōtarou Tanaka, proposed the creation of a separate law regarding education. The Ministry of Education then created an Educational Reform Committee, which deliberated over the contents of the Fundamental Law. The law was approved by the Imperial Diet as was written in the original draft, without revision.

Provisions of the Old Fundamental Law of Education[edit]

  • The Purpose of Education & Educational Policies (Preamble, Article 1, Article 2)
The preamble, Article 1 and Article 2 touch on the subject of education itself. The preamble states that The Fundamental Law of Education was created in the spirit of the Japanese constitution. The first article states that the purpose of education is development of integrated human character. The second article states that these goals will be attained at every opportunity, in every location.
  • Equal Opportunity in Education (Article 3)
Accepting the terms of Article 14 of the Japanese Constitution, which provide for equality between persons, educational discrimination is forbidden. Rules laying the base for the Japanese scholarship system are set.
  • Compulsory Education (Article 4)
Laying out the particular details of Article 26 of the Japanese Constitution, the number of years of compulsory education is set to nine. Public schools are not to collect tuition from those studying mandatorily, thereby making compulsory education free. Prior to World War II, Japanese students were required to study for only six years.
  • Coeducation (Article 5)
Article five provides for coeducation in schools, thereby changing all sex-segregated schools into coeducational ones.
  • Schooling (Article 6)
Article six provides for the public nature of schools, and limits the establishment of schools to the federal government, local public bodies, and those who are persons under the law (i.e. corporations). In addition, it recognizes that teachers are public servants, and should be encouraged in this role. Under these provisions, the Schooling Law was enacted.
  • Social Education (Article 7)
Promotes social education, providing specific examples such as the establishment of libraries, museums and community centres. Under these provisions, the Social Education Law was enacted.
  • Political Education (Article 8)
The article recognizes the importance of political education to the well-informed citizen, and forbids political activity within schools.
  • Religious Education (Article 9)
The article provides for tolerance with respect to religion or one's position in society, and forbids religious education in public institutions. Religious education in private institutions is not proscribed.
  • Educational Administration (Article 10)
Provides that education shall not be subject to unreasonable control, and that the entire country will bear direct responsibility. The purpose of educational administration is to provide and maintain all of the conditions necessary for education. (It is unclear to what "unreasonable control" refers. Interpretations are divided, and it is often the subject of debate.)
It has been suggested that the system of "direct responsibility" referred to in Article 10 implies that members of the Board of Education should be publicly elected, rather than appointed, as in the current Japanese system.
  • Auxiliary Provisions (Article 11)
Provides that pertinent laws and ordinances will have to go into effect in order to enact The Fundamental Law of Education. Laws and ordinances regarding education written subsequent to the Fundamental Law may be interpreted based on the Fundamental Law.[2][3]

Moral education[edit]

There are no provisions in the Fundamental Law regarding moral education. Moral education in Japan is dictated by official Ministry of Education curriculum guidelines. Nor does the Law touch on "patriotic education" matters, such as the concept of the "state", the national flag, the national anthem or the emperor.

The Imperial Rescript on Education contained items stressing the virtue of filial piety, loyalty to the emperor and love for the state. Some conservatives criticize the Fundamental Law for omitting such provisions. However, the nature of the Imperial Rescript (a moral statement lacking the power of law) and the Fundamental Law (which forms the basis of the educational system) are quite different, and it is therefore also suggested that comparisons between the two are unfair. Further, the Fundamental Law did not directly replace the Imperial Rescript (there was a gap of more than one year between the time passing of the Fundamental Law and the repeal of the Imperial Rescript), and it is therefore argued that the two are not necessarily connected.

A comprehensive revision of the Fundamental Law of Education has been already implemented. Along with other provisions in order to "broaden" the scope of the law, there were added provisions regarding moral education.


Soon after the passing of the Fundamental Law, there were numerous arguments suggesting its revision. Some suggested that ideas of patriotism and regard for Japanese traditions were lacking, and others maintained that such provisions could lead to renewed feelings of nationalism and subservience to the state. Such arguments have been brought up repeatedly since the law was first passed.

On April 28, 2006, the Cabinet drafted a reformed version of the law which was submitted to the 164th ordinary session of the National Diet (sitting from January to June 2006). The draft is composed of a preamble and 18 articles. The new preamble does not include the phrase "the realization of the ideals laid forth in the constitution depend on the education of the people", as is stated in the current law, and includes some additions, such as the phrases "community spirit" and "the inheritance of tradition". In addition, the "purpose of education" has been divided into five items, containing such moral provisions as "to nurture an attitude[...]to love our country and our home".

On May 2, 2006, the Ministry of Education announced that they had established a "Fundamental Law of Education Reform Promotion Headquarters" under the direction of Kenji Kosaka, the Minister of Education. The first meeting was scheduled for May 8, and a project team was established. The objective of this group is not only to regulate argument in the Diet, but also to assist in initiatives to explain the educational reforms to the public and decide on basic programs promoting education.

On December 22, 2006 the complete revision of the Fundamental Law of Education passed and was implemented. It now contains 18 Articles.

Main points of contention[edit]

Opinion was divided on whether students should receive education "according to individual ability" or "equally". The new Law does not contain the word "equally" any longer.

There was also debate about whether the absolution of school fees at public universities should be limited only to tuition costs, or should also include textbook fees, food costs, commutation costs, etc.

There was debate concerning the topic of political neutrality, namely, what kind of political education should be forbidden, and how to harmonize this with the promotion of political interest amongst students. In 1954, the Japanese government, aiming to curb political activity by the Japan Teachers Union, passed a law designed to ensure "political neutrality" in Japanese public schools. In 2004, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi refused to accept a petition—written by Japanese high school students—against the deployment of the Japan Self-Defense Forces to Iraq, said to be due to the prohibition on political education.

Political Debate[edit]

On March 20, 2003, based on the discussions of the People's Educational Reform Council (a consultative body to the Prime Minister dissolved in Dec. 2000), the Central Education Council reported to Minister of Education Atsuko Toyama on the necessity of reform to the Fundamental Law.

According to the report, the concepts expressed in the Fundamental Law should continue to be valued; however, in order to meet the challenges of the 21st century, the following reforms would be necessary.

  1. the establishment of a trustworthy schooling system
  2. promotion of university reform, to become leaders in the information age
  3. to restore the educational ability of the family, and to promote a society in which the school, family, and local community cooperate
  4. to foster attitudes to take part in community planning
  5. to foster respect for Japanese traditions and culture, to encourage love for the homeland, and promote the spirit of membership in the international community
  6. the realization of a society based on lifelong learning
  7. to decide on a master plan to encourage education

In April 2004, the ruling Liberal Democratic and Komei Parties reached an agreement on the meaning of the term "patriotism" ("to value customs and culture, and to love our country, from which they have developed") and submitted a reform proposal to the Diet, the first such proposal to be submitted to the Diet since the end of World War II.

The proposed reforms reflect three influential lines of thinking.

  1. Educational reform is necessary to nurture an educational elite and in order for Japan to continue to be a leader in developing cutting-edge technology.
  2. Problem children responsible for the disintegration of Japanese society (including such problems as youth crime, bullying and truancy) can be dealt with through home discipline, the strengthening of moral education, and community service.
  3. The expansion of the Ministry of Education's realm of authority is critical. The reformed law would give the Ministry of Education a virtually free hand with regards to educational administration.


Some academics have opposed the reform of the law. For example, there has been opposition to many of the newly inserted phrases, such as "patriotism", "value for tradition" and "community". It is feared that many of these so-called "values" represent a step backwards towards Japanese Imperialism.



  1. ^ a b Japanese govt OKs controversial education law revisions, Xinhua News Agency, 2006-04-28
  2. ^ "The Fundamental Law of Education", General Headquarters, SCAP, CIE, Education in the New Japan, vol. 2 (Tokyo, 1948), pp. 109-111
  3. ^ Japan: The Fundamental Law of Education, on
  4. ^ Japan: Education after World War II on Britannica Online
  5. ^ Old Leaders Control New Japan, The Age, Mar 16, 1954
  6. ^ Amendment of the Fundamental Law of Education, Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology.
  7. ^ "Japanese Government Policies in Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology 2001: Postwar Educational Reform in Retrospect", Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology

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