(Asahi Student Newspaper: November 15, 2015 – p. 5)
The government has partially eased the ban on protests and demonstrations organized by high school students. From next summer’s House of Councillors elections, those aged 18 will become eligible to vote. The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology informed high schools nationwide on October 29 that students are allowed to take part in outside political activities after school or on holidays.
The new rule, however, still restricts students from conducting political activities during class or on the school premises. On-campus activities can be restricted or banned even if they take place on holidays or after school, so as not to bother other students. If there is a possibility of out-of-school activities violating the law, they can be restricted or banned.
But actual decisions can be left in the hands of teachers or school principals. Confusion is growing at schools over how far they can regulate students’ activities.
For example, several student protestors against the security legislation were arrested. Does this mean joining such events could violate the law? How about a school newspaper running a story opposing nuclear energy? It will probably take a while to address these issues.
Younger voting age requires teachers to speak with caution for political neutrality
The lowering of the voting age to 18 will likely spur discussions on “political neutrality” at schools down the road.
In September, MEXT introduced supplementary educational materials on the how to vote, the election system, and how to conduct mock elections to promote political awareness among high school students. It also drafted teaching guidelines and advised teachers not to express personal opinions on politically-sensitive topics and to maintain neutrality.
This is because teachers may influence students’ mindsets through the choice of their words. The Liberal Democratic Party submitted to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe a set of proposals for penalizing public high school teachers who make politically-biased comments. (Abridged)