The following is an interview with Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Masahiko Shibayama.
Question: Senior officials of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) were arrested and indicted over a series of scandals including bribery and corruption cases. How will you regain public trust?
Minister Masahiko Shibayama: The scandals were shocking and the ministry lost the people’s trust. We are now looking into how we are actually complying with the code of conducts for civil servants. At the same time, we, including young officials, are also discussing how MEXT should be as a whole. I want to take the lead in reforming the ministry.
Q: How do you think universities should be reformed and realigned?
Shibayama: As the 18-year-old population continues shrinking, the reform of universities is an urgent task to develop human resources in a total manner. Given the fact that 40 percent of private universities are running under enrollment, we need to urge them either to consolidate them or terminate school business if they are in dire straits. We will also review the quota of national universities, and we want to decide within the fiscal year on what to do, while listening to opinions from universities.
Q: How will you advance free early childhood and higher education advocated by the Abe administration?
Shibayama: It is important to reduce the financial burden of education from the viewpoint of taking measures to address the declining birthrate. We are working out a specific system based on opinions from local governments and other entities. It is necessary to submit a bill to the Diet at its ordinary session next year and we will thoroughly prepare for the submission.
Q: Distinguished professor Tasuku Honjo at Kyoto University, who won the 2018 Nobel Prize in physiology and medicine, calls for substantial support for basic research.
Shibayama: In order to produce world highest-level results, we will continuously support basic research through the Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research Program and focus on the strategic promotion of basic research. We also need global measures aimed at establishing a research center to attract leading researchers from all over the world.