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Gist of interpellations at Lower House Committee on Education, Oct. 30, 2019

[The following is the gist of the interpellations at the Lower House Committee on Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology on Oct. 30, 2019.]


Private English tests


Hiroshi Hase (Liberal Democratic Party): You said students should compete for university places “under their given circumstances.” What did you mean by that? 


Education Minister Koichi Hagiuda: I meant that I hope students whatever their circumstances will take the opportunities most appropriate for them so that they can fully show their abilities on two English tests.


I am solely to blame for causing anxiety and misunderstanding, and I regret it.


Takashi Kii (Democratic Party for the People): On Oct. 30, the Yomiuri Shimbun ran on the front page of its morning edition an article that says some in the government have proposed postponing the introduction of privately administered English tests [for university entrance exams].


Hagiuda: The education ministry is not a part of that discussion at all. I’d like to check if there is such a discussion in the government.


Kii: The most expensive test fee exceeds 50,000 yen for two tests. Do you think students who are financially strapped can afford that?


Hagiuda: It’s difficult for me to know whether they can or not. But there is a system for financially strapped students to go to university and cover their English test fees with scholarships that do not need to be repaid.


Hajime Yoshikawa (Social Democratic Party): Your saying “under their given circumstances” is very problematic. What is the relationship between the Constitution and the Basic Act on Education and your remark?


Hagiuda: The Basic Act on Education stipulates equal opportunity in education based on Article 26 of the Constitution, which provides that all people shall have the right to receive an equal education correspondent to their ability. I will have the ministry’s administration comply with these stipulations.


Kimie Hatano (Japanese Communist Party): Your mentioning “under their given circumstances” means that you have acknowledged that the [new university examination] system is advantageous to students from wealthy families?


Hagiuda: No, I rather wanted to encourage [financially strapped] students. I’m not a lawmaker who tolerates a widening gap in education. I’ve been supporting children who are in need.


Akihiro Hatsushika (Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan): Does the government have any measures to make test fees affordable to financially struggling families?


Hagiuda: We’re aware of the issue. We have been told that it would be difficult for financially strapped students to take the second test. We will consider the matter in a forward-looking manner keeping that in mind.


Hiroshi Kawauchi (Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan): What will the government do if the anxiety and misunderstanding do not subside?


Hagiuda: I think I would need to think about doing something if we were to confirm that things have gotten more complicated than they are now.

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