Tokyo, May 26 (Jiji Press)–Opinions in favor of changing the start of the school year in Japan to September from April are dwindling rapidly among lawmakers in the Liberal Democratic Party-led ruling coalition.
This is because a number of schools are moving to reopen after the government fully lifted its state of emergency over the outbreak of the new coronavirus on Monday.
“The more carefully we discuss it, the more we become aware of its social impacts, and cautious opinions are increasing,” Hiroshige Seko, secretary-general of the LDP in the House of Councillors, the upper chamber of the Diet, Japan’s parliament, told a news conference on Tuesday.
Introduction of the September enrollment system has been proposed by the government to allow students to make up for a delay in education caused by prolonged school closures amid the virus crisis.
The LDP and its coalition partner, Komeito, are scheduled to draw up their recommendations over the matter early next month.
However, the proposed system involves a host of challenges, such as huge costs and rules on the enrollment age of first-graders of elementary schools.
At a meeting of the LDP’s team on the new school year system on Monday, most members were “cautious about or against” the initiative now that a number of schools are working to resume classes, according to LDP lawmaker Hideki Murai, who serves as secretary-general of the team.
Komeito is also negative about the introduction of the new system.
At a press conference Tuesday, Komeito leader Natsuo Yamaguchi stressed that medium- to long-term discussions are necessary on the issue.
“The government needs to take time for sufficient debates from a wider perspective, apart from its response to the loss of students’ opportunities to learn at schools due to the epidemic,” he said.
At a parliamentary meeting last month, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sounded positive on the change of the school year start to September, saying that he wants to “consider various options in advance.”
But he backed down at a press conference on Monday. “I want to study the introduction carefully while examining the situation related to reopenings of schools and social impacts of the proposed system,” Abe said.
Just before the press conference, Abe was informed that many LDP members are cautious about the new school year system, according to a source close to the prime minister.
The Abe administration, which already faces an array of problems, may see its leadership falter further if the momentum for introducing the new system continues dwindling in the face of opposition from the ruling coalition, political watchers said.