September school start would need some 30 legal changes in Japan

TOKYO — The Japanese government said Thursday that shifting the start of the school year to September would require more than 30 legal revisions.

The government held a meeting that day with officials from multiple ministries, including the education and labor ministries.

In March, Japan shut schools as the spread of the novel coronavirus accelerated. That move spurred a debate on whether to change the start of the academic year from April to September. A survey conducted by Nikkei earlier in May showed that 58% of prefectural governors support a September start to the school year.

At the meeting, authorities pointed out that various changes to laws, including the National Pension Act, the Livelihood Protection Act, and the Child and Child Care Support Law, would be required to alter the school schedule.

According to participants, the government explained: “It will be a great deal of work if many laws and personnel affairs based on the fiscal-year system are to be changed.”

The government also raised another concern, saying, “If the number of preschoolers increases during the transition period, securing child care workers will also become an issue.”

Participants said it would be necessary to ensure children continue to receive adequate education during the transition period. One questioned whether starting the school year in September would really encourage more academic exchanges with Western universities, as some advocates for the change suggest.

One participant stated: “If we cannot hold a thorough discussion at a time of crisis brought on by the coronavirus, we will never be able to bring about a change.”

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