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Japan mulls making free higher education constitutional right

Economic reasons are forcing more people to forgo school, LDP lawmaker says

Students sit for a college entrance exam in Tokyo.

TOKYO -- Japanese lawmakers on Thursday discussed the possibility of revising the constitution to make higher education free for everyone.

The talks were held by the lower house Commission on the Constitution.

Hajime Funada of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party said stipulating free higher education in the constitution will prompt the government to take action. He also said the LDP would have to discuss how to secure funding, as well as provide a blueprint for how to proceed with the change.

Article 26-1 of the constitution stipulates that "all people shall have the right to receive an equal education correspondent to their ability, as provided by law." Funada said more people are seeing their right to education being eroded due to economic reasons. He added that it would be reasonable to amend the charter to include the wording "regardless of economic factors."

Yasushi Adachi of the Japan Innovation Party agreed with Funada, citing the need to position free education as a pillar of government policy to halt the decline in the birthrate.

Meanwhile, Shiori Yamao of the opposition Democratic Party said providing free education does not require amending the constitution. She said it would be enough to discuss the scope and funding of free education under the current rules.

Tetsuo Saito of the LDP's junior coalition partner Komeito said careful discussion would be needed on whether free education should be provided for all.

In a May 3 video message on constitutional change, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe singled out the war-renouncing Article 9 and free education as areas that need revising.

Providing free higher education for all would require an estimated 5 trillion yen ($44.8 billion). Discussions are underway within the LDP on creating education bonds and children's insurance to help fund the plan.


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