Japan mulling free education: move seen as part of prime minister Abe’s 'human resources revolution'

TOKYO (The Japan News/ANN) - The government will include free education in the basic plan for the “revolution in human resources development” — a new initiative by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe — that it aims to compile as early as June next year, according to informed sources. 

The government plans to establish an expert panel to compile the plan, which will also include free higher education and university reforms, this summer.
Abe advocated a “revolution in human resources development” at a press conference on Monday, saying that investing in people will be essential to the country’s economic revitalization.

A secretariat will be established within the Cabinet Secretariat in July to set up the expert panel this summer, according to the sources.  The envisaged panel is expected to compile an interim report by the end of this year, and the government will decide on a basic plan in June next year. Abe plans to create a new ministerial post for promoting the “revolution in human resources development” during a Cabinet reshuffle expected to be conducted in August.

“Free education” will be positioned as the main pillar of the basic plan. Regarding the financial resources to implement free education, the government is considering collecting taxpayers’ money and social insurance premiums, the sources said. 

Australia’s Higher Education Contribution Scheme — under which the government covers students’ tuition fees and then requires repayments based on each student’s income when they enter employment — will be used a reference for compiling the plan. Providing free early childhood education is expected to be considered as well.

Free education is seen as one of the most likely subjects to be considered regarding constitutional revision. The government hopes to gain momentum for revising the Constitution by promoting detailed discussions on the issue of free education, according to the sources.

Regarding university reforms, the government will discuss issues such as enhancing practical vocational training and revitalizing national universities in regional cities through hiring faculty members from the business world.

Under the new initiative, the government will also consider accepting more foreign workers, diversifying the way to recruit employees instead of sticking to the bulk hiring of new graduates, and extending the period for continuous employment after retirement.


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