竹富町の教科書 法改正の趣旨踏まえた対応に

The Yomiuri Shimbun 8:47 pm, April 15, 2014
Local boards of education must act in conformity with revision of law
竹富町の教科書 法改正の趣旨踏まえた対応に

The town board of education in Taketomi, Okinawa Prefecture, which has deviated from rules regarding the selection of textbooks for use in public schools and continues to use a textbook of its own choice, recently announced that it will not comply with a demand for corrective action from the education ministry.

The law on the free provision of school textbooks stipulates that a joint textbook adoption district—comprising more than one municipality—must adopt the same textbook throughout.

The Taketomi Board of Education’s adoption of a textbook of its own choice clearly violates the law. It was only to be expected that the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology ministry would issue a demand for corrective action, based on the Local Government Law.

The town board of education’s refusal to obey the corrective order shows a lack of willingness to comply with the law that is notable for an institution responsible for the administration of education. Such a position can hardly be tolerated.

If a board of education has a problem with a demand from the ministry for corrective action, it can file a formal objection and seek a review by a committee dedicated to settling national-local disputes, a third-party organization affiliated with the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry. It is hard to understand why the Taketomi board has not sought recourse via this process.

In 2011, the textbook selection council of the Yaeyama district, comprising the city of Ishigaki and the towns of Taketomi and Yonaguni, selected a civic studies textbook published by Ikuhosha Publishing Inc. for use in middle schools. The problem started when the Taketomi Board of Education decided alone to adopt a textbook published by Tokyo Shoseki Co.

Little coverage of territories

The textbook published by Ikuhosha contains a full description of territorial issues, including the government’s perspective on Takeshima island and the Senkaku Islands.

The text published by Tokyo Shoseki, on the other hand, contains little description regarding territorial issues, while covering issues concerning U.S. military bases in Okinawa Prefecture in detail.

Objections within the prefecture to the Ikuhosha textbook, the authors of which include former members of the Japanese Society for History Textbook Reform, may also have influenced the Taketomi Board of Education’s textbook choice.

The board is seeking independence from Yaeyama district’s textbook selection council, and is working toward securing autonomy to select textbooks for use in the town from the next fiscal year onward. This course of action is also questionable.

A revised law on the free provision of school textbooks was enacted on April 9. The wording of the revised law to describe administrative units of joint textbook adoption districts was changed from “cities and counties” to “cities, towns and villages.” Based on this change, the Taketomi Board of Education asserts that it is now possible for it to adopt a textbook of its own choice.

Yet the purpose of the revision is to allow textbooks to be selected by educational districts that combine towns and villages more flexibly, rather than being bound to county divisions that no longer correspond to the distribution of local communities and their livelihoods due to merger of cities, town and villages in recent years.
The joint textbook selection system is absolutely intended to remain in place, and the legal revision is by no means intended to fragment educational districts.

It is inevitable that the Taketomi Board of Education’s policy of breaking away from the educational district will be criticized as an attempt at distorting the legal revision to its own advantage.

The joint textbook selection system has merits, such as the ability for smaller municipalities to cooperate with one another in the careful adoption of textbooks.

It is the Okinawa Prefectural Board of Education that will decide how municipalities will combine to form textbook selection districts. We hope the prefectural board will make its decision according to the spirit in which the legal revision was intended.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 15, 2014)

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