Constitutional & Legal Foundations
In 1946, the Allied forces orchestrated the effort to write the new Constitution of Japan, which replaced the Meiji Constitution of 1889. Based on the U.S. and British constitutions, the new document included a level of freedom and democracy that was unprecedented in Japan. Effective May 3, 1947, it perhaps is best known for Article 9, which states that "the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat of use of force as a means of settling international disputes." Also noteworthy is the restriction of the emperor to being only a "symbol of the State and of the unity of the people, deriving his position from the will of the people with whom resides sovereign power." So certainly the new Constitution would never again permit approval of a document like the 1890 Imperial Rescript on Education, which in a sense mainly viewed education as a means of respect for, and praise of, the Japanese emperor.
The new Constitution also specifically addressed the rights of children to be educated. Article 26 reads as follows:
All people shall have the right to receive an equal education correspondent to their ability, as provided by law. All people shall be obligated to have all boys and girls under their protection receive ordinary educations as provided for by law. Such compulsory education shall be free.
For the first time in its history, the Japanese people acquired constitutional rights to an education. These rights were further defined by the 1947 Fundamental Law of Education. This law replaced the 1890 Prescript on Education and articulated a variety of legal educational rights in its Preamble and 11 articles.
A related law was the School Education Law of 1947, which outlined the general structure of the Japanese school system. Another law—the 1956 Law Concerning the Organization and Functions of Local Educational Administration—regulates the operations of local schools around the country. For example, it covers operational details related to boards of education, superintendents, attendance policies for students, and the appointment of teachers. It tended to reestablish some of the previous centralized authority over local school districts, though certainly not to the degree of the pre-World War II system.
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