A brief overview and the challenges of free early childhood learning program

2016.10.21

Early child learning is said to be the most important of a child’s education. Are you aware that the Japanese government is currently working on making free early childhood learning available to the Japanese population? Although this program will be helpful since raising a child in Japan is quite expensive, there are still a lot of issues to deal with before the program can be implemented. In this article, we will cover the basics of the controversial free early childhood learning program.

What type of free early childhood learning program does the government expect to implement from 2020?

The Japanese Ministry of Education is hoping to implement free public education for children 3-5 years old who are attending public daycares and kindergartens by 2020. Last year (2015), the government considered offering free education to families with children who are 5 years old that have an income less than 3,600,000 yen but the program was overlooked because it would be hard to accumulate the required financial resources. Instead, the government decided to lower the tuition for families with kindergarten age children that have an income of less than 2,700,000 yen. Although there are still concerns regarding whether the government will be able to accumulate the required financial resources the Ministry of Education is still working on moving toward offering a free childhood learning program.

What are the arguments for and against the program?

Although the basic concept seems like it will be positive for parents of young children, there are mixed arguments around the country. Positive arguments include “my child will be able to experience early childhood learning even though our family is short on funds”, “it is a good way to overcome the decreasing population problem in Japan”. Negative arguments include “before Japan offers free learning programs the government needs to increase the number of daycare centers and kindergartens”, “the government needs to start by improving the working conditions and salaries of daycare and kindergarten workers”. In addition, families where both parents work feel that that having an income restriction is unfair.

The income restriction is an issue that has to be solved before the government can go forward with the program. In order to make education for 3-5 year olds totally free the government needs more than 7,900 million yen from taxes. As a result, it will be hard to make education free for the entire age group at once. However, the government has also considered starting with only 5 year olds but this alone will require 2,600 million yen in taxes. The income restrictions were added because the government has realized that it will be impossible to raise these funds.

How will this program influence early learning education in Japan?

The government is planning on increasing the number of combined kindergarten/daycare centers in Japan. Also, government policies that will make education mandatory for 5 year olds and require schools to offer the same programing so that all children have the opportunity to receive a high quality education from a young age.

Early childhood learning has a large impact on their future learning and also their personalities. It is important to encourage children to try new things and challenge themselves when they are young no matter what your financial situation. Therefore, it would be beneficial if the Japanese government can provide a high-level educational program for everyone.

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