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Tuesday, 19th February 2013
In General Japan News,

Free education for young in Japan touted

The Japanese government is considering offering free pre-school education to children aged between three and five in a bid to ease the financial burden on families.

Ministers believe that by cutting costs for those with children, parents may be encouraged to have more offspring which would help offset Japan's declining birth rate.

In addition, it is hoped that free education will help to improve standards at that level.

A board of government officials has been set up to establish whether the idea is feasible. The panel will be headed up by the state minister for measures on the falling birth rate, Masako Mori.

Mr Mori will be working alongside welfare minister Norihisa Tamura, and education minister Hakubun Shimoura.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe clearly believes that an effective education system is a vital part of ensuring Japan's future success.

"To get back a strong Japan, it is indispensable to resuscitate the education of children, who will carry the future of Japan on their shoulders," the Japan Times quoted the prime minister as saying.

Mr Abe added that "the big goal is to ensure opportunities to have [children] acquire the academic ability and normative consciousness of the world's top level".

There is growing concern over Japan's shrinking population as latest estimates predict that within 50 years there will be just 1.35 children per woman and yet the country's elderly are increasing as life expectancy rises.

It is estimated that by 2060, women in Japan will be expected to live an average of 90.93 years, while men will live to 84.

Hiroshi Yoshida, an economics professor at Tohoku University, suggested that the current situation is unsustainable.

"If the rate of decline continues, we will be able to celebrate the Children's Day public holiday on May 5, 3011 as there will be one child. But 100 seconds later there will be no children left. The overall trend is towards extinction, which started in 1975 when Japan’s fertility rate fell below two," he said.

Written by Mark Smith

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