Japanese civil society raises the need for more education funding

From February to November 2020, the Japan NGO Network for Education (JNNE), a coalition of Japanese NGOs working in the field of international educational cooperation, organized an annual SDG 4 campaign. Here are the key takeaways.

December 01, 2020 by Takafumi Miyake, Shanti Volunteer Association
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3 minutes read
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Some of the participants at the campaign posing with awareness messages. Credit: Japan NGO Network for Education (JNNE)
Some of the participants at the campaign posing with awareness messages.
Credit: Japan NGO Network for Education (JNNE)

From February to November 2020, the Japan NGO Network for Education (JNNE), a coalition of Japanese NGOs working in the field of international educational cooperation, organized an annual SDG 4 campaign. This year, the campaign consisted of three phases.

First, the JNNE sent a questionnaire to all political parties regarding Japanese government’s policy on SDG 4, asking four questions on domestic education and three questions on global education including Japan’s contribution to the Global Partnership for Education (GPE).

Wide agreement from all respondents to increase education funding

The questions on domestic education were about:

  • the right to education of children of migrant workers and illiterate adults,
  • inclusive education for persons with disabilities,
  • gender equality in education,
  • bullying and violence at school,
  • truant children,
  • Japan’s public expenditure in education, which is the lowest among OECD member states in terms of GDP ratio. This leads to deteriorating working conditions for teachers.

All seven parties, two ruling parties and five opponents, responded to the questionnaire. Thanks to the campaign, a Member of Parliament raised a question about the education budget at the education committee of the House of Representatives. She stated that all parties were in agreement to increase the education budget to the same level as the OECD average (GDP ratio), quoting the results of the questionnaire.

Responses to the questions on international issues are also quite encouraging. For instance, all seven parties replied “Yes” to the first question on whether Japan should increase its official development assistance (ODA), adding comments on why they replied so.

Furthermore, six parties replied “Yes” to the second question on whether they agreed that Japan should increase its allocation of bilateral aid to basic and secondary education. Only one party responded that they cannot say yes or no because there are many issues to be addressed by ODA.

Lastly, six parties replied “Yes” to the third question on whether Japan should contribute more to GPE and Education Cannot Wait (ECW). One party responded that they cannot say yes or no because characteristics and strength of multilateral agencies need to be examined. Responses to each question of all parties have been uploaded on JNNE’s website.

Involving youth and other citizens to weigh in on the campaign

During the second phase of the campaign, youth and citizens were invited to vote online and select which parties’ responses they liked most, without knowing which party gave each response. More than 2,500 people participated in the vote and engaged by providing their own comments. The results of the vote have been announced on the JNNE’s website.

During the third phase of the campaign, youth carried out advocacy activities with all parties and the relevant ministries. Based on the responses and comments to the questionnaire, 14 youths wrote letters to Members of Parliament and to the Japanese government, which recommend that the Japanese government hear the voice of children and youth in formulating education policy, to support children who face difficulty to go to school both in Japan and in developing countries, to promote inclusive education and to take measures to reduce inequality in education.

They even met with members of Parliament in charge of the Education Committee and the Foreign Policy committee of the six parties, and with high level officials of the ministries of education, finance, and foreign affairs face to face and online.

Unfortunately due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of youths who could participate in face to face meetings was limited. At the meeting with Ministry of Finance officials, who oversee ODA, Rika Asakusa, one youth activists, said:

"Education is necessary for not only equipping children with knowledge and skills but also allowing them to raise their voices for political participation. We learned that economic infrastructure is prioritized in Japan’s aid. However, the Japanese government should not neglect children who are deprived of educational opportunities in developing countries and should expand aid to education.”

The JNNE will continue to advocate with youths to improve and expand Japan’s aid to education including its contribution to GPE, and encourage all to “Raise their hand” in support of GPE’s latest financing campaign.

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