House of Councillors of Japan: meeting

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Meeting Summary

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Meeting report


17 September 2004

Mr B Tolo (ANC)

Documents handed out

The Committee and the Japanese delegations shared experiences of their respective countries and exchanged gifts of appreciation. The South Africans highlighted the education systems major challenges, and the Japanese promised to assist even further financially to improve schools infrastructure.


Mr Tolo's briefing
Mr Tolo said in the past ten years, the South African government had passed many laws to transform the education system. There had been more than fourteen Departments of Education prior to 1994, which needed to be rationalised and dismantled to build one Department.

Mr Chair highlighted the challenges of the education system, particularly in terms of quality. The education system before 1994 had promoted only the memorisation of facts. After the installation of the democratic government, a paradigm shift had occurred to the Outcome-Based Education System. Other challenges included the shortage of scientists and maths and science teachers to make South Africa competitive in terms of technological development.

Another challenge was the lack of infrastructure in schools. Many children still had no classrooms or sanitation facilities, particularly in rural areas. Overcrowding in existing classrooms posed a further challenge. Many underfed children had to walk long distance to schools, and needed better scholar transport. In rural areas, many children could not attend classes because schools were too far from their homes. The government had tried to provide a scholar transport system, but this was still inadequate.

House of Councillors' briefing
The Japanese delegation was represented by Ms C Oogi, the President, and other House of Councillors members, Mr Y Uozumi, Mr M Obata and Mr M Okabe. Mr S Eda and Mr T Yano attended as representatives of the Democratic Party, Japan's official opposition party.

Ms Oogi said they had been pleased to attend the Pan African Parliament and visit Soweto. In 1990, diplomatic ties between South Africa and Japan had been established. After World War Two, Japan had had to overcome many challenges in terms of providing resources equally to its citizens. Children aged six could access free state education, and also middle school from ages 12-16.

Ms Oogi wondered why the South African government did not have an extensive boarding school system in each province. Dormitory schools might accommodate those children residing far away and could also educate pupils about HIV/AIDS. When children finished schools at age fifteen, the government should then assist them to specialise in the scientific fields. The Japanese government could provide assistance from Japanese schools through internet communication. Mr Yono agreed that school dormitories could encourage children to learn teamwork patterns, and share views on particular areas of science or literature.

Mr Eda said the promotion of education in developing countries was a very difficult task. Japan had undergone a dramatic social transformation in 1868. Before that, the country had been under a feudal system and temples had educated the youth. He wondered if similar religious institutions could play such role in South Africa.

The Chairperson replied that the South African government was responsible for promoting and funding pre-school attendance, although some parents were not keen to take their children. In other areas, there were private educational institutions with small classes.

Ms J Masilo added that the private pre-schools (Grade R) were subsidised by government and the parents paid minimum fees.

Mr Eda said before 1868, the illiteracy rate in Japan was actually low, but thereafter state education policies were implemented. After World War Two, Japan was short of teachers and had to recruit ex-war detainees with temporary teaching permits, which had solved the problem.

Mr Uozumi said that sixty years after World War Two, Japan still encountered challenges in its education system. Physics was proving less popular at university subjects, which was a negative trend for the future. He appreciated South Africa's increased matric pass rate and expressed positive sentiments about the educational future of South Africa.

The Chairperson also said the Department was actively recruiting, but particularly teachers from black communities had received poor basic training.

The South African Committee Chairpersons and the Japanese House of Councillors President then exchanged gifts of appreciation

The meeting was adjourned.


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