Each week, here at Osaka.com, we bring you a selection of some of the top stories about Osaka making the local and national news here in Japan. Sometimes it’s serious, sometimes it’s funny, but it’s always direct to you, from Osaka.
Here’s a look at some of the stories hitting the headlines in Osaka this week.
Table of Contents
Education Costs Set to Fall Across Osaka
Many Japanese citizens complain that they pay taxes of a similar level to Scandinavian nations. However, they don’t get the accompanying social benefits, such as free education, health care and social support.
Thankfully, this will soon change for Osaka’s residents. Under plans announced last week, and further discussed this week, education up to and including university will soon be free of charge for everyone in Osaka.
Under the present system, some residents qualify for free high school and university places. However, their family must earn a combined total of less than 9.1 million yen per year to qualify for the tuition fee waiver at public high schools and universities. In the case of private high schools, this income limit drops to 5.9 million yen per year.
However, starting from fiscal 2024, Osaka authorities will gradually phase out tuition fees for everyone.
Local officials say this support gives citizens a much needed boost amid the ongoing cost of living crisis and stagnant economic growth.
Private Universities will remain exempt from the tuition fee waivers, so the challenge will remain for those unfortunate enough to not secure a public university berth.
Education Reform “Delivers on Campaign Pledge”
Osaka Governor Hirofumi Yoshimura made the promise to abolish income controls on tuition fee waivers a cornerstone of his successful election campaign. Speaking to the media this week, he reaffirmed this commitment. He said: “This scheme is very important in terms of investing in the next generation. I promise we will carry it out.”
Under the present timeline, the gradual phasing out of means-tested tuition fee waivers will begin next year. Officials plan to completely remove the limits on these waivers by 2026.
Citizens in Osaka welcomed the news. However some were skeptical that the scheme does not cover private universities. Private universities account for the bulk of institutions in the sector in Japan. In many industries, they are also the preferred recruiting ground for big name companies. So, even with this additional support, many working class families will still struggle to afford to send their children to their university of choice.
Education Board Criticized for Teacher Treatment
Notorious among current and former employees for its inflexibility, lack of compassion and frequent bouts of bureaucratic incompetence, The Osaka City Board of Education once again found itself in the firing line this week. As usual, it was an entirely self-inflicted wound.
The education board will have to pay a teacher 94,000 yen in lost salary. The award comes after a ruling in the Osaka District Court found that the education board acted in an invalid and illegal way.
The case revolves around 67 year old former junior high school teacher Mikio Matsuda. Mr Matsuda travelled to Switzerland on March 12th 2020 to take part in labor union activities. Upon his return to Osaka some 5 days later, he requested to work from home during his Covid-19 isolation period. His school, applying common sense, accepted his request. However, board of education bureaucracy soon intervened. They ordered the school to instruct Matsuda to return to work immediately. Aware of the ongoing pandemic situation at the time, and his personal responsibility to prevent the spread of the virus, Matsuda refused.
He returned to school 8 days later. Consequently, the Board of Education reduced his salary and bonus by 148,000 yen.
In the end, the Board of Education’s intransigence, in the face of public health advice, and common sense, was deemed invalid. The court ordered that Matsuda receive 94,000 yen, to make up for the money lost for the time between his school’s initial decision and the Board of Education’s overruling of it. At the time, Japanese government advice was to stay home for 2 weeks after foreign travel. However, this was not legally binding, so the Osaka Board of Education chose to ignore it. Thankfully, for Mr Matsuda, the lack of clear guidance from the BOE in this case made them liable for the extra costs incurred.
Grab your summer hats and shorts, it’s going to be a scorcher this week!
Summer came earlier than expected for much of Japan this week. Swathes of the country, including Osaka baked in temperatures exceeding 30 degrees Celsius. Over the next few days, temperatures will peak at around 35 degrees. Typically, we don’t see this kind of heat in the Kansai region until late July or early August. However if its already 30 degrees in May, we could be in for a record-breakingly hot summer ahead. As always, health experts advise everyone to wear sunscreen, avoid excessive time in direct sunlight, and limit physical activity during the hottest times of day.
As for this reporter, I advise finding a shaded spot, grabbing a cold beer and enjoying the sunshine while it’s here. The raining season is due to begin in a little over 2 weeks’ time.
That’s all for now but be sure to check back again same time next week for another round of this week in Osaka!