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National pride to be compulsory

RIDING a wave of patriotic fervour boosted by Japan's co-hosting of the World Cup, the government is set to make instilling a sense of national pride a compulsory part of the curriculum.

A government advisory panel has suggested pupils should be taught "love of one's country" and "respect for tradition". The panel of education officials and business leaders has proposed a package of changes to the education law which has remained unaltered for over half a century.

Other changes aim to "toughen" Japanese pupils, promote more family involvement in education and stress the importance of lifelong education and social volunteer work.

The Fundamental Law of Education was passed in 1947, and aimed to dismantle the nationalism that had propelled Japan into the Second World War. The new curriculum discouraged patriotism.

Japan's mostly centrist or left-leaning teachers also helped to steer a nation reared on militaristic prowess and emperor worship towards indifference or even embarrassment over nationalist feelings. Until recently, this was particularly true of attitudes to Japan's flag and anthem.

Despite fierce criticism from teachers, both have been reinstated as legally recognised national icons and must be deployed by schools by law.

Osamu Ishioka, a director at the Hiroshima Teachers' Union, said the proposed changes represent a significant shift from the principles enshrined in the Japanese constitution and called the compulsory use of the national symbols "an infringement of freedom and the universal declaration of human rights".

He said the government was emphasising patriotism as part of a national strategy for grooming "scrupulous and obedient citizens" to provide a stable workforce.

"For that purpose, it has to develop, among citizens, values that would put responsibilities and public interests before rights and individual dignity," he said.

The education ministry insists no conclusion has been reached about whether or not to heed the panel's views, but education experts believe that, given a shift of attitudes to the right, the law changes are inevitable.

The proposals will upset Japan's neighbours, who bore the brunt of the country's imperialism in the last century.

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