Political Neutrality and Education Reform - How Swedish schools keep political neutrality?
The main focus of this paper is to clarify how political neutrality should be treated in school with the scope of education and reform. First part of the paper will briefly summarize key concepts and theories related to citizenship education and political neutrality. Secondly, we will look at Swedish case with following question: how political neutrality is kept in Swedish school? The case study will describe how Swedish education put emphasis on teaching democracy in school, how Swedish school hold political debate in school and how it is achieved in reality. Lastly, the author will discuss political neutrality in school with the theory and key concepts in the direction of what Japanese educational policy can learn from Swedish case.
Published on: Mar 4, 2016
Transcripts - Political Neutrality and Education Reform - How Swedish schools keep political neutrality?
Institute of International Education
Department of Education
Political Neutrality and Education Reform
How Swedish schools keep political neutrality?
Table of contents
2. Aims and objectives .........................................................................4
3. Limitation of the study ....................................................................4
4. Key Concept and theory...................................................................4
Citizenship Education....................................................................................................... 5
Globalization and Neoliberalism ...................................................................................... 5
Emergence of education for global citizenship................................................................. 5
Political ideology and citizenship education .................................................................... 6
Value neutrality ................................................................................................................ 6
5. Case Study: Politics in Swedish school...........................................8
Democratic value in educational policy............................................................................ 8
Rules and obligation when inviting political party to school.......................................... 9
Value neutrality and anti-discrimination in school ...................................................... 10
Disturbances in school .................................................................................................... 11
6. Discussion and Conclusion ............................................................12
Political ideology in education ........................................................................................ 12
Political neutrality in Swedish school............................................................................ 12
7. Reference List.................................................................................15
in 2015, a bill to lower the voting age from 20 to 18 years old has passed by the
diet. The intention of reform of electoral law is to encourage Japanese young people to vote
in election more. The last reform of expansion of voting population was implemented 70
years ago when voting age was lowered from 25 to 20. The reform enabled nearly 2.4 million
18 years Japanese young people to cast ballot for Upper House election in 2016. In response
to this historical reform, foci of discussion are now shifting to political education in school,
especially to how to keep “political neutrality” in classroom. Unlike to the United Kingdom,
where citizenship education has introduced as a mandatory subject in 2002 as a means of
educating active citizen, so far there are only “Geography and History” and “Civics” in
Japanese upper secondary school, which are criticized as cram approach (ISOZAKI Ikuo,
2011). Despite the fact that it is stipulated in Education Act that one of the main goal of
education is to “raise citizens having the necessary qualities to make up a peaceful and
democratic country and society, healthy in mind and body”, low political involvement of
youth generation is crucial (Morozumi, 2014).
One can find the reason of low voting turnout of Japanese youth and low conscious
toward society in the long history of avoidance of teaching political education, which cause
“political education allergy” (Yamaguchi et al., 2012). Isozaki (2011) has pointed out that the
Education Act, Article 14-2, which prohibits school to support or oppose specific political
party − which is what we call “political neutrality” − also hinders teacher to incorporate
Along with the lowering voting age and public controversy of how to deal with political
topic in school, the Liberal Democratic Party of Japan (LDPJ) – the current political party in
power- has suggested a proposal to prevent causing confusion when teachers teach political
issues in classroom (Liberal Democratic Party of Japan, 2015). The proposal arose much
controversy to public, for it includes teachers to restrain pupils’ political activity in school,
requesting reform for electoral law to introduce punishment to teachers in case when they
stray from “political neutrality” in classroom. A leading Japanese educationalist, Shigeo
Kodama alerted the proposal might cause disturbance rather than bringing peace to schools
due to the regulations, punishments, and the fact that − on the top of that – this proposal is
suggested by this one political party (The Mainichi, 2015). He added the tendency to avoid
political topic in school in the name of “political neutrality” would not provide students with
political literacy. And rather teachers should be encouraged to handle current social and
political issues during class for the sake of cultivating political literacy that will lead pupils to
be come active citizen in society.
Bringing political debate to schools is tough subject not only in Japan but also in Sweden.
Comparing to Japan, Swedish young people’s high voting turnout and active participation to
society is remarkable despite two countries being modern, democratic welfare state
(Morozumi, 2014). It is assumable that one of the reasons of high turnout for voting among
young Swedish is plentiful opportunity for pupils to learn democracy in school. Holding a
political debate with inviting political leader to school is very common in Sweden. The
debates tend to take place preliminary to School Vote (Skolval, 2014), where pupils can cast
a “fake” ballot to political party. Although the results of the School Vote is not to be included
to actual election turnout because most of the pupils have no right to vote at this age, School
Vote play a role as an opportunity to not only to learn practical knowledge of election but
also help students to become an active citizen.
With the long tradition of political debate in Swedish school, there are quite a few
pedagogical discussions about how to keep political neutrality when treating politics in
classroom. Thus, this paper will attempt to spot how political neutrality is dealt in Swedish
school and try to get a hint to Japanese educational arena.
2. Aims and objectives
The main focus of this paper is to clarify how political neutrality should be treated in
school with the scope of education and reform. First part of the paper will briefly summarize
key concepts and theories related to citizenship education and political neutrality. Secondly,
we will look at Swedish case with the question: how political neutrality is kept in Swedish
school? The case study will describe how Swedish education put emphasis on teaching
democracy in school, how Swedish school hold political debate in school and how it is
achieved in reality. Lastly, the author will discuss political neutrality in school with the
theory and key concepts in the direction of what Japanese educational policy can learn from
3. Limitation of the study
Though main attempt of this study is to find a clue from Swedish case to Japanese
educational arena, one needs to pay attention to risk of generalization. The two Swedish
school cases, which are introduced in the case study section, are just few examples not
representing all of Swedish schools. Applicability of Swedish case to Japanese educational
policy should be considered as a limitation as well owing to the cultural and societal
difference between the two countries. Since the main focus of this paper is political education
and its neutrality, there is a great deal of the elimination of other related educational facts and
figures such as historical contexts of educational reform in Sweden.
4. Key Concept and theory
This chapter will discuss concepts and theories that can be applied to case study of
Sweden. The author picked two key theory and concept: citizenship education and political
neutrality. It is because the issue of political neutrality in school happens during social
science class or other forms of activity, which is related to education for citizenship. This
chapter will attempt to clarify the basic idea of citizenship education and political neutrality.
Globalization and Neoliberalism
Citizenship education is fairly a new subject in the field of education, which has arose
in the wave of globalization. According to Charles Tilly (2004), globalization is not a “new”
phenomenon rather humanity has repeatedly globalized from some 40,000 years ago.
Throughout anytime in the history, social connections and practices have extended from a
regional to a transcontinental, which is what we call “globalization”. He distinguished three
stages of globalization: first around 1500, second between 1850 to World War Ⅰ, and the
third after 1945. What is notable here is that the third stage of globalization is characterized
as “relative emphasis on commerce, commitment, and coercion” (Charles, 2004). The wave
of neoliberalism has sparked the direction of capitalisms during late 20th
centuries as is
described as “Neoliberalism is capitalism with the gloves off socialism for the rich”
(McLaren & Farahmandpur, 2004). According to Daisaku Ikeda (2005), one of the negative
impact of the globalization among others such as war, ethnic conflict, the spread of weapons,
and the destruction of the “global ecology”.
Emergence of education for global citizenship
As means of opposing negative effects of globalization and “new imperialism”,
Mclaren and Farahmandpur contend that Marxist analysis should contribute to as a tool to
combat globalization of capital and neoliberal education policies (McLaren & Farahmandpur,
2004). Based on this premise they suggested “revolutionary critical pedagogy”, which is
what we call critical pedagogy today (Ibrahim, 2007). In this context, revolutionary critical
pedagogy is described as political education with the taste of empowering, democratic
worker-centered in the direction of “redistribution of wealth and a return to socialism”
(Ibrahim, 2007). This idea of revolutionary critical pedagogy seems to be deeply build-in
socialist ideology as Ibrahim pointed out that the language used in the McLaren and Henry
Giroux convey reader “you are not Left enough”(Ibrahim, 2007).
In contrast to the super “Left” orientation, Nel Noddings has suggested education for
global citizenship toward progressive humanism (Noddings & others, 2005). In her
perspectives, she summarized global citizen replaces interest with concern for the welfare of
one’s nation, region, or globe. According to the definition, global citizen concerns:
• Peace and preservation in physical our world as a precondition/consequence of global
• Balancing diversity, unity and universality
• Social and economic justice in worldwide level
She put the emphasis on global perspectives rather than national or regional identity
which has been anchored to the modernist notion citizenship (Noddings & others, 2005).
Political ideology and citizenship education
When looking at educational reform for citizenship-related education such as political
education, revolutionary critical pedagogy, one can find the political ideology behind the
education reform. Steiner-Khamsi has pointed out tendency of educational reform can be
observed in where politics can interfere (Steiner-Khamsi, 2004). For instance, citizenship
education has introduced as mandatory subject in Britain under the intention of New Labor’s
political ideology of “Third Way” (Wolmuth, 2009), which accepts capitalist logic of
globalization as well as providing support for those who are excluded in the society.
Another form political ideology in education can be seen under the turning point of
citizenship education reform in 2007. When citizenship education was introduced in the
beginning of 2000, three strands of citizenship education were suggested by Crick Report,
which is a production of Citizenship Advisory Council founded in 1997 named after
chairman Bernard Crick (Keating, Kerr, Benton, Mundy, & Lopes, 2010). It consists of:
social and moral responsibility, community involvement and political literacy (Crick, 1998).
However after conservative government took over its power in 2010, educational reform took
place and introduced new pillar of citizenship education: community cohesion. Interestingly
enough, the emphasis has been made after the incidents of London bombing occurred in 7th
July 2005. This event has shocked the U.K due to the fact that it was committed by some 3
Pakistan Muslims but own the British citizenship, which triggered public debate on
“community cohesion” and “shared values” (Ajegbo, 2007). Eventually, community
cohesion was promoted to schools as a duty when the Education and Inspections Act 2006
was introduced. Soon after that, reform for national curriculum took place and introduced
identity and diversity (Maylor, 2007). From these cases, one can observe and different
components of citizenship education have been put emphasis in responding to different
political intentions. It is because political ideology closely connected to when conducing
Political Literacy and Political Neutrality
This chapter attempts to describe political neutrality in relation to political literacy by
looking at education policy in Japan.
Political Literacy in Japanese Political Education
Since, the issue of political neutrality has discussed great deal in Japanese political
education arena, we will first look into Japanese educational document about political
neutrality. The ultimate goal of Japanese education is stipulated under the Article 1 of
fundamental law of education as follow:
“Education aims to complete the character of people, and resolves that it must raise
citizens having the necessary qualities to make up a peaceful and democratic country and
society, healthy in mind and body. ”
In addition to it, the purpose of the political education is pronounced as “to cultivate
citizens of good judgment, necessary political education shall be deeply respected in
education” in the Article 14. Despite the criticisms on the lack of efficiency and relevancy of
social studies in schools because of the cramming approach (ISOZAKI Ikuo, 2011), it is
apparent that Japanese educational policy is based on the idea of modern democratic welfare
state and aiming to cultivate quality citizens with democratic values.
During 1990’s to 2000’s, citizenship education became one of the primary subjects of
policy in European countries especially such as in Britain. This wave of the trend brought
enormous impact on Japanese political education. With the help of the decentralization
(Hashimoto, 2013) and the “Declaration of the citizenship education” by the Ministry of
Economy, Trade and Industry (METI, 2006), the momentum to incorporate citizenship
education has gowned. Shigeo Kodama, one of the pioneer of citizenship education in
Japanese education arena, has put emphasis on the importance of cultivating “political
literacy” among other pillars of citizenship education defined by suggested by Bernard Crick
(Shigeo, 2014). In 2010, the Cabinet Office stipulated promotion of citizenship education in
the Vision for Children and Young People (Cabinet Office, 2014).
However, despite the efforts made by scholars and policy makers, the implementation of
citizenship education barely happened. There are only two selected-elementary schools in
Japan that have introduced citizenship education according to the MEXT (2012). It is
because of the confusion of the definition of citizenship education and irrelevancy with pre-
existing subject of social studies (Hasumi, 2012). Yamaguchi (2012) has argued that the
avoidance of teaching political subjects in school caused the “political education allergy” for
teachers and Isozaki (2011) has pointed out that the Article 14 – 2 of fundamental law of
education that prohibits school to support or oppose specific political party, which is
regarded as a mean to ensure “political neutrality” in education hinders teacher to teach
politics in class room.
Political Neutrality in Japanese education policy
When discussing political neutrality, it is inevitable to discuss without mentioning
government neutrality in religious (GYOSEI Corporation, 1974). In terms of this area of
fields, Inoue (1987) conducted in-depth study by comparing the religious neutrality and
political neutrality in the history of Japanese education. The separation of church and state
was implemented after the World War Ⅱ, when an order to abolish state support for the
Shinto religion was issued to Japanese government by GHQ (General Headquarters) in the
name of freedom of religion. Since then, Japanese education keeps religious neutrality by not
to teach specific religion in public school. However, Inoue pointed out that even though both
political neutrality and religious neutrality is about keeping “neutrality”, there is significant
difference between these two.
Most of the modern welfare states follow the principle of separation of church and states
that assures freedoms of religion and religious neutrality in education. However, in terms of
politics, Inoue concluded that a state cannot be able to exist without certain political beliefs
(Toshihiro, 1987). Apart from socialism and fascism states, most of the modern state is build
upon the political beliefs of “Democracy” with the basis of capitalisms. Kotaro Tanaka, the
last Minister of Education of the Empire of Japan and the second Chief Justice of Japan in
“State itself is a political community that is established on the certain political
ideology. State as a historical material existence rather than abstractive concept
ought to hold specific political ideology. In contrast to religious case, in this
sense, one needs to regard that state itself is `religious` actor” (Tanaka, 1961).
What man can say from this discussion is that keeping religious neutrality is possible by
based on the principle of separation of church and states; however, since modern state cannot
be free from political ideology, the issue of keeping political neutrality remains complicated.
This point of view corresponds to Max Weber’s idea of value-neutrality when conducting
social science research. According to him, it is sociologists’ duty to be value-neutral when
conducting sociological research in order to overcome their own moral judgment and
personal bias. This is for the sake of avoiding distortion of data analysis, interpretation of
language and conclusion of the studies. However, this does not mean sociologist should not
have opinion. It is unavoidable to assign values to certain social phenomena as long as he
or she is being part of society with some values (Weber, 1949). Albeit many believe that
being value-free is impossible, sociologists are ought to strive for value-neutrality so that it
can minimize effect of subjectivity to result of study (Boundless, 2015). Thus, nowadays it
becomes less frequent to hear that social research can be conducted without any value-neutral
way (Bryman, 2012). The point made here is that man cannot become completely value-
neutral in the field of social science; however at the same time, they have duty to make effort
to eliminate the risk of subjectivity for the sake of academic truth.
5. Case Study: Politics in Swedish school
This part of paper will discuss the Swedish educational policy and how the political
neutrality is kept in the schools. Firstly, we will go through what is stipulated in Swedish
Educational policy. Secondly, a Swedish support material about teaching political issues in
school will be described.
Democratic value in educational policy
The role of Swedish school is to teach both knowledge and values, which promote all
students’ development and a lifelong desire to learn. The education should convey and
respect human rights and fundamental democratic values which Swedish society is based
on (Regeringskansliet, 2010). This should not only be applicable to the class but also to all
activities, organization, teaching and other meetings (Sverige & Skolverket, 2011). Both
Chapter.10 (Elementary School) and Chapter.11 (Compulsory School) in the section of
Education Act, stipulate the education should promote comprehensive contacts with social
community and provide students a good basis for active participation in society
(Regeringskansliet, 2010). In Chapter 1, the education is designed in compliance with
fundamental democratic values and human rights as
• Sanctity of human life
• Individual freedom and integrity
• All humans are equal
• Gender equality
• Solidarity between people
According to the Swedish Schools Inspectorate (2012), student will develop skills for the
exercise of active citizenship in democratic society, which are defined as bellows.
1. The fundamental democratic values in Swedish society according to the legislation
consist of tolerance, equality, solidarity, respect for human rights and diversity as
well as common environment.
2. The necessary theoretical knowledge, which is required to be able to actively participate
in society, consists of knowledge of politics, society and how democracy work.
3. Practical skills and abilities, which is required to live and act in in a democratic society
are such as readings and writing skills, basic math skills, communication skills,
information search competence and critical thinking. Students must learn to judge and
handle the constant knowledge and flow of information of society, but also get practical
experience of response, participation and empowerment and training in how to work in a
Rules and obligation when inviting political party to school
Swedish Agency for Youth and Civil Society has published a supporting material,
“Prata Politik” for teachers to inform how to hold a political debate in schools (Stark, 2014).
In this guideline, there is a specific section about inviting political party to schools, where
one can find an ideal attitude of Swedish school toward political party. To sum up, Swedish
schools are encouraged to invite political parties in order to take advantage of what it
brings. According to a legal guidance by the National Agency for School, school must treat
all parties equally. The principle of school is responsible for safety of the school and this is
also the case with independent schools (“Politisk information i skolan | Juridisk vägledning,”
2012). If the principal made decision to invite political party, he or she needs to treat all of
the party equally. This means that principal cannot refuse a political party’s access to
school simply because of the political party’s opinion or ideology. Inviting all party
represented in parliament or municipality is regarded as the primary objective, which does
not mean that they need to come to school at the same time. The parties, which are not
invited to the occasion, must come to school in another opportunity under equal conditions as
that of other parties. If there is a party who do not want to take part in the same context as the
other party, they are not entitled to demand special occasion to come to the school. The only
possibility for the principle to limit the political parties’ access to schools is when reason
such as negative consequence of the invitation is clearly explained by the principal.
Meanwhile, the reason cannot be the parties’ political viewpoint.
In the case when students threaten to cause disturbance or fights to political parties,
the principals should not represent student behavior as an acceptable reason for school to
reject the parties’ access. School cannot adduce general order, practical reasons and similar
reasons as an excuse for not letting into a political party to school. The legislation, which
prohibits degrading treatment or discrimination, cannot be invoked to justify decisions,
which is against Swedish constitution. Thus, the legal guideline concludes when student’s
disturbance occur, denying all parties’ access to the school can be applicable, which is seen
as “difficult to reconcile with the school’s democratic mandate” and therefore it would be
seen as “less successful“ case (“Politisk information i skolan | Juridisk vägledning,” 2012).
Basic standpoint of the politics in Swedish school is that there is no specific
provision regulating the issues of political advocacy in school other than various mandate
rules to be considered such as the rights and freedoms in the Swedish constitution, European
Convention of Human Rights and schools’ duty for democracy (Stark, 2014). The Swedish
Supreme Administrative Court (Högsta förvaltningsdomstolen), the Parliamentary
Ombudsman (JO) and the Chancellor of Justice (JK) have made these starting points (Stark,
2014). Therefore, it is the duty for Swedish National Agency for Education (Skolverket) to
encourage political parties to come to school along with above statements. Other regulations
that can be applied are Discrimination Act in the case of advocacy activities in school and the
Penal Code in the case of disturbances and fights at school (“Politisk information i skolan |
Juridisk vägledning,” 2012).
Value neutrality and anti-discrimination in school
When it comes to political discussion in school, one of the most difficult issues to
deal with is how to maintain political neutrality. As is mentioned in above chapter, there is a
dispute about this issue in Japanese educational arena. Prata Politik (Stark, 2014) has the
section about this concern with headline “The school is not value-neutral what does that
mean?”. This means that it is neutral in the face of the values that should permeate the
school. Schools should absolutely stand for and convey fundamental democratic values
even when students have views that are anti-democratic toward other people. The
support material goes “No one should be discriminated against in school and
xenophobia must be countered with knowledge and discussion “. It stressed the
responsibility of the staff in school to respond and take away the expression of values and
opinions that are against school’s fundamental values, the democracy. After introducing
these basic idea, the support material introduces more practical advise of treating political
issues and methods of developing educational activities.
The emphasis on anti-discrimination is also found in the text of curriculum for Swedish
upper secondary school in first section: Fundamental value and tasks of the school
(Skolverket, 2013). It stands no one in school should be subjected to discrimination on the
• Ethnic affiliation
• Belief system
• Transgender identity or its expression
• Sexual orientation
• Functional imperilment
• Other forms of degrading treatment
The National Agency for Education stresses degrading treatment, xenophobia and
intolerance must be combated with knowledge, open discussion and active measures
Disturbances in school
Based on above-mentioned statements by the agencies, Swedish school welcome political
party under the name of fundamental democratic vales that permeates in Swedish society.
However, it is easier said than done. Some schools are struggling with inviting political
parties to school. Along with the Swedish general election hold in 2014, there were some
incidents where students protest against welcoming specific political party. On the 25th
March 2014, students and young people have blocked the entrance of a school (Globala
gymnasiet) in the central Stockholm in order not to welcome the youth league of Swedish
Democrat Party (SDU: Sverigedemokratisk ungdom), known as an extreme right wing party.
The rationale for the young is that the SDU is “anti-democratic”. The headmaster of the
school has invited all parties, for it is not allowed to deny invitation because of political
ideology. The headmaster even tried to get into the school with the SDU member but got
blocked by the students. Eventually, SDU had no choice to leave the school (Österberg,
Another case was reported by Teacher News (Lranasnyheter) on the 2nd
of June 2014.
This time is also when SDU was invited to Hvitfeldska high school in Gothenburg. The
political debate was organized by student body. Following the rule, the student body and
school management department has decided to invite all youth political party. Ombudsman
(JO) and municipality of Gothenburg also support this decision. However, the second
principle arranged guards and policeman for the safety of school during the political debate.
This is because of students’ disturbances occurred before the 2010 general election. Despite
the strategic preparation to minimize the violation risk, the debate began and ended without
any mess. The second principle was relived to conduct the debate and commented that the
importance of holding political debate in school for the sake of democratic mandate of school
Both of two schools reacted in accordance with rules made by the agencies and one
can observe that the principles of the schools struggled between the democratic mandate of
school and keeping safety in school. Though first principle could not let Swedish Democrat
Party into school, it is noteworthy that both of the school has invited all political parties.
6. Discussion and Conclusion
Political ideology in education
This study has discussed political neutrality in Swedish school from the perspective
of education reform. In the key concept chapter, emergence citizenship education in the wave
of globalization with the taste of neoliberalism was explored. Thereafter, the chapter
discussed link between political ideology and educational reform such as revolutionary
critical pedagogy in Marxism and citizenship education reform in Britain. Citizenship
education was introduced under “The Third Way” of which ideology accepts neoliberalism
but also tackles social exclusion. Furthermore, the series of British education reform have
described as an example of ideology made by an incident also hold possibility to affect
In Sweden, citizenship education is not introduced as a mandatory subject. However,
educating active citizenship is one of the main mandates of school in Sweden. Based on the
democratic value and anti-discrimination in any forms, Swedish educational policy
encourage teacher to teach political issues in classroom. This ideas are closely linked to the
Nel Noddings’ idea of global citizenship: balancing diversity, unity and universality in the
basis of concern rather than own interest.
However, it is ironic that some Swedish students act in exclusion manner when
inviting political party while showing “concern” to – in their word - racist political party
despite all political party should be invited to school regardless of its ideology according to
the regulation. This contradicts to Noddings’ message of global citizenship; ”We should not
need a common enemy to draw us together” (Noddings & others, 2005). This is not a simply
a question of anti-democratic value in school, however. Rather it is an ideology that has
brought from Swedish society itself to school because the Swedish Democrat is now the third
largest political party in Sweden, while sometimes the name of the party is on the front-page
tabloid news for their “xenophobic” behavior and statements. This fact suggests that we
cannot ignore the potential effect of political ideology from out side of school to classroom.
Political neutrality in Swedish school
To summarize, characteristics of teaching politics in Swedish school are bellow.
• Teaching democratic values is mandate of school
• Inviting political party is encouraged by the governmental agencies
• Principle is in charge of inviting political party and cannot deny their access because of
• There is no specific provision that regulates political activity in school
• When inviting political party to school, it should be either to invite all party or not
inviting any party at all following the principle of anti-discrimination and equality and
mandate of school to teach democracy
• Any forms of discrimination and harassment are strictly forbidden
What is remarkable about Sweden’s educational policy is that it clearly admits
impossibility to keep political or value neutrality saying “School is not value-neutral” (Stark,
2014). To begin with, in lights of Max Weber’s idea of neutrality discussed in the key
concept chapter, it is not possible to completely exclude subjectivity and bias in social
science. Still, it is sociologist and teachers duty to try to get rid of the personal values when
dealing with social science. However, as long as the sociologist and teachers living in a
society with certain values, existence of absolute values permeates though society as well as
individuals cannot be deniable. This corresponds to the point made by Tanaka and Inoue
about the difficulty of political neutrality because of the fact that state is established on
certain political belief and political ideology.
In this sense, it does make sense that Swedish educational policy “gave up” value-
neutrality in school but rather declared they observe absolute value of democracy, respect to
diversity and equality. Interestingly enough, what Tanaka and Inoue thought about political
neutrality is in practice in Swedish education but in Japanese education.
What Japan can learn from Swedish case?
Firstly, Japanese political education policy needs to clarify the basic principle of political
education. “Value-neutrality” in the Swedish context and “political neutrality” in the
Japanese context is different in its principle axis. While Japanese “political neutrality” pay
attention to specifically to political ideology only, Swedish “value-neutrality” focus on
macro perspective with specific but general values in relation to democracy. By following
the principle of anti-discrimination – which is obviously related to democratic values –,
Swedish school don not eliminate political party because of the political ideology and treat
equally. This is how their logic of keeping political neutrality works. Japanese education
policy lacks this kind of logics of principles such as anti-discrimination, equality and
mandate of schools. Although Japanese educational policy pronounces significance of
educating citizens in the educational law, it is clear that it is not functioning in practical level
because of the lack of the basic principles and detailed guidance of teaching politics in
Second of all, the proposals by LDPJ to restrict student political activity in school,
punishment to teachers not following “political neutrality” and obligation for teacher’s union
to report of settlement of account - should be reconsidered. The punishment to teachers might
even hinder teaching politics in school and increase teacher’s “political education allergy”
more. It is obvious that ambiguity and difficulty of “political neutrality” has brought
teacher’s avoidance of teaching politics. Adding punishment without clear guidelines would
only bring fewer opportunities for pupils to learn about politics.
Thirdly, a radical education reform to support political education is in need. It is
reputable that Japanese government has finally begun discussion about implementing
political education along with lowering voting age to 18 years old. However, the government
is not mentioning about welcoming political party to schools. Moreover, they are proposing
to restrict student’s political activity in school, which does not seem to support pupil’s
process of becoming citizens. It is understandable that current government, LDPJ, led these
reforms after following democratic procedures. However, in order to avoid “phony policy
borrowing (Steiner-Khamsi, 2004) and substantially make difference of political education in
Japan, it is recommended that to accumulate discussion with different actors such as experts,
court, the third sectors and practitioner recullently and borrow educational policy from other
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