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Japan’s former constitution, the Constitution of the Empire of Japan of 1889,[1] did not have a provision on the right to education, though there was debate on the issue when it was enacted.[2]  The Meiji government determined that the fundamental principle on education should be provided by the Education Rescript of 1890, not by the Constitution.  A new education system was established under the Rescript.[3]

The current Constitution of Japan of 1946 contains the following provision on the right to education:

Article 26. All people shall have the right to receive an equal education correspondent to their ability, as provided by law.

All people shall be obligated to have all boys and girls under their protection receive ordinary education as provided for by law.  Such compulsory education shall be free.[4]

In accordance with the spirit of the Constitution, the Basic Act on Education sets forth in more detail the aims and principles of education.[5]  Based on the Constitution and the Basic Act on Education, the School Education Act provides that compulsory education is for nine years.[6]  In order to guarantee the opportunity for such compulsory education and ensure adequate standards, the Basic Act on Education states that the national and local governments are responsible for implementing compulsory education through appropriate role sharing and mutual cooperation.[7]

No tuition fees are charged for compulsory education in schools established by the national and local governments.[8]  In addition, the Basic Act on Education obligates the national and local governments to take measures to provide financial assistance to those who, in spite of their abilities, encounter difficulties in receiving education for economic reasons.[9]  The national and local governments must provide the necessary educational support to ensure that persons with disabilities receive an adequate education in accordance with their level of disability.[10]

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Prepared by Sayuri Umeda
Foreign Law Specialist
May 2016


[1] Constitution of the Empire of Japan (1889), English translation available on the National Diet Library’s website at http://www.ndl.go.jp/constitution/e/etc/c02.html, archived at https://perma.cc/MDS3-7APX.

[2] 二 明治憲法と教育勅語 (2 Meiji Constitution and Education Rescript), in 学制百年史 [100-Year History of the School System], Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, http://www.mext.go.jp/ b_menu/hakusho/html/others/detail/1317610.htm (last visited May 18, 2016), archived at https://perma.cc/JNL5-UBR9.

[3] Id.

[4] Constitution of Japan (1946), English translation available on Japanese Law Translation at http://www.japanese lawtranslation.go.jp/law/detail/?id=174&vm=02&re=02&new=1, archived at https://perma.cc/38T3-AEEF.

[5] (Original) Basic Act on Education, Act No. 25 of 1947, Preamble; (New) Basic Act on Education, Act No. 120 of 2006, Preamble.

[6] School Education Act, Act No. 26 of 1947, amended by Act No. 50 of 2015, art. 16.

[7] Basic Act on Education, Act No. 120 of 2006, art. 5, para. 3.

[8] Id. art. 5, para. 4.

[9] Id. art. 4, para. 3.

[10] Id. art. 4, para. 2.