Physicist named as Japan's minister for education and science
Aug 7, 1998
The Japanese prime minister, Keizo Obuchi, has announced that the physicist Akito Arima is to head the Ministry of Education, Science, Sports and Culture (Monbusho). Arima was elected to the upper house of the Japanese parliament last month, having previously been president of the Institute of Physical and Chemical Research (RIKEN). Arima will have a tough job defending Monbusho from his cabinet colleagues as Japan suffers its worst recession in 50 years.
Arima has long been a keen advocate for reforming Japanese science. Previously he helped shape the 1996 Basic Law for Science and Technology, which aimed to increase Japan's spending on science. He also proposed educational and administrative reforms during the last government.
Monbusho has an annual budget of 5819 billion yen (£24.6 billion) and accounts for some 7.5% of total government spending. In 2001 it will be merged with the Science and Technology Agency as part of an attempt to cut costs and reduce duplication of effort. Arima's appointment has increased confidence that the merger between the two departments will be successful.
Arima has announced that education will be his top priority, beginning with the reforms of primary and secondary schools that were outlined earlier this year by a committee which he chaired. There are also plans to reform the university admission system to make it easier for students to attend the university of their choice, and to introduce life-long learning programmes.