Free preschool for every child after Japan’s prime minister pledges to invest in education

Japan Preschool 1

Childcare, Early childhood development, ​Learning through play (Early years)

Japan is set to offer free preschool places for every child aged three to five – and for children aged two and under from low-income families.

The move comes after a landslide election victory for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who also promised free higher education “for the children who truly need it”.

Investment in education and childcare were among the campaign promises – alongside a tough stance on North Korea – that helped him to get a new mandate from voters yesterday.

Ahead of the poll, Abe had said: “We have decided to invest boldly in the next generation. We will make preschool education tuition-free. We will do that quickly.” 

He had also declared that the election was “about the future of our children”.

Abe’s pledge is in line with recommendations from the global Education Commission, which says every child in the world should get two years of free, quality preschooling.

Theirworld’s #5for5 campaign is calling for increased investment in pre-primary education. We believe donors should spend 10% of their education aid on pre-primary. 

The first few years of a child’s life is vital – so pre-primary education, especially for the poorest and most marginalised children, is absolutely crucial if they are to fulfil their potential.

Prime Minister Abe – who was first elected to power in 2012 – said he would make education and childcare a priority over balancing the budget after his ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and its ally Komeito scored an easy victory.

Japan has more than three million children of pre-primary school age, according to UNESCO statistics.

If free preschool education is applied to all children now, it would cost $10.54 billion, according to government estimates.

Financial experts say the money freed up for families could increase the country’s gross domestic product by 0.1%.

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