Japan education leader apologizes over Armani uniforms

Thursday , February 15, 2018 - 8:10 AM

(c) 2018, The Japan News/Yomiuri.

Katsutoshi Shimada, the chair of the Chuo Ward Board of Education in Tokyo, apologized Wednesday over Taimei Elementary School’s decision to introduce a student uniform designed by Italian luxury brand Armani and costing up to about 80,000 yen (about $750).

“A sufficient explanation was not provided to those concerned, and I regret not giving enough instruction to the school’s principal,” Shimada said at Wednesday’s meeting of the committee on education of the Chuo Ward Assembly.

Assembly members criticized the board of education and the elementary school over the handling of the issue. Member Yayoi Hotta of Komeito said, “Efforts to publicize the decision were insufficient, weren’t they?”

Takashi Ito, director of the General Affairs Section, the Secretariat of the board of education, replied, “We did not give enough consideration to the decision-making process by exchanging opinions with parents and other relevant people, such as nearby residents and members of the alumni association.”

“Although the principal of the school made the proposal out of his enthusiasm for education, we failed to handle it appropriately. The board of education should have monitored developments [in changing the uniforms] and given necessary instructions,” he added, expressing his regret.

Taimei Elementary School Principal Toshitsugu Wada sent a letter to parents in November last year explaining the reasons for the change to the Armani-designed uniform, saying such things as “the uniform is more befitting of a school located in Ginza.”

Assembly member Hiroshi Kato of the Japanese Communist Party said: “I think it’s wrong to assume parents in the Ginza district can afford this. Did you not consider it would create disparities among the children?”

Shimada said, “To be honest, I think the decision is too extreme. The idea that brands are suitable for a school in the Ginza district has no place in public education.”

Too late to cancel order

The board of education said it was informed by Wada about the change of uniform around the summer of last year. The school then announced the change to parents. Subsequently, the Chuo Ward Office and the board of education received questions about the issue via emails and phone calls.

In November last year, the board of education instructed the principal to confirm what the impact would be of canceling the new uniform, among other matters. The principal reported there was no manufacturing line for the uniform currently in place, so the school could not cancel the new uniform.

Based on the report, the board concluded it was impossible to postpone the change. However, even after that, a parent reportedly asked the school to delay the introduction of the new uniform for a year.

According to a store selling the new uniform, 48 of the 60 children expected to enroll in the school in April have already had their measurements taken and completed payment. No one has canceled their purchase or returned the uniform to the store.

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