What is Law-Related Education?
Have you heard the term “law-related education”? Some readers may have encountered it before.
This phrase is a translation of the American term “Law-Related Education (LRE).” In the definition given in the “Report” of the Ministry of Justice Law-Related Education Study Group, it refers to “education that gives ordinary people who are not legal experts an understanding of the law and the justice system and the values that form their foundation, and a legal way of thinking about things.”*1
With the voting age and age of majority established under civil law having been lowered to eighteen by recent legal reforms, making it possible for eighteen- or nineteen-year-olds to do things like serve as Saiban-in (lay judges), the need for more comprehensive law-related education in schools has been pointed out.*2
“Law-related education” has been the main topic of my research ever since I selected it as my topic of study in my Faculty of Law seminar. In September, 2020, I published Introduction to Fundamental Theory of Law-Related Education concerning Criminal Procedure in the Saiban-in（Lay Judge in Japan）Era (Nakanishiya Shuppan) based on my doctoral thesis (Photograph 1). In it I attempt to provide a theoretical foundation for law-related education based on my interest in “What is law-related education?” Because they give “cultivating (legal) civic capabilities” as the purpose of law-related education, most authors concerned with the study and practice of law-related education examine its particular nature with reference to the model approach of Britain, which has become a leader in citizenship education. Regarding the spread and advancement of law-related education against the backdrop of a legalized society, the discourse has divided “legalization” into two levels, ① the social, comprehensive level of “the legalization of society” and ② the individual, psychological level of “legal socialization,” and the need for legal education that also addresses ② the level of “legal socialization” has been highlighted.
Law-related education is also an undertaking related to the Sustainable Development Goals “④ Quality education” “⑩ Reduced inequality,” and “⑯ Peace, justice and strong institutions,” and it is hoped that it will begin in schools and spread throughout society. The training of educators to take charge of law-related education in schools is another issue to be addressed. In order to further disseminate and advance law-related education, initiatives to attract the interest of those involved in the field of law, including cethose seeking to become legal professionals, and those employed in related fields such as judicial social services are also essential, and I would like to pursue such undertakings myself. In the future I would like to examine a framework of law-related education that includes not only criminal proceedings but various other legal fields, such as social security law and of course constitutional and civil law, and conduct research that can build bridges between the theory and practice of law-related education.
Outside of law-related education, recently I have also conducted surveys and research*3 regarding people who have experienced a civil trial and users of alternative dispute resolution*4 (ADR). These are also important topics to be addressed when we are thinking about how law-related education is and ought to be.
(Advisory fellow at Ritsumeikan University’s Graduate School of Core Ethics and Frontier Sciences)