Only 57% of Subsidies for School Library Books Used as Intended

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
The building of the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry

Less than 60% of subsidies for buying school library books were used by local governments as intended, it has been learned. The central government provided ¥22 billion in local subsidies in fiscal 2021 to enhance school libraries in public elementary and junior high schools, out of which only about ¥12.6 billion was spent on books.

The spending details were revealed by a survey from the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry. Local governments decide themselves how to use the tax grants they receive from the central government, which cannot designate a use for such grants.

It is believed that local governments, partly due to financial difficulties, use the book grants for other purposes, prioritizing issues such as social security or information and communication technology development in education.

To systematically improve school libraries, the central government has been allocating the necessary funds as local allocation tax grants, crafting five-year plans for improving school library collections since fiscal 1993.

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Under the fifth plan from fiscal 2017 to fiscal 2021, the government allocated ¥235 billion over five years for the purchase of books at elementary and junior high schools as well as to hire more school librarians. Of the ¥235 billion, ¥110 billion was allocated expressly for buying books. The allocation for a single fiscal year was ¥22 billion.

According to the education ministry’s survey, only ¥12.6 billion or 57% of the book purchase grants was spent in fiscal 2021 by local governments as intended.

The percentage of the funds used to buy books has been decreasing for seven consecutive years, starting from 74% in fiscal 2014.

As of the end of fiscal 2019, 71% of elementary schools had achieved the standard set by the central government for the number of books to be held at school libraries according to school size, while 61% of junior high schools had achieved the standard.

The central government launched its sixth plan to improve school libraries in fiscal 2022 with a goal of achieving the standard in all public elementary and junior high schools by fiscal 2026. The education ministry has been conducting the survey to learn how the funds are used.