The Abe administration has signaled there is much to admire in the long-abandoned Imperial Rescript on Education, yet another sign of the course upon which Prime Minister Shinzo Abe wants Japan to embark.

On March 31, Abe's Cabinet decided that the rescript issued in 1890 under the name of Emperor Meiji should not be totally rejected.

The basic principles of education in the postwar era were outlined in the Fundamental Law on Education that went into effect in 1947.

The Diet passed resolutions the following year abolishing the Imperial Rescript on Education.

The Fundamental Law on Education was revised in December 2006 when Abe was serving his first stint as prime minister. At that time, there was no major change in the administration's views on the imperial rescript.

In fact, Bunmei Ibuki, who served as education minister at that time, said in the Diet, "Creating a postwar education based on the words of the emperor has not been compatible with the postwar Japanese political structure."

But under the second Abe administration that came into being in December 2012, there has been a marked shift toward re-evaluating the contents of the imperial rescript.

In an April 2014 session of the Upper House education and science committee, a question was asked about utilizing the rescript as a supplemental teaching material in the classroom.

Kihei Maekawa, who was then director-general of the education ministry's Elementary and Secondary Education Bureau, said, "The Imperial Rescript on Education contains elements that are still applicable today, so it is possible to use such points in the schools."

Hakubun Shimomura, who was education minister at the time, also said there would be no problem in using the rescript as teaching material.

Defense Minister Tomomi Inada went even further during a March 9 session of the Upper House foreign affairs and defense committee when she said, "I am of the understanding that elements of the Imperial Rescript on Education that touch upon filial piety, or having good relations among married couples and taking care of one's friends form the core of the thinking about the moral nation that Japan should become in order to be respected by the world."

The focus on the imperial rescript comes amid preparations to teach moral education as a school subject from the 2018 school year. The curriculum guidelines for moral education stresses the importance of family love and other ethical points.

However, the Policy Division within the education ministry's Lifelong Learning Policy Bureau has stressed that the Imperial Rescript on Education has lost its legal effect because of the presence of the Constitution and Fundamental Law of Education.

It remains to be seen if the latest decision by the Abe Cabinet will pave the way for the teaching of the Imperial Rescript on Education in a manner closer to how it was used before the end of World War II.