How important is it for foreign children living in Japan to learn Japanese? Here’s what the Japanese gov’t thinks

In response to the growing number of foreign children living in Japan who are not enrolled in compulsory education and who cannot speak Japanese, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology has recently released a report outlining how the Japanese government plans to bolster Japanese language education for the children of resident foreigners.

The report was prepared by the Ministry’s “Education Promotion Study Team for the Acceptance of Foreigners and Harmonious Living” and gives an overview of the actual situation regarding school attendance by foreign children and lays out broad guidelines for the development of Japanese language teachers. The Education Promotion Team was launched in January when the government ascertained through a survey that more than 16,000 children of foreign nationality were not enrolled in school despite being of compulsory education age (until the age of 15).

The school system in Japan is composed of elementary school (six years), middle school (three years), high school (three years), and university (four years). Education is compulsory only for the nine years of elementary and middle school, but 98% of students proceed to high school. If you are a registered foreign resident of Japan your children have the right to attend Japanese public schools.

However, as the government noted in its January survey, resident foreign children are not required by law to be enrolled in any form of schooling (either a Japanese public school or international school) and there are no enforcement mechanisms to ensure that they are. The government stressed that it is essential to secure educational opportunities for foreign children and has asked the country’s 1,741 local governments to follow up on identifying compulsory education-aged children who are not currently going to school.

Teacher shortages

There is also an issue of teacher shortages. Under the law, there is supposed to be one teacher for every 18 students who need Japanese language instruction or support but this ratio isn’t currently being met. The government plans to ensure that the mandated ratio is met by 2026.

Educating parents about enrolling their kids in school

The Education Promotion Study Team also stated in its report that the government plans to produce a multi-lingual guidebook to help foreign residents enroll their children in nursery schools and kindergartens.

Creating a harmonious society

Overall, the government’s goal, as spelled out in the report, is to improve the education of foreign children living in Japan and thereby create a society where Japanese and foreigners can live together harmoniously.

Overview of measures

The government plans to implement the following broad measures to support Japanese language education for foreign children residing in Japan.

  • To understand the actual school attendance situation of foreign children in Japan and to thoroughly carry out guidance for school enrollment in multiple languages.
  • To raise the number of Japanese language teachers, as mandated by the Compulsory Education Law.
  • To increase the number of Japanese instructors by securing nationwide training opportunities.
  • To support giving special consideration to foreign students in high school entrance exams.
  • To support the placement of Japanese language teaching assistants and native language assistants at special support (special needs) schools.
  • To create a guidebook to explain to foreign parents how to enroll their children in nursery school and kindergarten.
  • To establish at least one night junior high school in specially designated cities.
  • To promote understanding of Japanese culture among foreign children who live in Japan, while respecting the culture(s) of their parents.

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News source: Mainichi, June 18, 2019

Lead photo: Royalty-free Klimkan via Pixabay