Living in Japan

Should foreigners learn Japanese if they want to live in Japan? Proposed Law to Require Promotion of Japanese Language Education for Foreigners

A non-partisan government organization, the National League for Promotion of Japanese Language Education has proposed a bill entitled the “Japanese Language Education Promotion Bill” (日本語教育推進法案, Nihongo Kyouiku Suishin Houan) that will require the government and local authorities to implement Japanese education measures for foreigners residing in Japan. On December 3rd, the bill will be submitted to the General Assembly for consideration by all parties. After this, the bill may be submitted to the regular National Diet in 2019.

The bill is being proposed as the number of foreigners living in Japan has steadily increased in recent years and as the Diet is currently deliberating an amendment to the Immigration Control Law. The amendment would allow greater numbers of foreign workers into Japan (possibly up to 40,000 in the first year of implementation) under a new visa status that will permit them to stay in Japan indefinitely, if they meet eligibility requirements. For more on the new specified skills visa, please see: Here’s what you need to know about Japan’s new Specified Skills residency visas.

In 2016, there were 2,382,822 registered foreigners living in Japan. This was a 6.7% year-on-year increase, and the highest number ever recorded by the Ministry of Justice.

Objective of the Proposed Law

The aim of the proposed law would be to improve Japanese language educational standards and help secure better opportunities for foreigners in Japan with the ultimate purpose of “contributing to the realization of a society where people live together (harmoniously)” (“共生社会の実現に資する”).

For example, the proposed law would obligate employers, via the Employment Measures Act, to promote Japanese language education for their foreign employees to prevent occupational accidents due to the inability to understand instructions. However, the draft bill is unclear on the specifics of what this obligation would entail.

The role of government administrative agencies would be:

  • To formulate and implement specific measures for promoting Japanese language education.
  • To formulate  basic policies for effectively promoting these measures to the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology and Foreign Ministry.
  • To formulate and implement the specific roles and responsibilities of the (national) government versus local municipalities.
  • Specifics of implementing the law will be decided by Municipal Ordinance

Who would be covered by the proposed law

The proposed law is meant to apply to all foreigners residing in Japan: children, students, foreign exchange students, workers, technical interns, and refugees.

Proposed measures, include, for example:

  • The placement of Japanese language teachers in public schools specifically for helping foreign students.
  • Promoting the raising of standards for Japanese language education in foreign countries.
  • Meeting(s) among relevant administrative agencies to promote Japanese language education and to coordinate policies.
  • Improving certification standards for Japanese language teachers and language schools

News source: Mainichi Shinbun, December 2, 2018

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