Legal measures needed to increase school attendance of foreigners in Japan: Ministry of Education

An expert panel discusses the outline of how to provide opportunities for children of foreign nationality residing in Japan, at the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, January 21 2020. (Mainichi / Haruna Okuyama)

TOKYO – Japan should consider legal and other systematic measures to ensure that some 22,000 children of foreign nationality, who are registered residents but whose schooling status is unknown, can receive education and learning programs from the Japanese language, according to a report from the Education Ministry on Jan. 21 said.

The project, based on the recommendations of an appointed panel of experts, assigns responsibility for ensuring that foreign children learn Japanese about central government and local agencies. It further lists five basic pillars to be incorporated into the basic principles of a law on the promotion of language teaching which was adopted in June 2019.

The five pillars include securing and improving training frameworks; creating an environment that further supports student learning and strengthens the skills of teachers who run Japanese language education programs; and encouraging work to understand the different positions of children who seek to enroll.

Currently, foreign children residing in Japan are not subject to the same compulsory education as Japanese children. This exemption left city officials to design their own responses, which in turn led to petitions from the Education Ministry for the national government to provide solutions based on the law.

In the section on educational frameworks, the diagram states that by the school year 2026, there should be one teacher for every 18 students. As part of its enabling environment proposals, and given the higher proportion of non-Japanese students than Japanese placed in special education classes due to their language difficulties, the plan says children of these classes will be assessed academically.

At the same time, as part of the promotion of school attendance, a national survey on school attendance by foreign children should be pursued, says the summary of the report. In September 2019, the investigation found that the attendance status of some 22,000 international students was unknown. The project also called for collaboration between the Japan Immigration Service Agency and departments of local agencies responsible for managing the Basic Resident Register, which compiles data on people living in Japan.

The plan also targets a fixed level of commitment from the national government. As part of efforts to end out-of-school attendance in March 2019, the Ministry of Education has asked municipal governments to collect and manage records on school-aged foreign nationals based on how registers of Japanese children of primary and secondary age are compiled. However, only 46.7% of administrative bodies were able to collect data on all foreign school-aged children residing in their relevant jurisdictions. This revealed that approximately 10,000 of the children found by the ministry’s investigation to have unknown enrollment status were present on the records relating to the Basic Resident Register, but even so, local school boards did not. been able to verify their existence.

For this reason, the outline asks the central government to define guidelines for the creation of documents based on the registers of foreign nationals of school age and the means of confirming their status in schooling, thus encouraging the state to take in charge of promoting education for children of foreign nationals.

The plan will be compiled into an official written report in fiscal year 2019 ending March 31 and will be presented to the Central Board of Education and then communicated to the Minister of Education.

A survey conducted by the Mainichi Shimbun on the enrollment status of non-Japanese children in schools, targeting the 100 municipal areas with the highest number of foreign residents, found that the enrollment status of more than 16,000 children was unknown. The results led the Ministry of Education to carry out its first national survey on schooling.

(Japanese original by Haruna Okuyama and Tomoyuki Hori, City News Service)


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