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40% of municipalities with many foreigners never checked schooling status of their kids

Foreign nationals attend a Japanese language lesson at Tabunka Free School in Tokyo's Arakawa Ward. (Mainichi/Naoki Watanabe)

TOKYO -- Some 40 percent of 100 municipalities where a Mainichi Shimbun survey found that there were more than 16,000 foreign children with unknown schooling status failed to check if those children were going to school.

Moreover, only 30 percent of the local governments surveyed tried to find out the total number of children whose educational status was not clear. These findings in the Mainichi probe showed that local governments are not active in guaranteeing foreign children opportunities to receive an education.

In the survey last year, the 100 governments with higher numbers of foreign children in the age range for compulsory education were asked if they had checked on the schooling status of children who were not attending public elementary and junior high schools. All responded to the query.

Of the 100 cities, wards and towns, 38 said they were not carrying out such surveys at all. They just mailed school enrollment information to households with children of school age, based on residence registries. Twenty-eight municipalities checked on only some of the children such as those entering elementary school or kids who had transferred to local elementary and junior high schools.

Thirty-four local governments checked on all registered foreign children whose educational statuses were unknown. Their officials visited those children's homes or made inquiries at the immigration bureau to find out if they were still in Japan. Of the total, 16 municipalities found a total of 126 children not attending school from April 2014 through October 2018.

During the same period, eight children were found not going to school when they visited city offices for residence registration in five municipalities that did not conduct surveys on those children. These findings seem to suggest that the actual number of children who are not receiving an education at school is even higher. Many of those municipalities explained they did not run checks on those kids because they are foreign nationals and therefore are not subject to the same compulsory education requirements as Japanese children.

The city of Hamamatsu in Shizuoka Prefecture, central Japan, became the first local government to start a complete study of local foreign children not receiving an education in fiscal 2011. They initially found 727 foreign children who were suspected of not attending school, but home visits by city officials confirmed that the actual figure was just 16. According to the city, as many as 200 children allegedly not attending school are found every year, and the municipal government encourages their parents and guardians to send the children to classes when they carry out six of such surveys annually.

A city official said foreign residents are "not here just temporarily but partners forming the local economy. Offering them educational opportunities available to Japanese children will lead to producing people who can play vital roles in the community."

Meanwhile, 1,191 Japanese children of elementary and junior high age were found not attending school in fiscal 2011 in checks by municipalities and schools. In fiscal 2018, some 63 children were determined to be not going to school.

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

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