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Education ministry to carry out nationwide survey on school attendance of foreign kids

The headquarters of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry is seen in this file photo taken in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward on July 26, 2018. (Mainichi/Naoaki Hasegawa)

TOKYO -- The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology is set to launch a nationwide survey on the school attendance of foreign children in Japan next fiscal year, following a revelation that the schooling status of some 16,000 foreign kids was unknown.

The survey, the first of its kind, will start in April to coincide with the anticipated spike in the number of children of foreign nationality after the revised Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act comes into effect that month to accept more foreign workers.

A Mainichi Shimbun survey covering 100 municipalities with many foreign kids last fall found that school attendance of about 16,000 children of compulsory education age who had their residency registered with the local bodies was unknown. The figure accounted for a whopping 20 percent of the roughly 77,500 foreign kids living in Japan. In response, the education ministry recognized the need to grasp the realities and take steps to ensure educational opportunities for all such children.

The upcoming survey will cover 1,741 local governments across the country, asking them about the number of foreign children aged between 6 and 14 with registered residency whose schooling status is unknown, as well as whether the local bodies are taking any measures to check the schooling status of foreign children, such as through door-to-door visits.

The ministry will also consider introducing advanced model examples in addressing the issue and urging other local governments to follow suit.

Article 26 of the Constitution of Japan stipulates that "All people shall be obligated to have all boys and girls under their protection receive an ordinary education as provided for by law." However, foreign children are not covered by the supreme law provision and measures are left up to each local body, resulting in the unknown schooling status of many foreign children or such kids not even going to school at all.

In the cities of Hamamatsu, Shizuoka Prefecture, and Kani, Gifu Prefecture, both in central Japan and home to many foreign kids, the municipal governments have checked on the schooling status of foreign children as part of efforts to encourage their school enrollment. Specifically, city officials have visited children's homes, confirmed their enrollment with international and ethnic schools, and checked their immigration history.

Meanwhile, some other municipalities have left the issue unattended on the grounds that foreign children are not subject to compulsory education and for other reasons.

Back in fiscal 2005 and 2006, the education ministry made door-to-door visits to households with foreign children whose schooling status was unknown with the cooperation of one prefectural government and 11 municipal governments that were hosting many foreign kids. As a result, 112 foreign children were found to have not attended school. The ministry has since subsidized municipalities carrying out such surveys upon their requests, but has not carried out a nationwide investigation.

"By clarifying the schooling status of foreign children across the country and analyzing the survey results, we'd like to find out what needs to be done in order to secure educational opportunities for them," commented an education ministry official.

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

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