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Education ministry to seek local body help in survey on foreign kids' school attendance

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 issue a notice asking prefectural governments and ordinance-designated cities across the country to cooperate with a survey on foreign children whose schooling status is unknown and to promote their school attendance.

The fact-finding survey, the first of its kind in Japan, will specifically cover foreign children of compulsory education age whose residency is registered with municipalities in the country. The move comes as the schooling status of more than 16,000 of such children remained unknown nationwide. The ministry's notice will be issued as early as March 18.

The ministry assumes that there will be more children with foreign nationality residing in Japan after the revised Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act takes effect in April to accept more foreign workers. The ministry, therefore, will request local governments through the notice to enhance their efforts to promote the school enrollment of foreign children.

The ministry directive will specifically ask local bodies to send information to the parents and guardians of foreign children who are not covered by compulsory education under the Constitution of Japan, and to provide publicity and explanations in multiple languages. The notice will also call for education boards and regional immigration and residency status management bureaus, which will be launched with the implementation of the revised immigration law, to join hands and cooperate in the ministry's survey on foreign kids' schooling status, which will commence in April.

The ministry has indicated that children of foreign nationality can be accepted in grades lower than their actual grades depending on their Japanese language ability, and has previously called on local bodies to support the school enrollment of such children. However, local governments varied in their responses, prompting the ministry to plan to issue the notice to ensure thorough implementation.

The ministry's decree will urge local governments once again to accept foreign kids into lower grades than their actual grades in accordance with their command of the Japanese language. The directive will also call for allowing foreign children over compulsory education age to be accepted into public junior high schools after screening by education boards.

In 2009, the ministry sent a notice to local governments requesting them to accept foreign children into public schools after many such children had to leave international and ethnic schools due to difficulties in tuition payments following the global financial crisis triggered by the collapse of Lehman Brothers investment bank.

However, some municipalities turned down such requests on the grounds that they lacked sufficient preparations to accept foreign children. In response, calls grew for enrolling children in lower grades at junior high schools so they can study in Japan.

A Mainichi Shimbun survey conducted last fall covering the top 100 municipalities in terms of hosting many foreign children found that at least 390 or so foreign children aged 15 or older had hoped to enroll in schools in 62 municipalities since fiscal 2014. However, only 25 of those municipalities said they could accept foreign children at schools.

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

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