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Multilingual sessions help foreigners understand Japan's high school admission systems

Children and their parents listen to briefings about Japanese high school admission systems via interpreters in multiple languages, at Toyo University in Tokyo's Bunkyo Ward on June 23, 2019. (Mainichi/Haruna Okuyama)

TOKYO -- Multilingual sessions to introduce foreign children and their parents to Japanese high school enrollment systems are being held in various locations in the capital, organized by a committee comprising metropolitan high school teachers and nonprofit organizations providing learning support to non-Japanese children.

Called "Guidance for High School Entrance (Multilingual)," the session will have been held a total of six times by this fall with multilingual assistance by interpreters, in the hope of offering clues to the high school admission process that is thought to pose a high hurdle to non-Japanese applicants.

At the Hakusan Campus of Toyo University in the capital's Bunkyo Ward, 176 parents and children from 10 foreign countries attended a guidance session on June 23, the first of the series of those events for this fiscal year. They were grouped by their native language before listening to the briefings through interpreters.

At the outset of the meeting, organizers explained the weight of high school education in Japan.

"In Japan, 98 out of 100 children go to high school," a speaker said. "Most of the qualifications required for jobs cannot be obtained unless you are high school graduates. If you want to make your dream come true in Japanese society, you should advance to high school."

The organizers then explained the differences between full-time and part-time high schools and the types of entrance exams, as well as tuition support funds that are provided according to parents' annual income. When the organizers mocked an entrance interview exam, parents and guardians took videos with their smartphones, suggesting their particularly high interest in that part of the admission process.

The guidance sessions date back to fiscal 2001. Hitoshi Tsunoda, a teacher at Tokyo Metropolitan Hitotsubashi High School and chairman of the organizing committee, said, "The entrance exam system is complicated, and it is difficult for junior high school teachers alone to explain the system. Children who cannot speak Japanese find it hard to get into cram schools and face many hurdles, but we'd like to support them so they can display their abilities."

The upcoming sessions are scheduled for: July 15 at Shinagawa Ward's Chusho Kigyo Center from 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. (For inquiries, call IWC, or Interact With Community at 03-6423-0654); the afternoon of Oct. 13 at the Tokyo Metropolitan Rokugo Technical High School in Ota Ward; the afternoon of Oct. 27 at Hachioji Square Building in the western city of Hachioji; and early November in Shinjuku Ward.

The committee also provides counseling for higher education and job placement for high school graduates. One such session will be held on July 21 at Hakuyo Kaikan hall at Hitotsubashi High School in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. At the session, teachers from metropolitan high schools will give explanations about Japan's universities, technical schools and job placement. Non-Japanese people who went through Japanese school systems will also share their experiences.

Those who wish to attend the session can apply by sending their name and telephone number, as well as the names of their school and homeroom teacher, via email to: The deadline for applications is July 18.

(Japanese original by Haruna Okuyama, City News Department)

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