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Gov't eyes license system for Japanese language teachers to secure quality

The sign for the Agency for Cultural Affairs, right, is seen at the entrance to the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward. (Mainichi/Kazuo Motohashi)

TOKYO -- Japan's Cultural Affairs Agency is looking to establish a "certified Japanese language teacher" license for those who teach Japanese to foreign nationals, with a subcommittee of the Cultural Affairs Council agreeing on the outline of a draft report for the new license system on Feb. 14.

Establishing a national government-certified license will be aimed at improving the expertise of Japanese language teachers as well as creating stable jobs and securing labor. Requirements to obtain the license will include passing an exam and taking teaching training. The agency will consider details with an eye to enacting related legislation sometime after fiscal 2020.

The report included requirements for the license: passing a test to assess the person's ability to teach Japanese, on-the-job training for at least 45 lessons, and an undergraduate degree or higher. Nationality will not be a factor. A certificate will be issued by a government-designated institution, and the renewal period for the license will be set at around every 10 years.

The licensed teachers will teach foreign workers and their families, children who require Japanese lessons, foreign exchange students, refugees and those who study Japanese outside Japan. On-the-job training will likely be carried out in institutions such as private companies with foreign employees, Japanese language schools and elementary and junior high schools.

For those who currently teach Japanese, the draft report suggested "setting a sufficient time frame" to meet the new requirements until the license system comes into effect. In addition, those who do not have an undergraduate degree could be subject to transitional measures if they have a diploma from a two-year college or vocational school, and have at least two years of experience in Japanese language education or research at a school or other institution.

According to Cultural Affairs Agency research, in fiscal 2018 approximately 260,000 people studied Japanese at regular schools or language schools in Japan, more than quadruple that of fiscal 1990. Meanwhile, only 10% of some 40,000 Japanese language teachers have full-time positions. As most of the teachers work part-time or as volunteers, questions have been raised over issues such as their job security and the quality of instruction.

The Japanese language education promotion law was enacted in June 2019, and states that the national and local governments are responsible for offering Japanese language education to residents of Japan who do not speak Japanese. The law included a stipulation for measures on licensing Japanese language teachers.

(Japanese original by Haruna Okuyama, City News Department)

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