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Japan looks to take legal steps to promote foreign children's school attendance

Signs for the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, center; the Agency for Cultural Affairs, right; and the Japan Sports Agency. (Mainichi/Kazuo Motohashi)

TOKYO -- In response to the current situation in which authorities cannot confirm whether some 22,000 elementary and junior high school-age foreign children registered as residents in Japan are attending school, an expert panel of the education ministry compiled a draft report on March 16 to give a legal basis for the promotion of school attendance among such children.

The final report will officially be submitted to the education ministry's advisory council, the Central Council for Education, in April at the earliest.

The draft report is based on the fact that school attendance of approximately 22,000 elementary and junior high school-age children is unknown. It adopts the concept of "leaving not one child behind," and explicitly states that "society as a whole should be able to provide that kind of environment." It recommends positioning "the promotion of attending schools" as a basic policy of the law to promote Japanese-language education, and providing a legal foundation for "the carrying out of Japanese language education" stipulated by the law as being the duty of the national and local governments.

As specific measures, the panel requested that the education ministry continue nationwide surveys of children whose school attendance status is unknown, which was first conducted in the 2019 academic year, and that it create guidelines for applying registers of elementary and junior high school-age Japanese children to foreign children.

Furthermore, the panel's draft report touched upon the fact that some 20% of foreign students in public elementary and junior high schools are not receiving Japanese language instruction, even though they need it. The panel requested that a plan to allot one teacher to every 18 students who require such language instruction be thoroughly implemented by the 2026 academic year.

In addition, the panel requested that the situation of foreign students who have been placed in special education classes because they cannot understand Japanese be identified.

(Japanese original by Haruna Okuyama, City News Department)

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