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Gov't OKs beefed up measures on Japanese language education for foreign children

From left, signs for the Japan Sports Agency, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology and the Agency for Cultural Affairs are seen in this file photo. (Mainichi/Kazuo Motohashi)

TOKYO -- The Cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on June 23 approved a basic policy to promote Japanese language education for foreign national children living in Japan, moving forward with enforcing measures to ensure educational opportunities for such children based on the Japanese language education promotion law which came into effect in June 2019.

Education ministry research in May-June 2019 found that authorities could not confirm whether some 22,000 elementary and junior high school-age foreign children registered as residents in Japan are attending school. The ministry's expert panel then compiled a report that stressed the necessity of understanding the situation of school attendance of foreign national students and encouraging them to enroll in school. The Japanese language education law defines that the central government is responsible for the enhancement of Japanese language education and that legislative and fiscal measures will be taken.

The recently approved basic policy touches on the current situation surrounding foreign nationals living in Japan, in which the number of such residents ballooned from around 1.08 million at the end of 1990 to about 2.93 million at the end of 2019. It also says that the number of foreign nationals and their family members coming to Japan is expected to increase even further as the revised Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act, which expanded visa statuses, came into effect in April 2019. The policy underlines that "securing opportunities for appropriate education is essential for children of foreign nationals to build the foundations of their livelihoods, develop their abilities and open up new possibilities for their own future."

The policy outlined measures to be taken by the central government, which include: increasing the number of Japanese language teachers at public schools and training assistance teachers for Japanese language; enhancing training programs for Japanese language teachers; following up on foreign national students' enrollment at schools and providing information to their parents and guardians; promoting the establishment of special quotas for foreign national students in high school entrance exams; and setting up at least one night junior high school in every prefecture and government-designated major city. Furthermore, in light of the lessons learned from the coronavirus outbreak in which having face-to-face classes has become difficult, the policy laid out measures to support remote Japanese lessons using information and communications technology.

Based on the basic policy, the education ministry plans in the near future to release guidelines with concrete measures that local governments should adopt to promote school attendance of foreign national children. The guidelines are expected to include measures such as cooperation between education boards and local governments' respective divisions in charge of basic residence registers to send out notices on school attendance as well as appealing to parents and guardians of foreign national children to make sure that they enroll in school when they register their residence and undergo health checkups for their children.

(Japanese original by Akira Okubo, City News Department)

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