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Mainichi wins newspaper award for series on Japan barriers to foreign kids' education

A selection of newspaper articles from the "Nihon de ikiru" series on the reality of education for children of foreign nationalities in Japan is seen in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo, on Sept. 28, 2020. (Mainichi/Koichiro Tezuka)

TOKYO -- A series of articles by the Mainichi Shimbun that shone a light on the state of education for children of foreign nationalities living in Japan and queried their rights to an education was awarded a prize in the Editorial Division of the Japan Newspaper Publishers & Editors Association (NSK) Awards on Oct. 7, extending the newspaper's record-breaking run in the division to 32 wins, and making it five consecutive years the paper has been named in the category.

    The reporting group for "Nihon de ikiru," meaning "living in Japan" in English, represented by former Editorial Division City News Department reporter Haruna Okuyama, revealed through its surveys to municipal governments that at least some 16,000 foreign children in Japan are of "unknown school enrollment status," meaning that local governments don't know whether they are attending school or not. Their reporting came ahead of the government's plans to implement the Revised Immigration Control Act in April 2019, which allows for greater intake of workers from abroad.

    Following its initial reports about the facts uncovered in the survey, the reporting team also went on to discover and reveal that there are more than 10,000 "unsupported children" who are attending school but receive no Japanese language education. It also broke the story that children of foreign nationalities are enrolled in special education classes at twice the rate of students of Japanese nationality. The articles also revealed the isolated lives of children who can't find even a place to study Japanese, and the reality of being in a situation where support is scarce.

    In response to the reports, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology started its own investigation nationwide into children of foreign nationalities whose school enrollment statuses are unknown, and a Cabinet decision provided a legal basis for plans to promote enrollment and Japanese language education among foreign children in Japan. The series kick-started an effort by the state to aim to guarantee the right to learn.

    In bestowing the award, the NSK praised the article series, saying, "It is an exceptional reporting campaign that put forward issues around realizing a society in which people in Japan live alongside foreigners, and which called for the improvement of education rights regardless of nationality."

    Some articles from the "Nihon de ikiru" series, and reports about responses to it, can be seen in the related links below this article.


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