TOKYO -- A 2018 survey by the Kanto Federation of Bar Associations found that at least 10 local governments in Japan refused to allow foreign children to enroll in public elementary and junior high schools, as an increasing number of foreigners have been living in the country.
On Aug. 19, the Kanto Federation of Bar Associations commented, "Local governments need to understand what is signified by the right to an education being guaranteed to children who are foreign nationals," and called on the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology for reform.
The survey was conducted in March 2018, targeting a total of 496 local governments, including the Tokyo Metropolitan Government and prefectural governments of Kanagawa, Saitama, Chiba, Ibaraki, Tochigi, and Gunma -- all in eastern Japan -- as well as the central Japan prefectures of Shizuoka, Yamanashi, Nagano and Niigata, and the 485 wards or municipalities within these regions. The questionnaire was carried out on the condition that the answers were kept anonymous. Responses were obtained from 55.8%, or 277 local governments.
When asked whether there had been instances of refusing to accept foreign nationals and other such children to enter public elementary and junior high schools during the last five years at the time of the survey, 10 local governments answered they had experienced such cases. Reasons for rejecting the admission of foreign children, with multiple answers permitted, included "They were past school age," (five cases), "They did not have a valid residency status," (four cases), "They were almost about to graduate, and would have been in school for a period that is far too short," (two cases), and "They had graduated from a middle school overseas" (two cases).
To a question asking respondents their perception of Japanese language education in public elementary and junior high schools, 52 local governments, or 18.8%, answered that they have not been able to offer language education to foreign students. Only 68 local bodies, or 24.5%, said they have been able to take care of language education, while 145, or 52.3%, claimed that they are working on it although "it cannot be said to be sufficient."
As for whether prefectures and municipalities were able to post additional staff to schools when teachers capable of providing Japanese language education were deemed necessary, in the last five years at the time of the survey, 98 local governments said they failed to do so. Some respondents raised financial difficulties and lack of human resources as reasons for this.
Hirofumi Idei, a lawyer with the Nagano Bar Association and chairman of the Kanto Federation of Bar Associations' committee on protecting foreigners' rights, commented, "There is the reality that there are many local governments that aren't equipped to accept foreign students even if they want to. This situation should be tackled by increasing teachers and budgets."
The education ministry has raised the necessity of "promoting opportunities for foreign children to attend school across Japan" in guidelines it established in July 2020, and has been asking local governments to make efforts to accept such students.
(Japanese original by Akira Okubo, Tokyo City News Department)