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Future teachers get prepped for foreign pupils

Chunichi Shimbun

A lot of teachers have a tough time teaching children of foreign nationalities due to the language barrier and cultural differences.

To equip future teachers with the necessary skills to deal with this kind of situation, Aichi Prefectural University has started offering a training program that focuses on teaching non-Japanese pupils.

Next year, the university will officially include the program as part of the curriculum for students on the path for a teaching degree.

As of May 2012, there were 27,013 pupils of foreign nationalities in public elementary and junior high schools across the country who required special Japanese-language training, according to the education ministry.

Aichi Prefecture had the most, at 5,878, an increase of 255 from the number in September 2010.

Most teachers face the dilemma of not knowing whether to adjust the speed of the class to fit the foreign students or the Japanese students. They also have difficulties communicating with the parents of the foreign children, who are most likely not fluent in Japanese either.

The training program will address these issues and help the students consider effective solutions.

As part of this year’s program, the university offered lectures as well as on-the-job training opportunities at a high school that has several non-Japanese students.

In mid-November, the university students were hosted by Koromodai High School, one of four public high schools in Aichi Prefecture that sets a separate entrance examination for foreign students who may not be proficient in Japanese. About 20 foreign students are currently enrolled in the school.

During their visits to the high school, the 13 university students in the program received lectures from Vice Principal Akihiko Yogo about the special programs the school offers the foreign students, including one-on-one lessons, and about having full-time language assistants who work as interpreters.

Yogo also told the students about the challenges facing the teachers in the special programs.

For example, increasing the number of one-on-one sessions poses a risk of isolating the foreign students. He said that teachers are given wide latitude on how to teach the non-Japanese students, but it is mainly a process of trial and error.

The university students also attended English classes, as well as mathematics and science classes that are conducted specially for the foreign students.

“I’m glad I got to learn all these problems before I start working,” said Noritaka Kumagai, 21, a fourth-year student who took part in the program. “I hope we can come up with classes that respect the different cultures for both foreign and Japanese students.”

Chika Ikeda, an associate professor and head of the education support office at Aichi Prefectural University, said, “We want to educate prospective teachers who can think on their feet with a global perspective even if the particular school they are assigned to does not have proper support.”

Kazuko Matsumoto, a part-time lecturer at the university who is familiar with the issues of educating foreign students, agreed.

“We need more teachers who understand the situation,” she said. “While there are foreign students who give up receiving higher education because of language problems or financial reasons, more foreign children are staying on and aim to attend high school or a university in Japan.”

This section, appearing Saturdays, features topics and issues from the Chubu region covered by the Chunichi Shimbun. The original article was published Nov. 22.