A panel of education researchers submitted a list of proposals Thursday to the Education Ministry, calling on schools as well as the central and local governments to improve the learning environment for foreign students in public schools, focusing on their Japanese-language studies.

The 138-page report was compiled by researchers at Tokyo University of Foreign Studies’ Japanese Language Center, in cooperation with the ministry. “The report showed teachers what the overall structure of Japanese language training for foreign students should be like,” said Masako Himeno, director of the center. “This is just the initial step to better prepare schools (for foreign students).”

Stressing the need to create a curriculum that combines practical and academic language skills, the panel proposed two tentative Japanese-teaching syllabuses — one for lower elementary school and the other for upper elementary and junior high. The documents are the first of their kind.

Pointing to the difficulty in assigning additional staff to schools with only a small number of foreign students, the report recommends that the central and local governments increase the number of “center schools” where foreign students from different school districts gather for specialized language training.

Most schools fail to cooperate with other schools or organizations regarding foreign students’ language education, the report points out. The government should therefore set up a resource center to provide schools with necessary information, it says.

The panel also suggested receiving help from local people with international backgrounds and foreign language skills to assist students from overseas in their community.

As of September, there were 17,296 foreign students enrolled in public elementary, junior high and high schools in Japan, according to the ministry. The survey found that only 6.8 percent of 754 municipalities provided schools with additional teaching staff to support foreign students.

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