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Officials of schools for foreign residents urged the education ministry Friday to allow their students to take university entrance exams without having to pass a separate qualifying test.

Lin Tong Chun, chairman of the Association of Foreign Schools in Hyogo Prefecture, and Che Sung Tea, head of a pro-Pyongyang school for ethnic Koreans in Osaka, held a meeting at the ministry with Yasuko Ikenobo, the parliamentary secretary for education.

They questioned her about a newspaper report that said students of Korean, Chinese and other ethnic institutions — but not international schools — will continue to be barred from taking entrance examinations to national universities under a ministry plan.

According to the Asahi Shimbun report, only graduates of international schools, which conduct lessons in English, will be exempt from the separate qualification exams under the proposal by the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry.

Although some officials were in favor of easing regulations on the entrance exams for students of all ethnic schools when the ministry began discussions on the issue nearly a year ago, North Korea’s admission in September that it had kidnapped more than a dozen Japanese and other problems involving the reclusive state prompted the ministry to reconsider, the newspaper alleged.

Ikenobo said the ministry is still discussing whether it will abolish the qualification exam requirement for all ethnic schools and will make a decision by the end of March.

Che said he was shocked by the report.

“If the government has decided to drop Korean schools (from the plan), it may give the impression (to society) that people can discriminate against the schools,” he said.

Lin said the ministry should ensure that students of all ethnic schools have equal learning opportunities.

“Our schools try to teach coexistence between different ethnic groups. We want the government to consider this,” he said.

Lin also said it is unacceptable for the government to only ease the regulation for schools that teach in English. Currently, eight Korean schools, one Chinese school and five European schools, including German and Norwegian institutions, belong to the association, he added.

Ikenobo said she agrees with their position but added there are diverse opinions within the government.

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