National

NPO offers online Japanese-language classes for resident children from abroad

Kyodo

A Tokyo-based nonprofit organization will begin offering online Japanese-language classes this month to children from abroad who need help to keep up in class at Japanese elementary and junior high schools.

Youth Support Center’s YSC Global School in Fussa, western Tokyo, is set to offer instruction provided by language education experts via personal computers or tablets to young foreign nationals living anywhere in Japan. The NPO will cooperate with municipalities and schools without sufficient resources to teach Japanese to such children.

Yuran Nakajima, 16, watched a lecture on a PC monitor at YSC’s office in Fussa during a trial session in September. Three other students sat in the classroom elsewhere in the city, where the lesson was being taught.

“No problem. I can hear well and I feel no difference from being in the classroom,” Nakajima, who is descended from a so-called Japanese war orphan in China, said after the rehearsal, during which questions and answers were exchanged in a videoconference-like format.

YSC Global School has provided Japanese-language instruction in classrooms to foreign children for payment since 2010.

The school hopes to offer the new online service for free, helped in part by financial support from regional governments.

For the new service, it will offer one-month or two-month intensive online programs throughout the year for various proficiency levels, with up to 30 lectures per week.

Through participation in the programs, YSC Global School expects the children to boost their Japanese-language ability enough to follow what is being taught in their classes at public schools.

Iki Tanaka, 37, who is in charge of the NPO school, said she is considering promoting a scheme for children to receive the online service in school classrooms to ensure foreign students regularly tune in to the lectures.

“It may be difficult for children to sit in front of a PC at home by themselves every time an online class starts,” Tanaka said.

As of May 2014, a record 29,198 foreign students attending public elementary and junior high schools in Japan needed Japanese-language training, as did a record 7,897 Japanese children. But 18 percent, or 6,700, of those children were receiving no special language training, the latest government survey showed.

“We would like to help them master the language as soon as possible so that they can attend school happily and make friends,” Tanaka said.