National

Education ministry urges local governments to promote school enrollment of foreign students

by Chisato Tanaka

Staff Writer

The education ministry urged local governments Monday to promote the school enrollment of foreign students, and to cooperate in the country’s planned April investigation regarding their enrollment.

The urging comes at a time before the arrival of a large number of foreign workers after the new visa system starts in April.

The ministry currently has no figures for the number of elementary- and junior-high-school-aged foreign children who are registered as residents and yet not enrolled in school. According to the Mainichi Shimbun, there are more than 16,000 foreign children who have not been confirmed as enrollees by the municipalities in which they reside.

“Expecting an influx of foreign workers from this April, the ministry considers this to be a good time to conduct research,” a ministry spokesman said.

A planned investigation will be conducted nationwide for the first time in April with the cooperation of each municipality and newly introduced immigration offices. The investigation would likely involve counting how many foreign children are enrolled versus how many are not.

In Japan, parents are obliged by law to send their children to school during their elementary and junior high school years, but that law is not currently applicable to foreign parents. The education ministry accepts foreign students who wish to enroll in school of their own free will under the International Covenants on Human Rights.

The notification that the ministry sent to local governments on Monday also requests that municipalities send school entry information to foreign parents and that schools be flexible on which grade children will be enrolled, and ensure that foreign students enroll in classes that meet their Japanese language abilities.

A similar notification was sent in 2012 after the amendment of the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Law came into effect — the time when the residence card system was newly introduced in Japan after the alien registration system had been abolished.

The notification’s goal was to make the handling of foreign students more coherent. Currently, support systems for foreign students vary widely in each municipality.

In Yokohama, for example, where more than 1,600 pupils are said to need Japanese-language assistance, schools with more than five students that have a low level of Japanese proficiency are required to attend a language assistance class called an “international class,” in which pupils learn Japanese, while their Japanese peers take classes that require high Japanese skills, such as literature and sociology.

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