Some areas in Japan are struggling to secure enough public school staff to teach Japanese to children with foreign roots, amid a recent surge in the number of such students in the country, a Kyodo News survey showed Wednesday.
The city of Yokohama, Saitama Prefecture and Fukushima Prefecture began the academic years of 2018 and 2019 without enough Japanese-language teachers, with a deficit of 28 in public elementary and junior high schools, according to the survey of local education boards.
The three authorities were short by 21, five, and two teachers respectively.
Almost all vacancies were able to be filled by the middle of these school years, but the Fukushima education board was unable to fill one spot during the whole of the 2018 academic year.
With the number of schoolchildren without adequate Japanese-language skills increasingly on the rise, the education ministry formulated a standard in 2017 that requires schools to have one licensed Japanese-language teacher per 18 students with such needs, aiming to achieve the target gradually over the next 10 years.
Some municipalities, including Yokohama and Aichi Prefecture, have set their own standards to allocate more teachers than required by the state.
According to the education ministry, there were over 46,000 students in need of Japanese-language education as of May 2018 at public elementary and junior high schools across the country.
Those students include children who have foreign roots but Japanese nationality.
Currently, some municipalities hire interpreters and dispatch them to schools for children who need language assistance.
Aki Sakuma, a professor of education at Keio University, pointed out that the country is already having a hard time securing enough school teachers in general, not to mention finding those needed for special Japanese-language education.
“One can easily assume it is difficult for schools to secure enough manpower to teach children with foreign roots,” she said.
Sakuma suggested it was necessary to improve remuneration and other conditions for Japanese-language teachers in order to secure adequate personnel to staff schools.
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