• Tono, Iwate


My junior high school son came home from school last week all excited about the national English speech contest. I told him he couldn’t enter because his father is a foreigner, but he said it was OK because the teacher had asked him personally to enter. The next day he came home and told me the teacher had checked the rules and found out he couldn’t enter.

My son is a Japanese citizen with a Japanese passport, born in Japan and listed in the family register. Yet, he can’t participate fully in the Japanese educational system because his father is a foreigner? That’s unfair and stupid. Very, very few of the children of foreign parents I have known can speak English any better than their Japanese classmates. I suspect that this rule is enforced to give an advantage to the rich Japanese children who go to expensive international schools and pay the expensive fees that cram schools, English-conversation schools and other enterprises charge. So we can add elitism to the charge as well.

So why not give these young Japanese citizens, children of taxpaying Japanese citizens, a chance to participate in the regular educational opportunities their classmates have? Perhaps create an open category for every Japanese student, then create separate categories for those Japanese students with no foreign parents, those with one foreign parent and maybe another category for those Japanese students who have lived overseas for more than one year.

Or better yet, why not just have one contest for everyone studying in the Japanese school system and create an exciting and diverse environment where everyone can strive for excellence? Then perhaps we could see a real change in the English-speaking ability of the Japanese people.

bruce wood

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