A law enacted last week to promote Japanese-language education is significant in that for the first time it highlighted the government's responsibility to beef up language education for foreign residents — a key foundation of their life in this country. The number of people from overseas living and working in Japan is expected to keep growing, particularly with the April introduction of new visa statuses to open the door to foreign workers in blue-collar jobs. But measures to help foreign residents overcome the language barrier remain insufficient. The national and local governments need to quickly flesh out the legislation's objectives with concrete policy steps backed by sufficient funding.
Proposed by a group of lawmakers across party lines and approved unanimously by the Diet, the legislation calls on the government to take comprehensive measures, including legal and fiscal steps, to secure opportunities for foreign residents to receive Japanese-language education in accordance with their needs and wishes.
It calls on improving the quality of education being offered at language institutions and revamping the system for certifying Japanese-language teachers, for whom there is no official license, through better training and licensing plans, and by offering higher pay to match their improved teaching skills. It also urges businesses that hire workers from overseas to help secure language education opportunities for them and their families. The legislation, however, essentially spells out just the basic ideas about Japanese education for foreign residents. How effective the law will be depends on the concrete actions to be taken by each of the parties involved in the task.