The government needs to take urgent action in response to the recent finding that nearly 20,000 school-age foreign children living in Japan may not be attending school. Ensuring that children of any nationality have access to a quality education — one of the United Nations’ 12 Rights of the Child — is a must, especially at a time when the nation expects to have more residents from overseas.

In the first survey of its kind, the education ministry found that of the roughly 124,000 foreign children eligible to enroll in elementary and junior high school nationwide, 19,654, or 15.8 percent, may not be attending a public, private or international school. The figure included 1,000 children who were confirmed through enrollment records to not be attending any of these schools, 8,768 whose enrollment could not be confirmed because nobody was present when officials visited their homes for the survey, and 9,886 whose circumstances could not be verified because their names were listed under the resident registration system but were absent from school registers. There are reports that some children engage in jobs or take care of younger siblings instead of going to school.

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