Gov’t eyes more Japanese language teachers to improve education for foreign children

The government finalized a plan Tuesday to make it easier for children of foreign residents to get a public school education in Japan, including a possible expansion in Japanese language teacher numbers to improve foreign children’s communication skills.

According to the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, there were 18,585 foreign children registered at public primary, junior high and high schools for the 1999 school year. By the 2008 school year, the number stood at 28,575 children.

In response to this rise schools have been increasing teaching staff over the standard complement to provide improved instruction to the children. Fifty such teachers were brought on for the 2009 school year and 250 more for 2010, bringing the national total to 1,285. However, local bodies with many foreign residents continue to request central government support for more teaching staff every year.

The Education Ministry is looking to revise the basic guideline for student numbers per class, now at 40, for the first time in about 30 years by this August. At the same time, the ministry also plans to improve the distribution of teaching staff at each school, including the possible increase in Japanese language instructors. In addition, in order to make it easier for foreign children to enter public schools, those past primary school age will be allowed to register at primary schools if necessary, among other measures.

The ministry held a policy conference on education for children of foreign residents in December last year to sound out experts on the issue.