Govt to help foreign students learn Japanese

The Education, Science and Technology Ministry will launch a program to help the increasing number of foreign students at public primary, middle and high schools to acquire Japanese language skills.

Currently, local governments handle Japanese language education for foreign students at public schools.

The ministry plans to provide financial and other support to the local governments to employ part-time instructors, who are proficient both in Japanese and a foreign language, with the goal of enhancing students’ understanding in classes and Japanese lessons.

According to the ministry, foreign nationals at public primary, middle and high schools throughout the country numbered 70,936 as of May 2006.

Of those students, 22,413 at a total of 5,475 schools did not understand Japanese sufficiently to absorb their lessons.

The number of these students increased by 8.3 percent from the previous year, and had been increasing annually.

Since the Immigration Control Law was revised to permit the employment of ethnic-Japanese foreign nationals for unskilled jobs in 1990, a growing number of people have come to Japan from South America.

Portuguese, spoken in Brazil, is the most common language among foreign students at 38 percent, followed by Chinese at 20 percent and Spanish at 15 percent.

Because these students do not speak Japanese, some have had trouble fitting in with classmates, which has led to behavior problems or even crimes.

The ministry is taking the increase in problems associated with Japanese language ability seriously and decided the central government needs to support local governments in this concern.

It has included 1.96 billion yen in its budget request for the next fiscal year for hiring about 1,600 bilingual instructors around the country by the end of that year.