Jun 2, 2016

News: Are plans to help foreign students in Japan going to be enough?

Experts within Japan’s Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology come up with measures to improve education standards for foreign students in the nation’s public schools.




Let’s go back to our ALT days, in a rural / suburban (never sure what counts as rural in the greater Tokyo area) junior high school here in Japan. Compared to schools back home, this place was like Disneyland. There was no sign of the unbridled thuggery that we had to negotiate on the playgrounds back home. Teachers were, for the most part, treated like the greatest thing since sliced bread, and everyone went about preparation for school events like they were planning their dream wedding. School life had all the innocence and charm of a The Famous Five story … for the most part, i.e, for those that could fit in. Those that couldn’t were, for want of a better word, screwed.


We recall two brothers, born to a Japanese father and a mother from somewhere else (it doesn’t matter where in this case). They came to the school after having spent the last few years … somewhere else. Their Japanese-language level wasn’t up to scratch and they hadn’t been subject to the overbearing sense of ‘the group’ that prevails in Japanese society. The teachers had no idea how to deal with them. Staff had become so used to a kind of we say, you do system, that when these brothers simply didn’t follow orders there was no Plan B. Nothing. The boys struggled in class (the language barrier) and they struggled even more outside of class because they clearly weren’t part of ‘the group’. In the end, they were largely left to their own devices, and ultimately stopped coming into school (although the elder brother was coaxed back for the graduation ceremony, presumably so as not to cause an irregularity in the BOE’s stats).


The whole situation had a sense of tragedy about it. Everyone could see what was happening, but no one seemed to have a clue what to do. Fortunately, it seems now that Japan is trying to get this figured out.


According to an article from NHK, Tuesday, there were about 37,000 foreign students dealing with the language barrier in Japan’s public schools in 2014. That’s up 60% from a decade earlier. To address the potential struggles, experts within the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology released a report Monday proposing the establishment of regional ‘hub’ schools that would specialise in educating foreign students. The report also talked of training programs to develop the necessary teachers to staff these schools and the possibility that they (the teachers) could be sent to other locations.


The finer details and a budget for the proposals will be worked out for April 2017.


Progress of a kind then, and it will be interesting to see what kind of people the ministry targets to give this kind of training. It will also be interesting to see if there is any backlash against such programs and schools, from those who might feel that the public school system needn’t go out of its way to educate those who can’t speak Japanese.


What do you think? Are these plans to help foreign students in Japan going to be enough? Are they even necessary?  


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Sources

NHK / The Mainichi

Image (cropped)

Naosuke ii Flickr License 

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