The Yomiuri Shimbun
Faced with evidence that children living in foster care facilities are falling behind in their studies, the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry has decided to cover the cost of attending juku cram schools for middle school students in such facilities.
Under the new policy, the ministry will pay half of middle school students’ monthly juku tuition, and prefectural governments will provide the remaining half. The ministry will formally notify prefectural governments of its decision as early as next week.
Foster facilities take in orphaned children and those who have been victims of neglect or abuse or whose parents are financially unable to care for them.
According to its Family Welfare Division, the ministry will allocate 72.8 million yen this fiscal year for juku tuition, based on an estimation of 3,000 students attending cram schools. Payments will be made retroactively from April.
The national and prefectural governments currently subsidize school lunch fees, education and other expenses for children in foster facilities. Additional funds are provided for middle schoolers’ school supplies and other needs. However, the existing system does not allow this money to be used for juku tuition.
About 26 percent of children in foster facilities are behind academically, according to a ministry survey, and a national council of foster care facilities has been calling for additional educational funds. The ministry has agreed, saying that is now standard practice for middle school students to attend juku.
Middle school students at some facilities in central Tokyo and elsewhere have already begun attending juku and, as of the end of June the Tokyo metropolitan government had provided a total of 1 million yen to eight facilities at the facilities’ request.
The Kinka Gakuin facility in Nerima Ward, Tokyo, pays about 30,000 yen a month each for two middle school students to attend juku.
“We have our hands full with our day-to-day operations,” said Hideyuki Tsuchida, the head of Kinka Gakuin. “When it comes to educational guidance, the most we can do is help with homework.”
“We want to give [facility residents] the same educational opportunities they would have in an ordinary home and increase their appetite for learning,” a representative of the Family Welfare Division said.
(July 3, 2009 Daily Yomiuri)