Gov. views on “compulsory education”

Editorial comment: The article below is very clear on the penalties that could arise out of not sending your child to middle school:

The school education law stipulates that parents are obliged to have their children enter middle schools after they graduate from primary schools. A fine of up to 100,000 yen is imposed on violators”

Although the recommended amendment of the regulations is meant to remedy the situation of helping many foreign children gain entry to local middle schools, on the assumption that they want to but have been unable to due to their special circumstances … that point of interpretation has unwanted consequences for many other families who are keeping their children out of local schools because they want to provide them an alternative education … such as homeschooling or a home education or a corresponsdence or online education or juku combination. The article below also makes it crystal clear that the Education Ministry wants to Japanese children to be attending Japanese local schools at elementary school level. This explains the way the Japanese have got around this requirement … hence the proliferation and popularity of Japanese “international” schools that meet the national curriculum requirements or schools that have obtained tokku special zone status. 

Middle school entry criteria set to be eased for foreign kids Kyodo News

The Education, Science and Technology Ministry plans to allow foreign children living in Japan to enter middle schools without graduating from primary schools to give them more opportunities to participate in Japan’s mandatory education system, ministry sources said Saturday.

The eased requirements are intended to cope with a rise in the number of foreign children at ages for compulsory school education as the number of foreign people living in Japan for longer, including Japanese, Brazilians, increases, the officials said.

The ministry, however, plans not to ease the admission qualifications for Japanese children and continues to require them to graduate from primary schools for entrance into middle schools they said.

The school education law stipulates that parents are obliged to have their children enter middle schools after they graduate from primary schools. A fine of up to 100,000 yen is imposed on violators.

The education ministry has so far interpreted the provision as meaning that children cannot enter middle schools unless they graduate from primary schools, and applied this to foreign children in Japan.

But an advisory panel of experts presented a report to the ministry Friday and recommended that foreign chidlren be admitted to middle schools to help them get accustomed to, and be active in, Japanese society.

The planned step will enable foreign children going to international schools to enter Japanese middle schools for higher education in Japan and open the door for those who were unable to go to primary schools for economic reasons to take part in mandatory education at middle schools.

In recent years, international schools have been popular for Japanese parents as they think their children can learn foreign languages under better conditions than at Japanese schools.

Under the planned step, Japanese children going to international schools cannot enter middle schools although similar foreign children can do so.

The education ministry is opposed to easing admission requirements for Japanese childen because it is concerned that such a step could result in a collapse of Japan’s compulsory education system.

If requirements are similarly eased for Japanese children, this could help spread the idea that children do not need to go to primary schools and prompt parents to have their children only to private cram schools for admission to  middle schools, the sources said.

POINT OF VIEW/ Takaaki Kato: Non-Japanese kids deserve an education, too THE ASAHI SHIMBUN, 2008/11/20

Among non-Japanese families residing in Japan, there are too many that do not enroll their children in public or other schools here. Whatever their reasons, this is a serious problem. These children of foreign nationality, some of whom were born in Japan, are being deprived of their right to an education.

As a Japanese-language teacher at an elementary school, I find this situation distressing. Not only do these kids lose out, but so do their families and the community in general.

The Council for Cities of Non-Japanese Residents, which comprises representatives from municipal governments that have a high concentration of foreign residents, has made proposals to the national and prefectural governments on how best to educate the children of foreign nationality.

I believe the main reason many children of foreign nationality are not enrolled in school is because Japanese law does not oblige them to receive compulsory education.

The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology says that when such children apply for enrollment at public elementary and junior high schools, they are accepted free of charge and are thus guaranteed educational opportunities.

However, that doesn’t prevent their parents or guardians from failing to enroll them, the first main problem.

Some non-Japanese parents or guardians prefer to send their children to international schools, such as those for Brazilians living in Japan. That is fine.

But others who don’t send their children to international schools also do not apply for their children to enter the Japanese school system. In some cases, they have pulled their kids out of school to baby-sit younger siblings.

This brings us to a second problem. Even when school officials try to persuade guardians to enroll their children, they fail because there is no law requiring enrollment. The School Education Law is not clear on whether children of foreign nationality fall within the definition of “mandatory school-age pupils and students.”

Still, Article 26 of the Constitution states: “All people shall be obliged to ensure that all boys and girls under their protection receive ordinary education as provided for by law.”

But since foreign residents are not Japanese citizens, they are not obliged to ensure their children go to school. That seems to be the general interpretation.

Does this mean children of foreign nationality in Japan have no right to an education?

No, it does not.

Under the spirit of the Constitution, under internationally accepted universal human rights principles and under the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, both of which Japan has ratified, every human being, regardless of nationality, has the right to a basic education.

Thus, a child’s right to an education means their parents or guardians are obliged to ensure they receive such schooling.

Therefore, foreign residents in Japan must be legally required to ensure the children under their care receive compulsory education.

So it seems obvious that a new clause must be added to the Fundamental Law of Education, for example, to ensure such children receive the education that is rightfully theirs.

If children of foreign nationality are legally obliged to receive compulsory education, local governments would have to check to ensure they have been enrolled in school.

The authorities would of course let guardians decide whether to enroll the children in international schools or Japanese public schools, but either way, they would have to ensure the children were actually attending school.

A revised system like this would also improve awareness among foreign residents about their children’s right to an education.

The government must tackle this problem seriously and implement measures to promote enrollment of foreign children in public or other schools.

Such steps might include providing subsidies to international schools, producing and distributing free Japanese-language learning textbooks and assigning Japanese-language teachers to teach Japanese as a second language to children of foreign nationality.

The future of these children is at stake. I strongly urge the government to make elementary and junior high school education compulsory for children of foreign nationality, too.

* * *

The author teaches international students at Imawatarikita Elementary School in Kani, Gifu Prefecture.  (IHT/Asahi: November 20,2008)

Over 22,000 foreign kids need Japanese-language guidance at school
Japan Today/Kyodo Wednesday, August 1, 2007
Japan Today

TOKYO — The number of foreign children attending public elementary and secondary schools in Japan who are in need of Japanese-language guidance as of last September increased 8% from a year earlier to a record high of 22,413, the education ministry said Tuesday.

The figure, which has risen for four consecutive years, covers foreign children who go to public elementary, junior high and senior high schools, according to a survey conducted by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. Among the students, 39% of them speak Portuguese as their first language, 20% Chinese, 15% Spanish and 11% Tagalog. (Kyodo News)


1% of foreign children not in school Yomiuri Shinbun Aug 3, 2007
At least one percent of registered foreign school-age children living in the country do not attend either primary or middle school, according to an Education, Science and Technology Ministry survey. In addition, the whereabouts of 17.5 percent of children registered as foreign nationals is unknown, making it impossible to confirm whether they are going to school. The number of foreign children who do not attend school is believed to be much higher than 1 percent, according to ministry officials.

The ministry suspects that such a situation probably encourages juvenile delinquency and the illegal employment of such children. It will shortly establish a panel of experts to discuss measures to deal with the problem.

Between fiscal 2005 and fiscal 2006, the ministry asked the Shiga prefectural and 11 municipal governments, including Ota, Gunma Prefecture, and Okazaki, Aichi Prefecture, where many foreign nationals live, to survey the ratio of out-of-school foreign children for the first time.

According to the survey released Tuesday, of the 9,889 registered foreign children aged between 6 and 15 subject to compulsory education, 112, or 1.1 percent, did not take steps to enter primary or middle school or transfer to such schools after moving from other locations.

Furthermore, 1,732, or 17.5 percent, did not live at their registered addresses, making it impossible to contact them.

The ministry believes some have already left the country without notifying municipal governments, while others might have moved to other municipalities in the country.

It suspects that some children do not go to school after their families moved to new areas.

Asked why they did not send their children to school, 15.6 percent of parents, the largest group, cited a “lack of money,” 12.6 percent cited the “language barrier,” and 10.4 percent said they had “immediate plans to return to their home countries.”

Some parents also said their children had to work or take care of their younger siblings.

The parents were allowed to give more than one answer.


‘22,413 need extra schooling’

On Tuesday, the ministry released data which said that as of Sept. 1 last year, of the foreign children and students attending public schools in the country, 22,413 at 5,475 schools needed extra teaching for Japanese language–an increase of 194 schools and 1,721 children from the previous year.

By mother-tongue, 8,633 spoke Portuguese, 4,471 spoke Chinese and 3,279 spoke Spanish.


MOE’s original report cited in Japanese:

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