Are equality and fairness feasible? A view from Denmark

English: (Green) Denmark. (Light-green) The Eu...

English: (Green) Denmark. (Light-green) The European Union (EU). (Grey) Europe. (Light-grey) The surrounding region. See also: Category:SVG locator maps of countries of Europe (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Lisbeth Lyngs

Lane Kenworthy poses the question “Is equality feasible?” in his text on income equality, and then continues to answer this himself in the first sentence: yes. A high rate of income equality is feasible, as he mentions is the case in Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. The Scandinavian model, where the people get many societal benefits in return for paying high taxes is, according to Kenworthy, indirectly connected to the countries’ low income inequality and “fairness” of the system. As a Dane myself I find this view interesting, and I would like to give my input on the Danish welfare model’s good and bad points and further discuss the “fairness” of this system.

Every child, regardless of where they live or what their parents’ occupation and income is, starts off on equal social ground. Free daycare institutions, public schools and education allow them equal possibility to utilize their abilities—not to worry about getting sick either, since universal health care is also free. Parents get payed child benefits from the state until the child is 18 years old, whereafter every Dane over the age of 18 is entitled to a public support for his or her further education—and should they suddenly be without work, they will receive social security benefits regardless of their position.

All this is only made possible by our taxing fee, which is one of the world’s highest. It is nearly 40% for the average wage receiver, and over 50% for the high wage receiver. In other words, the richer you are, the more you also pay in taxes.

Now, I do not think many Danes would argue that this is not “fair”—they give as much as they take from society. Still, problems arise, e.g. when immigrants gets incorporated in this system. Denmark has a lot of immigrants from Eastern Europe and the Middle East. Eastern Europeans tend to cross the border to find temporary work, while the majority of people from the Middle East come to Denmark in the hopes of finding better life conditions for themselves and stay. And as with the Danes, these people are entitled to receive the social benefits too, after having either worked or lived in Denmark for a certain amount of time.

It is then, that the “fairness” of this system suddenly gets put into question because admittedly, a lot of Danes do not like immigrants “leaching” off of their money in this particular manner. The Polish worker, who has a wife and two kids back in Poland, comes to Denmark to work and thus entitles himself to receive child benefits—which he sends straight home to his family, meaning his Danish colleagues are suddenly paying for people outside their country and society. Meanwhile the Middle Eastern families may experience tough times without work, receive money from the state, and thus further revoke the Danes’ question as to what is a fair handling of their money.

This has been an issue in Danish politics for as long as I can remember. More so since the economic crisis broke out, and Denmark’s economy dropped low and the unemployment rate went up, putting even more pressure on the welfare system’s dependency on people receiving wages and paying tax. The system may be good in creating equality and high social security for its people, but I would argue that just as it has its strength in the people, it also has its weakness. It promises to secure the people in its society, but if too many lose their jobs due to e.g. labor cuts, or their will to pay tax becomes poisoned by the “unfairness”, then where does that lead us?

Lane Kenworthy says equality is feasible, and if the Scandinavian model is proof of this, then yes. But even so, this equal society faces its hardships, relying heavily on the people to support it. Immigrants and a higher rate of unemployed people may put pressure on this system by raising questions of what is “fair” and “just”. An equal society may be feasible, but even then its questionable whether it is “just” and what then makes a society “fair”.

Reference

Kenworthy, Lane. 2007. “Is Equality Feasible?” Contexts 6(3):28-32.

Adolescence and migration: Struggling to fit in

by Tomoka Adachi

Currently in global society, there is a comparatively broad definition referring to people who leave their home country and immigrate overseas as global citizens. An increasing number of transnational migrants have been challenging such concepts of the nation-state (Ohno,S 2008). The term immigration is not unfamiliar at all and has even been highlighted in recent years as more issues have been discovered.

Immigrants can be broadly categorized by generation, based on the period of time in their lives that they moved to the host country. In the more precise language of social-science research, the term second generation is usually reserved for those children of immigrants who are born in the host society, while the children who arrived at a young age and thus receive part or all of their schooling in the new society are called the 1.5 generation, a term invented by the sociologist Rubén Rumbaut (Alba & Waters 2011).

Adolescence is one of the most significant steps in the formation of self-identity. There are  outcomes internally and externally for children who migrate at a younger age. In the first place,  immigrant children have to get used to the new environment in the receiving countries, while apart from other close family members, peers and friends in the home country. Homesickness may appear in numerous forms as the result of the diversity of language usage, diet, customs, school system, and citizens from different ethnic groups. All those features certainly depend on the culture and social similarity and differences between the receiving country and home country.

Nevertheless, the efforts immigrant children should take is because they are disadvantaged under many conditions. They are considering who they are and what they tend to be, whether to change or not in the receiving countries as heavily affected by the relation to their surroundings. While at the same time still requires the recognition from people around. Youth immigration demanded changes to the social identity and culture identity in the social and culture environment. The youth may cope with the psychological pressure produced by such dissonance by seeking to reduce conflict and to assimilate (literally, to become similar) within the relevant social context (Rumbaut 1994). However, the invisible pressure which forced assimilation may lead in another direction, in a  reaction of refusing to fit in. For the 1.5 generation, the possibility of segmented assimilation happens in most cases.

In addition, when it comes to 1.5 generation regarding to assimilation, children more or less have the concept of certain social and culture value of their home country, so that it becomes  more of a challenge to define self-identity in the receiving countries. The border and notion of national identity in relation to citizenship belongings blurs.

Furthermore, the reality is that the mass of society tends to offer limited options to classify immigrants. Categories by questioning whether to belong to one culture or not, to socially belong to our culture or outside of our culture. Hence, the lack of social recognition for those who culturally maintained in the middle, such as the 1.5 generation, led those people to fill in the gap and to struggle to connect their self-identity to nation-state citizenship in order fit in the current social position.

References

Alba, R & Waters, MC. (2011) “The Next Generation: Immigrant Youth in a Comparative Perspective Dimensions of Second-generation Incorporation. New York: NYU Press.

Ohno, S. (2008) “Transnational Citizenship and Deterritorialized Identity: The meaning of Nikkei Diasporas’ Shuttling between the Philippines and Japan.Asian Studies 44(1):1-22.

Rumbaut, RG. (1994) The Crucible within: Ethnic Identity, Self-Esteem, and Segmented Assimilation among Children of Immigrants. International Migration Review 28(4):748-794.

The 1.5 Generation: Succeeding for the Family

by Tomoka Adachi

Among international immigrants, there are issues from family as well society, and those factors impact the 1.5 generation. Various external elements pressure each individual immigrant and help to develop the social life of immigrants in relation to the society, whether in the native country or the receiving countries.

Mostly, the social status in the home country is less significant when people migrate overseas. Social ties and qualified careers become less useful and less important in terms of the immigrant life in the host countries. There is a status shift for immigrants, especially the first generation, resulting in various forms which heavily affect the performance of the 1.5 generation. As a consequence, 1.5 generation children are under family pressure in terms of the parents’ expectations to have better performance and social success compared to native speakers.

I would like to take a personal experience to illustrate this problem. I am a 1.5 generation migrant to Japan. I migrated with my family right after I finished primary school. Even though my mother worked as a high school teacher for 15 years in the home country, she was working in the restaurant, shops and so on service-related sectors for part-time work, which are considered as lower-class jobs in Japan. Thus, I tend to push myself and want to improve Japanese language ability as soon as possible to cope with the school curricula.

There are mainly three reasons that drive me to think that way. The first reason is an acknowledgement of the sacrifice of my family members to fulfill my education and expenses in Japan. My parents are not only giving up their stable careers but also social status in the home country to migrate to Japan. This is an invisible and indirect pressure that has influenced me to take the responsibility to work harder on my school studies and activities outside of school to financially support the family.

The potential disadvantage as a foreigner in Japan is the second reason. Scholars have argued about the notion of ‘immigrant optimism’, in that Immigrant parents tend to have expectations about their children’s advance that are significantly higher than those of natives, or the working-class (Alba & Waters 2011). Although in Japan there are privileges as a foreigner, the 1.5 generation is not able to benefit from them. Sometimes they may even have a negative influence. Compared to my classmates, our starting line is different. I am disadvantaged in various means, such as a lack of language capability, social participation, access to the job market, and the possibility to enter university. Under this circumstance, I have been forced to take more effort to compete as a 1.5 generation migrant.

The limited education support and assistance in school is the third account I took. While I was in junior high school, it was tough for me to catch up with my academic studies because there were fewer learning directions and treatment by teachers to me as an international student. Thus, Japanese public schools, like their counterparts in other countries, continue to face the responsibility of preparing immigrant children for their futures in Japan (Moorehead 2013).

Overall struggles within the 1.5 immigrant generation are likely to be ignored, based on what is appeared on the surface.

Reference

Alba, R & Waters, MC. (2011) “The Next Generation: Immigrant Youth in a Comparative Perspective Dimensions of Second-generation Incorporation. New York: NYU Press.

Moorehead, R. (2013) “Separate and Unequal: The remedial Japanese Language Classroom as an Ethnic Project” The Asia-Pacific Journal 11(32):3. http://japanfocus.org/-Robert-Moorehead/3980

How do US stereotypes of Asian girls affect students’ school performance?

by Akimi Yano

According to Pyke and Johnson (2003), Asian American girls feel that they behave differently, depending on if they are with Asian Americans or with non-Asian Americans. It is because white society has created stereotypes of Asian Americans connoting that whites are more egalitarian than Asians, and has expected Asian Americans to act in a certain way, which affects how Asian Americans think about themselves. Therefore, they feel the necessity to differentiate their behavior, depending on if they are with Asian Americans or they are with non-Asian Americans. Because of the stereotypes, they feel like they are expected to act that way by both Asian Americans and by non-Asian Americans. At the same time, Asian American girls think that Asian femininities are inferior to white femininities. Therefore, some Asian American girls distance themselves from other Asians by following not Asian femininities but white femininities.

According to what I can interpret from the article, there are at least three possible ways of Asian girls’ performance in the classroom:

  • first, being active in the classes because they do not want to be categorized as stereotypical Asian girls;
  • second, being quiet because they feel the pressure to follow the stereotypes of Asians as passive, shy, and quiet;
  • finally, being quiet because they know that a professor would not have them talk in front of the class, by being told by the professor that it is okay if they does not want to talk in front of the class, so they take advantage of it.

However, the authors did not summarize what makes the female Asian students make decisions for their performance in detail. The differences in their performance in the classroom leads to diverse levels of educational achievement as well. In the first pattern, they speaks their minds because they do not want to be labeled as typical Asian girls, which in itself shows that they are not submissive people, in contrast to the stereotypes of Asian girls. This kind of person could do well at school.

In the second pattern, they feel the expectations of being quiet in the classroom by both Asian Americans and by non- Asian Americans, and they are afraid of others’ reactions against them being active in the class, therefore they comply with the expectations. This kind of student might not do well at school.

In the third pattern, they are vocal people but they act as if they were quiet people in order to make use of the opportunity of not having to talk in front of the class. This kind of student could do poorly if they do not start being active in the class. In all these three patterns, they act the way they do since the action leads them to a profitable or at least harmless outcome.

Moreover, in this article, teachers’ stereotypes of Asian Americans such as being passive, shy, and quiet could contradict with their more common stereotypes of Asian American students being “model minorities“; however, the authors did not explain it. Therefore, I analyzed it by myself. Since the targeted Asian American students are second-generation, they are to some extent assimilated into American society, where Asian students think being typical passive Asian is a negative thing when they interact with non-Asian Americans. Therefore, those female Asian students who live up to the standards to be “model minorities” might have intentionally disobeyed the expectations to be stereotypical passive Asian girls differentiating themselves from other Asians in order to be successful in the U.S. society, where white society implies that following white people’s norms is the only way to become successful in the U.S.

Finally, the authors also mentioned as an example of Asian girls feeling that they do not fit the stereotypes of Asian girls “some claimed that because they are assertive or career oriented, they are not really Asian”, yet I think being career-oriented fits the stereotypes of Asian American girls, considering the fact that it it is well known that Asian parents constantly encourage their kids to do well at school and to obtain a good occupation as they did in their country of origin; thus there must be a stereotype of Asian American girls as career-oriented, which the authors did not point out, either.

Reference

Pyke, K. & Johnson, D. 2003. Asian American Women and Racialized Femininities: “Doing” Gender across Cultural Worlds. Gender and Society 17(1):33-53. Retrieved June, 1, 2014, from http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0891-2432%28200302%2917%3A1%3C33%3AAAWARF%3E2.0.CO%3B2-5

Double-talk of the policy: will 200,000 immigrants be superstars for Japanese working women?

by Minako Sanda

In the 1980s, as Hobi neighborhood in Aichi prefecture and Icho neighborhood in Yokohama started to accept factory workers from China and Brazil and other countries, Japan pretty much seems to be getting there – opening up the closed door to the immigrating employees and becoming one of the multicultural nations. Certainly, 30 years after the good observation of such areas of immigrants, Abe is aware of the resistance to immigrants.

“Whether to accept (more) immigrants or not is an issue relevant to the future of our country and the overall life of the people. I understand that (the government) should study it from various angles after undergoing national-level discussions,” (Abe, according to Kawai 2014)

What Japan’s Prime Minister suggested the Lower House Budget Committee has created debates among Japanese citizens to reconsider what Japan is and will be like. Could this be finally a chance for a socially homogenized nation to learn the impact of multicultural immigrants?

Well, if you look at the reality of Japanese society, people can tell that acceptance of immigrants can do very little, if any, to help Japan’s current social issues such as declining birthrate (1.35 this year) and working populations, and a higher welfare burden for the younger generation. I personally believe that merely accepting immigrants who look for any form of employment will end up more expensive than what nation can benefit from the labor work immigrants provide. “Accepting domestic helpers and babysitters” should be discussed after developing solid system to support current working parents.

For example in the area of medical professionals and construction workers, where the declining number of workers is severe, it is not the occupations that are essentially hard, but it is rather there is not enough social welfare to support overworking people covering up for the lack of population. Without a development in social structure, immigrants may end up being thrown into the society without language skill, or no professional occupation after being a factory worker or a babysitter. Even when immigrants get jobs in the name of training, there is currently no support after they are done with the term, no JSL is provided for them. Therefore, this can easily lead them to unlawful employment and illegal stay afterwards. Whether government targets immigrants who are highly-skilled professionals or low-educated factory laborers, what both need is the same welfare, place to live, language lessons and support for their own family. If they want more professionals from abroad to move into Japan, they are inevitably asked to attract them by leveling up the current treatment that separate foreigners from original citizens in terms of employment, education and welfare.

Regarding the acceptance of babysitters and domestic helpers, I think the politicians lack analysis of the Japanese family structure and tendency in putting pressure on women to take care of domestic chores. Having the national policy to internalize the daycare of elderly and house work, and the Japanese nuclear house, all of which are essentially run by women, made women responsible for all family matters and did not allow many wives to go out to work full-time. From this history of family-based nursing and education system, women not only suffer from the physical fatigue, but also the social pressure on them to be the good glue of a well-balanced family. Currently, women who work after getting married and giving birth are increasing, but policies hardly catch up to support them (which is strange, working women is never a new idea before and during WWII, thus society without doubt forced women to stay at home), and now the solution for this is all brought by immigrants nannies and domestic helpers, not a new feminist policy.

Thus, solution to the lack of working population and declining birthrate is not as simple as counting immigrants in. What Japan essentially needs is to face the fact that a better policy to support parent to raise children in Japan, development of better welfare for the area of occupation where there are severe lack of professions, rather than begging immigrants for the quick solution to magically boost the labor population.

References

Kawai, M (2014) 15th May. The skeptical idea: the structure to accept 200,000 immigrants per year. 移民「毎年20万人」受け入れ構想の怪しさ Retrieved on 2014. June 19th from http://seiron-sankei.com/3226

Thai-isation: Removal of Chinese traces in Thailand

Anonymous student post

Although it is stepping back a few weeks, I would like to look at the assimilation of ethnic Chinese in Thailand. I think it is an important case to consider as it generally accepted that Thailand has successfully overcome the difficulties of incorporating the Chinese into the Thai national identity. Balasegaram (2001) writes of how “integration … of the community has been the greatest in Thailand and Philippines”.

To begin, we have covered the theoretical approaches to assimilation and segmented assimilation, which have been generally centred around Milton Gordon‘s “Seven Stages of Assimilation” as a linear process, in one way or another. For example, Alba and Nee (1997)

Garuda as national symbol of Thailand

Garuda as national symbol of Thailand (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

presented highly influential work concerning the “causal mechanisms” that generate assimilation, but this all still lays on the foundations that Gordon laid out. Some have called for a fresh direction of assimilation, not by completely rejecting Gordon’s initial work, but argue that it is outdated in current circumstances, at least in the United States that is. Moon-Kie Jung (2010) offers that we should move away from “assimilation” and instead give greater attention to the “politics of national belonging”.

We have additionally looked at the effects of the assimilated or semi-assimilated, both first and second generation, such as their progression in the educational institutions, the workplace and society’s acceptance at large, including self-identity. From this, I became curious in how assimilation, or attempted assimilation, takes place at the policy-making level. Prof. Moorehead’s link regarding Amy Chua‘s most recent work, The Triple Package: How Three Unlikely Traits Explain the Rise and Fall of Cultural Groups in America (2014), reminded me of a particularly outstanding chapter in her 2003 book, World on Fire: How Exporting Free Market Democracy Breeds Ethnic Hatred and Global Instability, which is titled “Mixing Blood: Assimilation, Globalization, and the Case of Thailand”.

Chua notes that Thailand’s population of ethnic Chinese stands at 10% of the Thai population, but the Chinese are practically invisible following years of assimilation. A closer look however reveals that the “ethnic Chinese” in Thailand account for a “wildly disproportionately wealthy, market dominant … minority” (Chua 2004:179). According to Chua, they dominate the largest banks and conglomerates and “all of Thailand’s billionaires are ethnic Chinese”. Yet, there is a distinct lack of resentment. Intermarriage is much higher compared to surrounding countries, such as Indonesia and Malaysia. So how did this come to be?

Chua answers this question quite simply; “through decades of coerced assimilation” (p. 180). Following immigration from China to Thailand in the 19th century, Thailand began to take a nationalist stance against the Chinese, and it was in fact King Rama VI of Thailand that coined the term “Jews of the East” due to their economic dominance. The Thai government‘s solution to this issue took the form of what we can call “Thai-isation”, through a “systematic and ruthless campaign” (p. 183). Chinese schools in Thailand initially faced severe restrictions, and then were closed down. Chinese books were banned, as were newspapers and social organisations. Thai dress was enforced, Chinese industries were nationalised, remittance of money to China was criminalised and harassment ensued for anyone still showing signs of “Chineseness”. Those with a Chinese surname began changing their names to be more “Thai”, but as one of Chua’s students notes: “You can tell who the Chinese are because they’re the ones with the longest last names. That’s because they felt that had to “out-Thai” the Thai and because the Chinese weren’t allowed to take on a Thai surnames that already existed” (p. 184).

These events clearly show a more extreme angle of assimilation from a state-level. The repression of the Chinese in attempt to erase a minority’s dominance has only really made the issue cloudy and obscures a great deal. I wonder now to what level other national governments have gone to in order to try and create a more “harmonious” society. Japan? Britain? Australia? Have they followed routes like Thailand in the past, and do they today present a more politics of belonging approach?

References

Alba, R. and Nee, V. (1997). Rethinking Assimilation Theory for a New Era of Immigration, International Migration Review, Vol. 31, No. 4, pp. 826-874.

Balasegaram, M. (2001). ‘Analysis: South-East Asia’s Chinese’, BBC News, 29 August 2001. Retrieved from http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/1514916.stm on 22 June 2014.

Chua, A. (2004). World on Fire: How Exporting Free Market Democracy Breeds Ethnic Hatred and Global Instability. London: Arrow Books.

Jung, M, K. (2009). The Racial Unconscious of Assimilation Theory, Du Bois Review, Vol. 6, No. 2, pp. 375-395.

Why are migrants discriminated against?

by Yutaro Nishioka

However you define the term “globalization,” it must be associated with the exchange of goods, ideas and people around the world. As the wave of globalization heightens, people’s movements from a country to another, i.e. migration, also increase. Some can travel easily, while others can’t. According to Katharine Sarikakis’s article, “Access denied: the anatomy of silence, immobilization and the gendered migrant,” contrary to media representation of migrants costing the economy, overall, non-EU migrants make a significant contribution to labor input. However, the “mobility” in terms of geography, politics, culture, legislature, and society is not equally for everyone.  The article says that the status of migrant subjects is described as loss of communication rights, and that migrants, especially female ones, lose their status as an “interlocutor” through silencing and immobilization. The article also states that the status of female migrants is determined by the international gender division of labor, institutional patriarchy and sexual violence.

But why is that the case? Why are migrants, especially the female ones, deprived of their communication rights and mobility? The article quotes, “whether we are willing to debate seriously and pay attention to the conditions of people who are not citizens or voters is a test of this House and a test of our humanity.” So I would like to discuss the possible causes of the discrimination against migrants.

First, I argue that the fact that many people don’t even pay attention to or realize the conditions of the lives of migrants is one of the causes of discrimination against migrants. Those that have little “connection” with the migrants could not care less about the migrants’ lives, because the improvement of the condition of the migrants’ lives would not affect the lives of non-migrants. They are only concerned with and too busy trying to improve their own lives rather than the migrants’, just like the migrants would not be interested in improving the condition of the non-migrants’ lives. This lack of connection – connection in the sense that one does not care about the improvement of the life of a person in a foreign group of people – between the lives of migrants and non-migrants, I would argue, is one of the causes of discrimination.

Another possible cause of discrimination against migrants is associated with human psychology. According to Steven Neuberg, a professor of psychology at Arizona State University, “people perceived as being foreign—perhaps because they look different than us, speak different languages, eat different foods—automatically activate perceptions of disease threat. And groups who are perceived to pose disease threats activate prejudices characterized by physical disgust” (Bushwick, 2011). Psychologists say that it is natural for people to over-perceive threats, which causes emotions of fear, anger, and disgust towards outsiders. “Whether it was Italians or Irish, Poles, Jews, Germans, Chinese or whomever, each of these groups were initially perceived to pose a wide range of threats and consequently evoked powerful prejudices. It was only once people came to see these groups as nonthreatening, usually as they were seen to adopt “American” norms, that they were perceived as Americans,” says Neuberg (Bushwick, 2011).

Neuberg seems to address discrimination only from an individual’s perspective, but his theory can be extended to the societal level to shed light on structural racism. Stereotypes and discriminatory ideas that stemmed from one individual’s interaction with another foreigner gets perpetuated to others and spread to a larger group of people, i.e. society, creating preconceived notions about people whom they’ve never even met.

This is why some foreigners are not perceived as a disease threat, and others are. Those that the natives came to accept as nonthreatening are today less discriminated against. Those that came to be accepted by the natives can be seen by the natives not only as “nonthreatening” but even as “beneficial.” For example, the natives could learn new culture, technology, etc. from the foreigners.

Although Neuberg fails to mention this in Bushwick’s article, historically, his theory has also presented itself as being bidirectional. This means that even after the foreign migrant group was seen as nonthreatening, certain historical events could affect this perception and revert them back to being seen as threatening; e.g. Japanese that had been allowed to live in the US became “threatening” to the Americans during WII when Japan and US were fighting. Therefore, foreigners that were once assimilated could be “re-discriminated” against by historical events.

According to the case study written by Huong, Huynh, Li, Lopez, and Yuda (2009), “migration can offer women important opportunities that include a chance to improve her economic, social, or gender-related status leading to improved lifestyle and self esteem.” However, many of those women are exposed to vulnerability through exploitation, human trafficking and abuse. The study states that much of the work done by migrant women is not regarded as “work,” because the kinds of work they engage in are often care work, domestic work, factory work, and entertainment, which is why their work is often under-paid and under-valued. Receiving countries’ laws often do not support permanent migration for unskilled labor workers, which may put women in a more vulnerable position as they are more likely to engage in undocumented migration and the informal labor sector with poor working conditions, exploitation, low wages and abuse.

As Neuberg suggests, people need to learn to see the “outsiders” as nonthreatening in order to prevent hostility and discrimination against them. We also need to raise public awareness of the issue so as to address the lack of “connection” between the lives of migrants and non-migrants, and the disadvantages that women migrants currently face.

Reference

Bushwick, Sophie (2011). “What Causes Prejudice against Immigrants, and How Can It Be Tamed?” Scientific American. http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/what-causes-prejudice-aga/

Huong, H. T., Huynh, N. T., Li, W., Lopez, P., and Yuda, M. 2010. Migration case study: Why does gender matter in migration? In Solem, M., Klein, P., Muñiz-Solari, O., and Ray, W., eds., AAG Center for Global Geography Education. http://cgge.aag.org/Migration1e/CaseStudy4_Singapore_Aug10/CaseStudy4_Singapore_Aug10_print.html

Sarikakis, Katharine. 2012. Access denied: the anatomy of silence, immobilization and the gendered migrant. Ethnic and Racial Studies 35(1).

JSL and life in Japan

by Moraima Flores

“and asking ourselves, if some LM reach higher education against all odds, what combinations of factors and circumstances have enabled them to do so” (Kanno 2004, p. 245)

I arrived to Japan in August 2007 ready to start high school and without any knowledge of Japanese. I found this school in Osaka prefecture where they accepted up to 14 foreign students per year with no previous Japanese language knowledge required. The entrance exam consisted in three tests: math, English and an essay written in your first language (Spanish in my case). They allowed me to use a dictionary Japanese-Spanish during the tests so it would help me understand what I was asked to do.

Classes started in April, and I remember getting to school all nervous. I met my new classmates to find myself in a class of about 40 students, and all the foreign students (we were 8 that year) were place in the same class. Even though my classmates and teachers were really friendly, I remember feeling really isolated the first few months because I was the only one in the entire 2008 class of about 140 students who could not communicate properly with anyone.

This school was a public school, and from what I was explained, not a very good one given that it’s placed in the middle of the ranking of “how good” or “how difficult” it’s to get in. My teachers would tell me that it was “average” in terms of education. Most of the students graduating from this school would choose to find a permanent job, or would go to specialized schools (senmon-gakko) upon graduation. Still, there was a big number going to university, all of them private and not that well-known, so I remember getting laughed at when I said I wanted to go to Ritsumeikan, because this university was outside the possibilities of my high school. I noticed, though, that the foreign students would go to better universities than most of the Japanese students. In my class, out of us eight, 6 students opted for tertiary education upon graduation, and 4 of those got accepted to either Ritsumeikan University or Kansai University, two of the most prestigious universities in the Kansai area.

Before the year started we were asked to take a Japanese test designed by the school to place us in JSL classes based on our proficiency at the time. There was a big gap between those students who went to junior high school in Japan and those of us who just arrived. In our first year, at the beginning we were all pulled out of our home room and taken to the remedial classes, but sometimes we would be allowed to take classes with our Japanese peers in our home room to see if we could follow or not. I took all of my academic classes, except for English and math, in another classroom, but this varied from student to student depending on their Japanese language proficiency or, in my case, how good one was in that particular subject. In the remedial classes, all of us would carry dictionaries, and were encouraged to stop the class if we had any questions. All of the teachers from the remedial classes would summarize the content in handouts with ‘furigana’, sometimes adding drawings, graphs and even technical words written in our mother tongue for us to understand it better.

The school was flexible in its curriculum allowing their students to choose up to more than half their subjects by 3rd year. The school encouraged foreign students to keep studying their mother language, so it set up “first language” classes for us even if they only had one student for certain languages (like it was my case). To be honest, I sort of refused to take this class because it made me feel even more isolated and the teacher, although a native speaker, was not prepared to teach a high school level student in Spanish. The content was very basic, and she ignored the differences between the way Spanish is spoken in Paraguay and the way it is in her country, sometimes even making fun of my choices of words. By my third year I refused to keep on taking Spanish classes and decided to focus more on Japanese.

The school offered a variety of after school clubs, and one of them was the “Tabunka-koryu-bu” (Multicultural exchange club), to which all the foreign students were active members of. Moorehead (2013) described in his research the ‘Amigos’ room where the students would go to study or to relax from their stressful school environment, we used to call this place the ‘Tabunka room’ at my school. We were called in once a week after class to discuss extracurricular activities like festivals or international exchange reunions we could participate in. There was an active group of teachers in Osaka prefecture who organized numerous international exchange reunions through out the year; they seemed to keep up to date about the curriculum, the students and teachers of other schools to provide mutual support. All the foreign students were welcome to the Tabunka room, which we considered our “safe place.” As Moorehead (2013) described, most of the foreign students would go to this room to talk, play and just relax from our stressing ‘trying to fit in’ life in our home rooms. However, there would always be a teacher there who would usually help us with our homework, sometimes the teachers would hear that we are not doing good in certain subject so they would make us stay after school to study and offer guidance.

The JSL classes weren’t easy; they would be heavy and condensed, a lot of grammar and kanji to learn. The aim of the school was that by the time its foreign students reached senior year they wouldn’t need remedial classes and would be able to study with their Japanese peers in their home rooms. The foreign students were strongly encouraged to take JLPT exams every year, and the ultimate goal was to obtain N1 by senior year. The teachers would set up re-enforcement classes after school, or even during the summer/spring break for subjects that couldn’t be tackled during school hours like preparation for interviews (for university entrance or work), JLPT practice exams, essay academic writing, etc.

As Kanno (2004) and Moorehead (2013) pointed out, JSL education and support for foreign students vary depending on the school and prefecture. I would want to add that it might also vary depending on the level of education, given that in high school the system is designed for students to carry more responsibility than they would in middle school, expected to choose a future path and to find the best way to achieve their goals relying more in previously acquired knowledge than on their parents or teachers; whereas in elementary and middle school the students carry less responsibility, leaving this to parents and teachers alike. Since the school I attended to only accepted 14 students per year, I’m left wondering what happened with the ones that don’t get in. Do they go to other schools? Or they just don’t attend any? The fact that the government has a budget for this kind of programs shows that there’s recognition for diversity in the education system, but as Moorehead (2013) and Kanno (2004) showed, it’s not standardized.

Reference

Kanno, Yasuko. 2004. “Sending mixed messages: Language minority education at a Japanese public elementary school.” Negotiation of Identities in Multilingual Contexts. Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, edited by A. Pavlenko, and A. Blackledge. London: Multilingual Matters.

Moorehead, Robert. 2013. “Separate and unequal: The remedial Japanese language classroom as an ethnic project.” The AsiaPacific Journal 11(32):3.

Because they are not here “just for the time being”: Education for immigrant children

Diversity the norm in one German classroom (fromhttp://www.dw.de/diversity-the-norm-in-one-german-classroom/a-16865390)

by Kyungyeon Chung

Education is an important block for state and citizen-building. Especially in public schools, what is taught in classrooms reflects what is valued in society, and vice versa. Schools are the first and foremost tool governments will reach out to, when in need of public campaign. Many times, this reflection can regard more overarching values such as democracy; sometimes it can be more particular such as desire for unification in South Korea, or “collective communalism” in Japan (Moorehead 2013). In such cases whereby national education system serves to shape citizens, the incoming flow of immigrant children can pose a big challenge to the state- and the society’s perception of itself.

In the article “Separate and Unequal” by Robert Moorehead, remedial language lessons for immigrant children in Japanese public schools are argued to be an ethnic project. Having come back to the ‘homeland’ from Latin America, immigrant children with Japanese heritage required JSL lessons that were supposed to help them reach an equal footing with native-born students. However, in reality, keeping immigrant children in a separate classroom with little structured support, their potential and possibilities continue to be restricted, while native-born students proceed ahead. The author describes how this system gravely fails the students, further separating them along racial lines, and reflects “particular conceptualizations of the children’s’ future lives as members of Japanese society” (Moorehead 2013). Such particular conceptualization stems, at least partially, from Japan’s societal perception of it as an ethnically and historically homogeneous country that values harmony, uniformity, and collectivism.

This sort of challenge is not only experienced by Japan, though. Germany has also undergone several changes to address similar problems. In the article “From homogeneity to diversity in German education”, Anne Sliwka, a professor at Heidelberg University of Education in Germany, describes the issue in detail.

Since the large influx of immigrants in the 1960s, the German government became increasingly aware that the immigrants of diverse backgrounds were not there temporarily but would settle (Sliwka, 2010). At the time, the fundamental paradigm behind German education is the assumption that the homogeneity of learners in a group best facilitates their individual learning (Sliwka, 2010). Based on this assumption, Germany has long maintained a system divided into four or five general categories in which children were sorted into the “right” type of school for them (UK-German Connection, n.d.). However diverse educational needs of immigrant children came to highlight the shortcomings of this generalized system and unrealistic expectation of homogeneity.

Following the recognition of heterogeneous student population, there have been several shifts in the field: more policies are programed to support individualized lessons; data are collected to account for cultural, socio-economic and linguistic differences; growing research on equity in classrooms (Sliwka, 2010). As time passes, this slow yet growing shift in the education paradigm in Germany from the focus on ‘average’ to acceptance of diversity would further encourage the society-wide recognition and appreciation as well. Sliwka writes “changing the way the German educational system views diversity also entails cultural change in the society at large” (2010).

Both cases of Japan and Germany illustrate how education needs of immigrant children can encourage dialogues in the nations to think twice and hard about their perception of itself as a homogeneous nation. However the immigrant population is here to settle, live, and grow. The process will no doubt take a long time and require more than a change in curriculum or educational agenda. However, schools can be a very good starting point. After all, appropriate teaching from early age can lay sound foundations for healthy dialogues in society for a long time to come.

Reference

Moorehead, Robert. 2013. “Separate and Unequal: The Remedial Japanese Language Classroom as an Ethnic Project.” The Asia-Pacific Journal 11(32):3.

Sliwka, A. “From homogeneity to diversity in German education.” Educating teachers for diversity meeting the challenge. Paris: OECD, 2010. 205-217.

UK-German Connection. “The school system in Germany.” UK-German Connection. N.p., n.d. Web. 8 June 2014. <>.

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How to Educate Foreign Children

by Yutaro Nishioka

Robert Moorehead‘s research, “Separate and Unequal: The Remedial Japanese Language Classroom as an Ethnic Project,” addresses education for immigrant children in a Japanese elementary school. He examines the connection between the Japanese as a second language (JSL) classroom and the school’s homeroom classes, as well as the impact of the JSL class on immigrant children’s academic development.

The teachers of the elementary school claim that the JSL classrooms not only help the immigrant students to learn the Japanese language but also enable them to relax from challenging situations in an effort to adapt to the Japanese culture and language. The research reveals that although professional norms in Japanese education value equality, collectivity, and mutual interdependence, the JSL classrooms separate those immigrant children from the regular Japanese students in the homeroom class, by which the gap between the immigrant children and regular children never disappears.

Is this an effective way of educating the immigrant children? I don’t think so. In this blog post, I’d like to discuss the experiences of my friend (fully Japanese) who moved abroad and received education in a context outside Japan at the age of 7, and argue that the way the JSL program attempts to educate immigrant children is not effective.

My friend was born and raised in Japan until the age of 7, when she moved to Switzerland due to her mother’s job. Like a normal Japanese child, she had gone to a Japanese kindergarten and elementary school. Since she had had no previous English education, she initially had an extremely hard time learning English to understand her teachers. Unlike the immigrant children that learn Japanese outside their homeroom classes, she was in the ESL (English as a second language) class only for the first 3 months, and after the 3 months she was treated the same way as the other students. She also went to a Japanese school every Saturday to maintain and improve her Japanese.

The reason why she was in the ESL class only for the first 3 months is that the level of English used in the ESL class was not much different than that of other students because they were only 6-7 years old. She also reports that whenever she was pulled out of the class, she felt “embarrassed and isolated.” She doesn’t know whether the teachers sensed her feelings, but she is glad that she quit taking the ESL so that she stopped feeling uncomfortable any more. After leaving the ESL class, she learned English ‘naturally’ on her own just by studying with the other students without being isolated.

Those who believe in the effectiveness of the JSL program in educating immigrant children in Japan would have to say that she could not have learned English to reach the regular students’ standards. However, the fact is that she quickly learned English to the point where the others would not be able to tell she was not a native English speaker, and she was doing just as well as the other students whose native language was English. In fact, she says she now speaks English even better (or more comfortably) than her Japanese. She not only moved on to high school but also to a university in Canada. I have a few other friends that went through a similar situation as hers, and they all learned English without being isolated from the native students and brought their English to the native level.

Moorehead’s study mentions that while 97 percent of Japanese youths aged 15-18 are in high school, only 42 percent of Brazilians and less than 60 percent of Filipinos go to high school. In contrast, all of the friends of mine that went abroad and acquired English are now in university. This clearly implies the ineffectiveness of the present JSL program.

Reference

Moorehead, Robert. (2013). “Separate and Unequal: The Remedial Japanese Language    Classroom as an Ethnic Project.” The Asia-Pacific Journal 11(32):3.

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