Language education against emigrants in Japan

by Minori Takada

Today, in the world (especially in multicultural countries), the education of the language for the emigrant becomes the problem. Therefore, I report the actual situation of the Japanese education for emigrants in Japan, and in the end I would like to make a suggestion “what we need” for its improvement.

As you know, Japan shows severe posture for immigration intake, and the ratio of foreigner residing in Japan is remarkably lower than other countries. According to OECD, the ratio of the foreigner among the total population in Japan was 1.7% in 2009.

Many of them came to Japan as “emigrants” to get job. And some of them get married after having a job in Japan and get a child, so the linguistic education for the child of the emigrant often becomes the problem in Japan.

To say it plainly, the Japanese education for the children of emigrants is not enough. We can understand this situation from looking at this chart. (Economic and Social Research Institute Cabinet Office Tokyo, Japan. 2012)

Citizenship School attendance (%) Students who go on to high school (%)
Korea 99.8% 93.0%
China 99.4% 85.7%
Philippine 98.1% 59.7%
Brazil 98.1% 42.2%
U.S. 94.3% 87.7%
U.K. 99.5% 98.1%

This is the percentage of students who go on to a higher stage of education.

There are six nationalities’ data, Korea, China, Philippine, Brazil, U.S. and U.K. Here is the average percentage of schools that are compulsory education, and all of them show high numbers. However, percentages of students who go on to a high school greatly falls. This is why that they cannot keep up with classes, because some of children cannot understand Japanese well.

Why does such a result appear? I checked what kind of linguistic education for emigrants is done in Japan.

According to the Agency for Cultural Affairs research, the number of the facilities that teach Japanese to immigrants was 1,832 in 2011. And in addition, more than 70% are accounted by public facilities. And there are four main supports that are done by the Japanese government.

  • Financial support for the administration of the Japanese classroom.
  • Working-out of the research expense about the Japanese education.
  • Maintenance of the teaching materials about the Japanese education.
  • Holding of the Japanese education meeting for the study.

From this, we can understand that “support” by the Japanese government is only basically financial or superficial things.

Then, what kinds of policies do countries (where a lot of emigrants succeed in their linguistic education) perform?

I nominated Germany for an example, because it is said that Germany resembles Japan.

The biggest difference is that there is an enforcement of the native language education at government level. This is called as “intensive teaching methods”, and children can use only German all the time when they are at school. And in addition, German government holds special measures against children who do not have enough skills to speak and write.

“The education for the emigrant” is established in a school law clearly in Germany, and it may be said that such an education is accomplished well.

In conclusion, based on these things, I point out a refinement of the linguistic education for the emigrant in Japan.

I think the government should be concerned with support more directly. The government should perform not only the support that indirect and financial, but also a more concrete support.

And to plan an opportunity to learn Japanese for as a public thing, as the agency for cultural affairs says, it is necessary to calculate numbers from the results of conventional various educational fronts and accumulation of future data, and research about the language use situation of the foreigner and the Japanese ability.


移民統合における言語教育の役割 ―ドイツの事例を中心に― (金箱秀俊 pp.50-76. 2010. 国立国会図書館調査)

日本における外国人の定住化についての 社会階層論による分析 ‐職業達成と世代間移動に焦点をあてて‐ (是川夕 2012. ESRI Discussion Paper Series No.283)

文化庁 海外における移民に対する言語教育

文化庁 世界、日本、地域から見る日本語教育

The Atlas for Emigration:

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