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.


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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Should Japanese schools teach multiculturalism?

by Masataka Yamamoto

Recently, the world internationalizes in everywhere and a lot of people’s exchange is going on in society. To understand the people who came from different places requires some knowledge of different cultures. Japan is one of the developed countries in the world so we have to know other cultures to play a role in international society as Japan.

I don’t think any Japanese schools teach multiculturalism so far. The word multiculturalism describes that the education of human race, ethnicity, gender, economic hierarchy, handicap problem, and sexual orientation. It is necessary to support students to realize who they are in many groups so they can understand what really they are. However, many old people try to protect Japanese culture itself from other cultures’ intervention. Also Japanese geographical features are island so it has fewer relations with other cultures, compared to countries which are located on the continent. Japan has fewer chances to touch with other cultures so Japan should more freely to know other cultures.

In my opinion, Japanese school should teach multiculturalism in every school. It is because I have an experience of living in countryside of the United States and there were many black people and fewer Asian people. White people and black people were friendly to each other, but not to Asians. They called us like narrow eyes, kamikaze, yellow monkey, whatever that describes Asian or Japanese people badly. I felt very uncomfortable by being called such discriminatory words, so I thought it needs to disappear. This happened in the U.S., and Japan has fewer chances to get with other cultures than the U.S. If many foreigners go to Japanese elementary school or junior high and Japanese students don’t have multicultural education, what will happen? I think students will have discrimination against different cultures. To prevent this from happening, every Japanese school should teach multiculturalism for understanding of other cultures. Also knowing other cultures have merits when people going to other countries. For example, people in U.S. are mixed together as German, Russian, African, Chinese, etc. so to know other cultures is important in international society.

In conclusion, Japanese school should teach multiculturalism to understand other cultures and learning multiculturalism will need when people go to another places. People are exchanging everywhere in this International society so learning of multiculturalism will be main tool to have a communication with people from different places.