Number of foreign students at public schools who lack Japanese language skills hits record high

The number of non-Japanese children at public schools who are lacking in Japanese language skills and who need remedial lessons hit a record 34,335 as of May last year, the latest survey by the education ministry showed Tuesday.

The number, up 17.6 percent from the previous biennial survey conducted in 2014, accounted for 42.9 percent of the 80,119 non-Japanese children at public elementary schools, high schools and other public facilities across the country, according to the survey.

The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology conducted the survey covering about 35,000 public schools. The survey looks at children who cannot hold simple daily conversations in Japanese and/or those who have difficulty learning at school due to poor secondary language skills.

Of the 34,335 children, 76.9 percent take additional Japanese language lessons, down 6 points from the previous survey.

“We have taken various measures, such as training teachers and allocating Japanese-language lecturers at schools. But the number of (foreign) children is growing so fast that we have been unable to catch up with it,” Yasuhiro Obata, head of at the International Education Division of the Ministry, said in a phone interview with The Japan Times.

Of the many languages spoken by students from overseas, Portuguese tops the list with 8,779 children, followed by Chinese with 8,204, Filipino at 6,283, Spanish at 3,600, Vietnamese at 1,515 and English at 982, the survey showed.

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