TOKYO — A record-high 34,335 foreign students at public schools in Japan required Japanese language training as of May last year, reflecting an increase in foreign workers in the country, an education ministry survey showed Tuesday.
The figure as of May 1, 2016, represented 40 percent of foreign students and topped the 30,000 mark for the first time since comparable data became available in fiscal 1991. The ministry attributed the rise to a bigger inflow of workers from around the world to Japan, which is seeking manpower in the run-up to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.
The number was up 5,137 from the previous survey in fiscal 2014. By mother language, the biggest group of 8,779 students or pupils spoke Portuguese followed by 8,204 speaking Chinese, 6,283 Filipino and 3,600 Spanish, according to the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology.
Meanwhile, the number of students who receive special Japanese language training stood at 26,410, or 76.9 percent of those in need, down 6 percentage points from the previous survey. The ministry says it will bolster language assistance.
Among those requiring language training, 22,156 were enrolled in elementary schools, 8,792 in junior high schools and 2,915 in high schools. Each three category saw an increase from the previous survey.
The number of schools with foreign pupils or students rose by 883 to 7,020, with nearly 60 percent of such schools having only one or two foreign pupils or students.
The survey showed the highest concentration of foreign students requiring language training or assistance in Aichi Prefecture in central Japan at 7,277, followed by Kanagawa Prefecture near the capital at 3,947, Tokyo at 2,932 and Shizuoka at 2,673. Those areas host factories of major automakers and other companies.
Since the number of municipalities accommodating such students rose only slightly by 5 to 825, the ministry believes foreign students are concentrated in same municipal areas.
The number of Japanese students requiring Japanese language training, including those who returned from abroad or were born between Japanese nationals and foreign spouses, also hit a record 9,612, up 1,715 from the previous data.