EUGENE LANG and YUTA SHIMASAKI, Nikkei staff writers
TOKYO — Foreign high school students across Japan will be able to count Japanese language classes toward their graduation requirements starting in fiscal 2023, as the country works to make its education system more accessible to non-native speakers.
The Education Ministry will update relevant regulations this month so that specialized language classes can count toward up to around 30% of credits needed for graduation. Students can receive the classes at their own schools or at other institutions.
Japanese high schools currently have the ability to offer language classes if they choose. But one-on-one tutoring sessions do not count toward school credit, and often are only available as an after-school activity. The change is designed to encourage more schools to offer Japanese language classes and to adopt a more flexible approach to teaching non-native students.
Japan has been wooing more foreign talent in recent years, many of whom have brought family members. The number of public high school students requiring special help with Japanese increased 2.6 times in a decade to roughly 4,100 in fiscal 2018, according to the Education Ministry.
More high schools are now working to better accommodate non-native Japanese speakers, such as by creating special quotas for foreign students.
Still, foreign students continue to face major hurdles in Japan. A fiscal 2017 survey showed that 9.6% of students who are not native Japanese speakers drop out of high school, compared with 1.3% across all public-school students. Just over 42% of non-native-speaking students enter universities or trade schools, well below the public-school average of 71.1%.