Evening Classes: Create More Spaces for Anyone to Enjoy Benefits of Right to Education

Evening classes at public junior high schools intended for those who were unable to receive compulsory education for various reasons have become increasingly important. It is hoped that such classes will be places where anyone can receive the benefits of the minimum level of the right to education.

These evening classes were originally established to provide compulsory education to people who were unable to attend and graduate from elementary or junior high school due to the hardships of living in the turmoil that followed World War II.

In the past, many students in such classes were people of advanced age, but currently nearly 70% of students are foreign nationals who were unable to receive compulsory education in their home countries or in Japan. An increasing number of Japanese people who graduated from junior high school as a formality without attending classes due to truancy or other reasons has also been seeking continuing education in these classes.

According to the 2020 population census, elementary school was the highest education level achieved by about 800,000 people, while about 90,000 others did not even graduate from elementary school. The reasons vary, such as family circumstances and truancy, but this is not a problem that can be overlooked.

Not having completed compulsory education can limit one’s participation in society. The law on securing educational opportunities, enacted in 2016, stipulates that those who wish to study should be provided with learning opportunities equivalent to compulsory education, regardless of age or nationality.

In this respect, these evening classes have a greater role to play.

The nation has 44 such classes, mainly in urban areas, but the number of students attending the classes totaled only about 1,500, far below the census figures for those who have not completed compulsory education. Many people may not even know that these classes exist.

The central government has set a goal of having at least one such class established in each prefecture and each government ordinance-designated city by fiscal 2027. Efforts to set up such classes have also been increasing in regional areas.

On the other hand, some local governments have been reluctant to establish such classes due to a lack of expertise, such as on how to identify students who want to study in the classes and how to develop curriculums for such students.

In addition to financial support, the central government must advance the provision of information on these issues. For those who live in remote areas and have difficulty attending classes, the use of online classes should also be actively considered.

In these classes, the teaching side also requires ingenuity.

As the Japanese language skills of foreign nationals vary widely, there have been many cases in which foreign students have difficulty understanding classes sufficiently. It is necessary to create multiple curriculums according to the level of Japanese language proficiency.

For truant students who graduated from junior high school without receiving sufficient education, it is essential to provide individual guidance to allow them to learn again from the elementary school level.

Such efforts are likely to be limited if they are made only by teachers and staff of evening classes. It is important to provide these students with education in a meticulous manner by working closely with entities such as organizations that support truant students, and by taking advantage of Japanese language classes run by local governments.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Nov. 4, 2023)