Govt plans to introduce certification system for Japanese language schools, national qualification for teachers

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
A student takes a class at a Japanese language school using an electronic dictionary in Tokyo(photo taken in 2018).

The government has drawn up a plan to establish a system to certify the nation’s Japanese language schools and make teaching a state-qualified profession. The move is aimed at improving the quality of Japanese language education, which is thought to vary widely. Presently, teachers are not required to hold state qualification.

According to the Immigration Services Agency of Japan, as of 2021, there were about 2.76 million foreigners living in Japan. This is the second consecutive year for the figure to drop due to the novel coronavirus — from 2.93 million at the end of 2019 — but overall, the number has been on an upward trend in recent years.

A law to promote Japanese language education enacted in 2019 requires that Japanese language education levels be maintained and improved, and the government has been studying concrete measures toward that end.

The Cultural Affairs Agency is among the entities working on the matter, with a view to submitting related bills to an extraordinary Diet session this autumn.

Under the envisaged certification system, the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry will check Japanese language schools to see if they meet standards pertaining to curriculum, facilities and class hours, and certify the schools if they pass muster.

To maintain standards, the system will also authorize the ministry to issue advisories or orders and require certified schools to submit reports. The ministry will be able to share information online about certified schools in multiple languages, while schools can state they are government certified when recruiting students.

To teach Japanese at certified schools, teachers will have to hold a ministerial registration certificate. The certificate will be issued to people who pass a written test to determine their Japanese language teaching ability and who complete a teaching practice program.

The newly established national qualification will likely be called “Registered Japanese-language teacher.”

The Justice Ministry currently recognizes about 800 Japanese language schools across the nation.