New Accreditation System for Japanese Language Teachers, Schools to Be Established; New Tests Trailed in Dec.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Foreigners learn Japanese in Iga, Mie Prefecture.

A new national qualification, called the “registered Japanese-language teacher,” has been created and will be effective from April 2024, with the aim of improving the quality of Japanese language education.

In tandem with the individual certification, schools that are capable of implementing Japanese language courses reliably, and meet certain standards in terms of curriculum and facility size, will receive accreditation as a “registered practical training organization” by the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Minister. About 1,000 people nationwide took trial examinations for the qualification in December.

The number of foreigners living in Japan currently exceeds 3 million and will likely increase in the future. They are expected to work in the community, and a certain level of Japanese language proficiency will be essential.

There are about 2,800 Japanese language schools operating, with about 220,000 students enrolled. However, the level of academic rigor varies by school. Some accept far more students than their capacity for the purpose of earning more in tuition, while others are said to tacitly allow their students to work illegally.

The law on accrediting Japanese language institutes that will go into effect in April aims to improve the overall quality of both schools and teachers. The national qualification will be required when teaching at an accredited institute. To obtain the certification, test takers must pass basic and advanced written exams and also receive hands-on experience, such as giving classes at a Japanese language school.

The exams will test not only the knowledge and skills necessary for Japanese language education, both in terms of linguistics and culture, but also a basic level of psychology, copyright law and cross-cultural communication.

The trial examinations were conducted in five locations including Tokyo, Osaka and Fukuoka, in preparation for the real exams.

“The school where I work is aiming to be accredited, and I want to obtain the certification myself too,” said a Japanese language teacher, 45, who took the tests in Tokyo. “There were no written questions, and the exams overall weren’t very difficult. But, the audio section to test problem-solving skills was a bit difficult.”

About 260 foreigners study at the Bunka Institute of Languages in Shibuya Ward, Tokyo, and vice principal Manabu Nishimura called the upcoming accreditation system a “major change in Japanese language education.”

“Until now, the screening of Japanese language institutes has focused mainly on the tangible side of things, but more emphasis will now be placed on the more abstract qualities, such as setting targets for a students’ language level by graduation and strictly examining the curriculum. Some schools may have a hard time coping with these changes,” he said.

Unaccredited institutes will be able to offer classes to foreigners living in Japan, but will no longer be able to accept students from abroad. Bunka Institute is checking to see if a curriculum review is necessary as well as examining teaching materials.

The education ministry and the Cultural Affairs Agency planned to begin holding explanatory meetings for schools this month and accept applications for accreditation from May. The examinations for teachers are scheduled to begin this autumn. Institutes that aim to accept foreign students must be accredited as a registered training institute and have all of their teachers obtain the national certification within five years.