Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW)/日本からの意見

What migrant youths teach us
Shuko Ebihara /  Founder/Director, NPO kuriya

December 18, 2020
The number of migrant youths in Japan is increasing. According to a survey conducted by MEXT: the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology in 2018, the number of children who need Japanese language education was at a record high of 50,759, an increase by 15.5% from the previous survey. Among them, about 4,000 are attending public schools; the number has tripled in the past 10 years.

The majority of the migrant youths who go to public schools came to Japan not of their own volition, but rather at their parents’ behest. Their parents came to Japan to work, from such countries as the Philippines, Nepal or China, and once their lives in Japan are settled, they send for their children left behind in their countries to join them.

I organize programs such as career education at part-time high schools, and afterschool community building activities for the migrant youths. Over the 10 years since I established an NPO to start such activities in 2009, I have come into contact with some 300 such youths.

“I’ve passed the entrance examination, but can’t afford the tuition fee, so I’ll give up going to university and save money by doing part-time jobs.”
“I’ve quit the high school, because I can’t make friends with anyone and the classes are boring. Thought I might as well work instead.”
“I really want to go to university. I want to study more as it’s important for getting a good job, but there is nowhere to learn Japanese which is vital for studying at a university.”
These were the voices of the migrant youths who talked to me.

According to the aforementioned survey by MEXT, among the migrant youths who attend public high schools, the drop-out rate of those who need Japanese language education is about 7 times higher than Japanese students. The rate of such children who graduate from high schools without a decision on their career is 3 times higher, and the rate of such children who neither go for higher education nor find jobs is about 3 times higher than their Japanese counterparts. But when you turn your focus to their countries of origin and native languages, about 60 % of the high school students who attend part-time schools and need Japanese language guidance speak either English or Chinese while others speak Portugese, Spanish, Vietnamese, and so on. Despite the fact that there are these young people who have such language proficiency in Japan, where much needed global human resources are in short supply, their potential remains unutilized, and the sad reality is that these youths ironically cannot have much hope much for their future.

It is easy to understand that the challenge of migrant high-school students is that “they don’t speak Japanese well”. This is just the tip of the iceberg. In addition to the language barrier, there are socioeconomic barriers and barriers specific to foreighn residents. For instance, many of the migrant youths who go to part-time high school pay for their school fees and living expenses, some even send money to their relatives in their own countries. I have seen many of them who want to choose further education but have to abandon the wish as they cannot afford to pay for the tuition fees or living expenses. The difficult socioeconomic situations such as complicated household environment and poverty is one of the contributing factors of low university advancement rate. There is also the barrier of residency status as a unique challenge for foreigners. For example, with their family residency status they are not eligible for a government scholarship, therefore if they have financial difficulties, they find it hard to pursue further education.

In order to tackle these complex challenges, our NPO has implemented 3 projects. First, we established afterschool programs at part-time high schools where both Japanese and foreign students participated and had opportunities to learn diffent culutures and languages from each other. Second, as an out-of-school activity, we introduced a high school internship program, providing opportunities for high school students to join our organization where they could learn life skills through our work while playing various roles such as event operations and PR. In addition to our direct support for them, we have made policy recommendations. When our government started to consider accepting human resources from other countries in 2017, we advocated that “Japan should become a country of choice for foreign human resources”, which, in turn, influenced our government’s policy, “Japan, to be a country of choice”. The previously mentioned survey about the drop-out rate of high schoolers who need Japanese language education was one of the results of the policy recommendations.

For migrant youths to live in Japan with a hope for their future, it is necessary to provide comprehensive support apart from language education. I suggest the “ 4 Cs” for the purpose of social inclusion. The first one is “Care”; a support system to provide professional care in various areas such as welfare, law and psychology to youths struggling with poverty and socioeconomic barriers. The second is “Capacity Building”; the opportunity to nurture abilities to equip them with Japanese proficiency and various skills. The third is “Career”; a job assistance system to secure their economic independence. The last is “Community Building” where concerned parties can casually meet for consultations so that the professional support and activities can reach out to those who need them. I believe that such a comprehensive support system can be established in our society by linking these 4 Cs organically. I think that “ a country of choice” by foreign human resources is a society where the migrant youths feel that growing up in Japan provided more opportunities for them. Furthermore, the issue of social isolation is not a challenge only applicable to high school students of foreign origins. It has many common aspects with the economic and social difficulties faced by some Japanese youths. I cannot help but feel that dealing with the challenges of migrant high school students now will lead to the creation of a safe environment for children with diverse backgrounds and of a support system necessary for the Japanese people.

Shuko Ebihara is Advisor to the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology for the Education of Children of Foreign Nationals.
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

海老原 周子 / 一般社団法人 kuriya 代表理事

2020年 12月 18日







外国ルーツの若者が未来に希望を持って日本で暮らしていくためには、言語以外の包括的な支援が必要だ。筆者はそれを社会包摂の為の4つの「C」として提案している。一つ目は、貧困や複雑な家庭環境に苦しむ若者が、福祉や法律、心理面などの専門的なケアを受けられる支援の仕組み(Care)。二つ目は、日本語や様々なスキルを身につけられる能力育成の機会(Capacity Building)。三つ目は、経済的な自立を確保する為の就労支援の取り組み(Career)。最後に、専門的な支援や取り組みが、きちんと当事者に届くように、当事者が相談しやすい場づくり(Community)。これらの4つのCが有機的につながる事で、包括的な支援体制を社会の中に作っていけると考えている。外国人材から「選ばれる国」とは、外国ルーツの若者たちが「日本で育って良かった」と思える社会だと考えている。更にいうならば、社会からの孤立の課題は、外国ルーツの高校生にとっての課題だけでなく、日本人でも経済・社会的に難しい状況にある若者が抱えている困難さと共通するところも多い。今、外国ルーツの高校生の問題に取り組む事は、多様な子ども達が安心して生活できる環境づくりにもなり、日本人にとっても必要な支援を作る事にもなると感じている。

一般社団法人 日本英語交流連盟