Japan’s government is planning to set up a nationally recognized accreditation program for teachers of Japanese, to help improve the language education of foreign workers, as the country prepares for an immigration expansion.
The certification program could start as early as 2020. Under legislation taking effect this month, Japan will offer new residency visas that admit blue-collar workers solo and allow higher-skilled immigrants to bring their families with them.
This new path to long-term or permanent residency, designed to ease the nation’s labor shortage, will increase the need for Japanese language education to help with integration.
There is currently no official standard for Japanese-language teaching skills, and many classes outside metropolitan areas are taught by volunteers. It is hoped that the proposed certification program will boost the appeal of teaching Japanese as a second language by making it a specialist role, which should lead to better pay.
The number of nonnative speakers studying Japanese in Japan reached 240,000 in 2017, up 43% from 2010, but the number of teachers only grew 18% to just under 40,000 over the same period, according to the Cultural Affairs Agency. Nearly 90% of these instructors were volunteers or part-time teachers.
Japan had an all-time high of 2.64 million foreign residents last June, up 30% from the end of 2012, according to the Justice Ministry, and the figure is expected to keep growing.
Certified teachers will train immigrant workers and their families, as well as students from abroad. Aside from working in Japanese language schools, they will also teach in grade schools and provide training for businesses and municipalities.