Over the last decade, there’s been a surge in the number of Japanese language schools in Japan. According to the Ministry of Justice, the country now has 711 dedicated language schools (as opposed to universities or trade schools that also offer Japanese lessons), which is 1.8 times as many as there were in 2008.
Obviously, all those new schools couldn’t exist without a growing number of students, too. However, the Japanese government is concerned about whether or not what those ostensible students are doing in Japan actually qualifies as studying.
Foreigners in Japan on a student visa are allowed to work up 28 hours a week. That limit is bumped up to eight hours a day during school vacation periods. Meanwhile, to maintain a long-term language student visa, students must meet certain class-time requirements. Under the current law one criteria is the completion of at least 760 units over the course of one year (one unit being defined as 45 minutes of in-class instruction).
However, some schools also offer short-term intensive courses with a an especially high number of class hours each week. By enrolling in these programs, some students are able to meet their yearly 760-unit requirement in as little as six months. With their visa secure, some of them enroll in no other courses for the year and switch over to working eight hours a day until the next year, meaning that they’re essentially spending as much time working in full-time positions as they are studying Japanese, blurring the line as to whether they’re in Japan for education or employment.
But as of October, the Japanese government aims to close that loophole. That’s when a new set of regulations goes into effect, and from then on language school students will be required to be enrolled in classes for at least 35 weeks out of the year.
“We are making these adjustments to return language schools to their original purpose,”a Ministry of Justice spokesperson said, “as a place where students enroll so that they can learn the language.”
The Ministry of Justice isn’t laying all responsibility for the unwanted situation on the students themselves, however. It’s also criticized language schools that promote their intensive programs, either openly or implicitly, as a way to have a full-time job in Japan without a work visa. The ministry is also addressing the possibility that some language schools might be acting primarily as visa providers and failing to provide their students with proper instruction. The new regulations also include stricter rules for school operators, such as requiring the hiring of additional staff is a single person is acting as director of multiple schools.
Sources: Yahoo! Japan News/Asahi Shimbun Digital
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