Only 20 percent of Japanese public high schools have quotas for accepting foreign students in entrance exams for the academic year starting April, a Kyodo News survey showed Saturday, despite the government's guidance to introduce such special entry frameworks.

Around 750 out of 3,880 public high schools, including evening schools, had quotas for foreign resident students who passed special admission exams, the survey showed. Many lacking such frameworks are concerned over whether they can provide proper Japanese language instruction to such students after enrollment.

They cite difficulties in offering Japanese lessons for students with different levels of proficiency and finding interpreters for different kinds of foreign languages as reasons.

Students take a Japanese language lesson at Ishigeshiho High School in Ibaraki Prefecture, eastern Japan, in January 2024. (Kyodo)

The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology calls on education boards at each of Japan's 47 prefectures to ensure that public high schools accept foreigners, stressing the importance of upper secondary schooling to facilitate work opportunities.

As compulsory education in Japan ends after junior high school, students need to take entrance examinations like those of universities to go on to high school or vocational school.

According to the ministry, foreign students in elementary, junior high and high schools deemed needing Japanese language instruction totaled more than 47,000 in fiscal 2021, jumping 1.8-fold from fiscal 2012.

Among those requiring Japanese language lessons, 89.9 percent entered high schools in fiscal 2021, compared with 99.2 percent of overall junior high school students who did so the same year.

Some 5.5 percent of the foreign students admitted to high schools later dropped out, compared to 1 percent for high school students overall, the ministry said.

In Ibaraki Prefecture, around 100 foreign students from 15 countries currently study at Ishigeshiho High School. The school offers two hours of Japanese language lessons per week to those in need of such classes.

"It is difficult to support all the foreign students perfectly. Japanese language instruction is a process of trial and error," said Koji Sato, a teacher in charge of career guidance. "We tell them that they can have more options for their future universities and jobs if they study hard now."

Foreign resident students could consider a private high school or an international school, but they tend to be expensive or are located sparsely.

"A person who has only graduated junior high school is unlikely to be able to find a full-time job" in Japan, said Miho Yoshida, a professor at Hirosaki University's Graduate School of Education specializing in the sociology of education. "There is also a need for support measures after a foreign student is enrolled (in high school)."

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