The Business of Overseas Study: Behind the Scenes at Language Schools
Issues Surrounding Japanese Language School Inspections (#5 of 5 part series)
The first part of this series reported on issues that have arisen at Japanese language schools, such as in-class gambling. Another matter that was dealt with was students who get trapped in a system that sees them advance to affiliated Japanese language schools, but limits the chance to pursue other educational options. An official from the Fukuoka Immigration Bureau explained that these students are experiencing a form human rights violation due to restrictions being placed on their freedom of choice. The individual stated that although the Immigration Department offers guidance every year, the schools claim that they are behaving properly.
Interdependence Between the Immigration Department and Language Schools
Nishinippon Shimbun wanted to clarify what kind of administrative guidance has been offered and how frequently it is being offered, so they asked to see the Fukuoka Immigration Bureau’s related administrative documents. The request was denied by the Office claiming that making the information public might infringe on the rights of the school or corporation, violate their legal interests, and be bad for business.
Nishinippon Shimbun responded by requesting that information be made available relating to international students’ residence status and what is expected of Japanese language schools. A 58-page document was provided by the immigration bureau, but many sections were redacted relating to these issues. The reason given for not disclosing this information was that making it public might impact how administrative work is carried out.
Instances where information is not disclosed shows a refusal to explain why the human rights of international students are being violated and placing greater importance on the school’s’ interests and the immigration bureau’s administrative process instead. Nishinippon Shimbun’s reporters asked the Fukuoka Immigration Bureau to explain the full picture of in-school gambling, the system that sees students trapped and left without choices, as well as other suspicions of fraud, but were simply told that answers cannot be given on individual cases.
A Japanese-language school manager commented, “The Immigration Bureau specializes in examining documents, but leaves all the real work to language schools,” which have to deal with international students entering the country and the practicalities of their stay. The Society for the Promotion of Japanese Language Learning used to carry out on the spot checks at language schools once every three years, but that responsibility has fallen under the jurisdiction of the Immigration Office since 2010.
A staff member at the Immigration Bureau said that they are unable to carry out regular inspections due to lack of personnel and that in reality they have asked language schools to carry out the work on their behalf. The decision not to disclose information to Nishinippon and to black out information suggests that there is a sense of interdependence between the side monitoring (Immigration Bureau), and the side being observed (language schools).
Japanese language schools are under the supervision of the Immigration Bureau, but it is the local authorities who hold authority to authorize whether or not a vocational school can be established. The private school promotion division of Fukuoka Prefecture has said, “We do not give out subsidies, so we do not ask for detailed reports from private institutions unlike private high schools.”
The background to the emergence of educational institutions that are schools in name only, is a systematic problem that has seen gaps emerge in the inspections meant to keep the business of studying abroad in-check.
New Era of Immigration in Kyushu
The number of workers from abroad, including international students and technical interns in Japan, exceeded one million for the first time last year. This group of people form an indispensable component of the workforce, irrespective of the government’s position on immigration. Read more installments from this series here.