The Business of Overseas Study: Behind the Scenes at Language Schools
Language Schools Facing Serious Problems (#1 of 5 part series)
Recent reports have suggested that there are a number of challenges facing Japanese language schools, both in relation to students’ attitude to study and the way in which some educational institutions operate.
Last February it was revealed that playing cards and gambling had become a serious issue in class at a vocational college in Fukuoka, which international students attend. The situation had become so extreme that there were even reports of students betting up to ¥20,000 a day. One student also described their place of study as a “casino school.” Furthermore, students and school officials have revealed that it is common to see people asleep at their desks or watching movies on their smartphones during class. Others have described how they have seen students cheating on tests and teachers dozing off while classes are still in progress.
Many international students come to Japan to study at language schools for two years before entering vocational colleges or universities. The application process for institutions of further learning usually require documents from the language school, such as a graduation certificate, academic transcript, and attendance record. However, there are cases of language schools not issuing these documents on time, which greatly restricts students’ choices and often leaves them unable to apply to their desired university or college.
One student shared their experience of wanting to attend a vocational college outside of Fukuoka Prefecture, only for staff to repeatedly stress the difficulties of moving schools. In the end, the application period passed before the necessary documentation was issued to the student in question. It was reported that 80% of the student body at one vocational college in Fukuoka Prefecture was made up of graduates from an affiliated Japanese language school, which highlights how some students are not pursuing other educational opportunities. One former staff member spoke of pressure coming from the top to secure a high number of students, claiming that an active approach to helping students take exams for other educational institutions would see a decrease in the number of students at their own school.
The first section of the Nishinippon Shimbun series on immigration explored issues surrounding “student migrant workers,” or rather, the trend that has seen international students working part-time while attending Japanese language schools and vocational colleges. The second section will look at the cut-throat business practices of companies based in countries such as Nepal which organize for students to study abroad.
For international students from developing countries, their first point of contact is not the immigration authorities, but their Japanese language schools who provide them with the necessary documents for entering the country. Immigration services are short-staffed and rely on Japanese language schools to inspect a potential student’s eligibility to gain residence.
Within the context of a declining birth rate, the number of vocational schools accepting international students from Japanese language schools is increasing. But many Japanese and vocational schools are facing serious problems. Questionable and poorly run educational institutions are currently emerging more and more.
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.