The difficulty of educating Brazilian children in Japan

Brazilian children in Japan, as well as other foreign children in the country, have a great difficulty: access to education.

According to, Japan is neglecting the basic well-being of its foreign school-age children as a result of policies that do not provide adequate necessary support to non-Japanese residents.


In this way, the country is denying children of foreigners an adequate quality education. And this is already being observed by researchers in the field of education in the country and tends to become a problem of public policies for immigrants.

Educating Brazilian children in Japan is not easy

In September 2019, a report by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sport, Science and Technology (MEXT) published the first official estimate of the number of children out of school in Japan’s rapidly growing international community. A national survey of local boards of education found that up to 20,000 children of compulsory school age of non-Japanese nationality – nearly one in five of the total – may not be receiving an education.


That number would put Japan’s international community on par with Sub-Saharan Africa, the region in the world with the highest number of children out of school at the primary level (according to a recent UNESCO report).

How do we explain such a low rate of school attendance among foreign school-age children in Japan – an industrially advanced country known for its high academic standards?

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This is likely because, in Japan, non-Japanese residents are under no obligation to enroll children in their care in any school. However, if you wish to enroll them in a public school [de ensino fundamental ou médio]their children are entitled to the same free education offered to Japanese students, in accordance with international conventions on human rights.

However, there is also an impasse for parents in trying to carry out these enrollments without mastering the language. In addition, it becomes more difficult to carry out these enrollments if the parents are thinking of returning to their home country someday. That is, it is very likely that they would rather educate their children in a school for foreign students than place them in a Japanese school where they will not have contact with the contents necessary to return to their country of origin.


However, schools in Japan aimed at foreigners, in addition to being expensive, are not constantly inspected. In other words, there is no control over both the quality of teaching and the structure itself.

These foreign children end up abandoned by Japan’s own government. As much as their parents pay taxes and are working in the country, education, in many cases, is something that the government cannot repay to foreigners.

This situation was wide open in November 2020, around the time the third wave of COVID-19 infections hit Japan. At the time one of these ethnic schools became the center of a major outbreak. The source of the infection appears to have been non-Japanese workers who were forced to continue commuting to work as their work situation did not allow teleworking. The virus spread to their children and from there to others at school. But local agencies lacked the information and mechanisms to intervene in a timely manner.

Punished by this turn of events, the central government established a commission to examine health and hygiene in ethnic and international schools. A survey was carried out and the commission compiled a report highlighting the serious gap between Japanese schools and ethnic schools, which often lack wards and qualified health professionals. Still, there was no follow-up aimed at protecting the health and lives of immigrant children, even as the pandemic continued.


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