Online ISSN : 2187-5278
Print ISSN : 0387-3161
ISSN-L : 0387-3161
Reconstruction of Kyoyo (Basic Knowledge and Skills of Citizens) in a Multicultural Society : Mainly Related to Illiteracy of Foreign Residents in Japan
Hiroyuki Nomoto
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1999 Volume 66 Issue 4 Pages 436-442


The objectives of this paper are to characterize the Kyoyo problem in Japanese society; where the number of foreign residents has been increasing rapidly, and to discover how we can reconstruct Kyoyo in a multicultural society through education. Particularly, I have paid attention to the difficulty in communication through Japanese characters 'Kanji', and syllabary 'Hiragana' and 'Katakana' . Many newcomers who have come to Japan since the l98O's are still unable to read Japanese. They don't have enough skills in reading and writing Japanese, which are basic skills indispensable for citizens to exercise their own civil rights. I think that this is a serious problem in Japanese society from a multicultural perspective. In July and August, 1998, I conducted research into the skills of reading and writing Japanese utilizing a questionnaire, survey and interviews with 80 Japanese-Brazilian residents who live in a housing-development in Toyota-city, Aichi prefecture. Through that research, I found: (1) Most were unable to read and write Kanji, including the characters for "Kinshi" (prohibition), "Chui" (to pay attention), "Kiken" (danger), "Kin-en" (non-smoking) which are most important signs to function effectively within society; (2) Although most couldn't read and write Kanji, many were able to read and write Hiragana and Katakana; (3) In spite of poor Beaming conditions, they have the desire to Team Japanese Kanji characters. Considering the results of this research, I made three related proposals to maintain communication skills which are indispensable for the multicultural community: (1) To list the Furigana beside all of the Kanji used on signboards in public spaces and institutions such as civic halls, hospitals, bus stops and railway stations; (2) To simultaneously provide the acquisition of reading and writing skills in Hiragana and Katakana as the basic required skills for residency in Japan; (3) To provide multi-lingual services to newly-arrived people until they have acquired the required skills. In order to put these three proposals in practice, we have to pay special at1. ention to literacy education in Hiragana and Katakana for foreign residents. Although the number of Japanese classes has been increasing, it is not adequate to meet the needs that have increased due to the rapidly increasing number of foreign residents. The result is that just a portion of' the residents have access to Japanese classes. Under inadequate learning conditions, it is difficult for foreign residents in Japan to acquire the necessary reading and writing skills in Hiragana and Katakana. I think it is necessary to create a new basic education system that will allow the residents to learn Hiragana and Katakana and for the national and local governments to be obligated to support this system. In order to develop this new system, it seems to me that the implementation of anew concept "Social Basic Education" similar to the Adult Basic Education systems in Europe and North America would be the most effective. Another consideration to put these three proposals into practice is to organize the educational activities to allow Japanese residents to become aware of the necessity to maintain channels of communication with the increasing number of foreign? residents. These communication skills are the most important basic skills required to protect the community against social disorder. It is necessary to develop the Beaming program with practical goals and to organize quality learning in order to create a new culture that encompasses living together with foreign residents.

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