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Kuniko Katz's essays, articles and letters to the editors

Some ideas for the sake of Japanese children overseas:  Scarsdale Inquirer, April 22, 1988

"Scarsdale as a Melting Pot," the Town Club's recent panel discussion on international influences in the village, was indeed very timely and interesting.  The sensitivity of the community to its visiting international families was evident throughout the meeting. I am writing this because some of the topics discussed were identical to those that 1 have written about and discussed in the Japanese media here and in Japan.  1 would like to share them with Scarsdale readers.

I am Japanese, married to an American.  We have lived in Scarsdale since we bought a house here, and our children attend our local public school. My first‑hand familiarity with the issues raised at the meeting comes from my active participation in the Japanese and Scarsdale public school PTA's.  I am currently co‑chairman of the PTA Committee on New and International Families for my children's school.  Last year I was president of the parents' association of the New Rochelle Japanese Weekend School and chairman of the Joint Committee of Parents' Association Presidents and Administrators of the Weekend Schools. Over 4300 children attend these schools every Saturday. After completing my terms of office, I wrote two open letters to then prime minister Nakasone of Japan which were printed in the Yomiuri Shinmbun (A Tokyo‑based newspaper).

In these letters, I discussed the inevitability of having Japanese families with school‑age children living abroad for a number of years as a result of the increased presence of Japanese corporations in international markets.  I opined that the Japanese government has the responsibility of keeping abreast of the educational experiences of Japanese children living outside Japan in order to facilitate their re-entry into Japanese society and to make the best use of their experiences in international living and education.  

Because Japanese corporations, like those from other countries, locate their offices in the economic centers of the world, a potential problem arises when a relatively large number of Japanese speaking children enter a school district.  As a result of their numbers in a school, these children naturally tend to cluster together and speak their own language despite the school's good intentions and efforts.  Consequently, some Japanese students fall behind their Japanese educational development while not being able to reap all the potential benefits of integrating themselves into the world of their American schoolmates.

Many have to divide their time to accommodate their American school studies, tutors, supplementary studies in Japanese 'subjects and attending Japanese school on Saturdays, to help them maintain educational parity with their peers in Japan.

I suggested that the Japanese government encourage the private sector to create full‑time, Japanese language schools where there are large numbers of Japanese students.  Thus, their parents have the option of placing their children in a less. time‑consuming and more cohesively integrated educational environment in which both Japanese and American studies will be presented, primarily in the Japanese language.  These Japanese schools would serve the same educational function as do the already established privately funded English language schools for American children who live with their families in Japan.

I haven't yet received any response to my open letters or to an article which I published in Japan's Asahi Shimbun.  Because of this, I wrote another article, which was printed in last Friday's Yomiuri Shimbun, in which I asked Japanese companies to consider three possible courses of action:

1. Study where their employees reside and which schools their children attend, then suggest and assist incoming employees to find suitable housing in school districts that do not have existing heavy concentrations of Japanese children.  This would afford the Japanese children a greater opportunity to learn English and socially integrate with their American schoolmates.

2. Establish a multi-corporation funded institute to offer financial grants for English-language learning enrichment activities to enhance existing ESL, and bi‑lingual programs in districts with large concentrations of Japanese pupils.

3. If it is not possible to avoid significant numbers of Japanese families living within a school district, then the corporations should underwrite the construction of a Japanese language school or assist already established Japanese educational facilities in building filthier, K‑12 schools to meet the needs of Japanese families in those areas.  In our metropolitan area, the Japanese Educational Institute has, for the past 26 years, organized, staffed and maintained Japanese weekend schools.  Thirteen years ago in Queens, the institute established a full‑time school for children in grades five to nine residing throughout the metropolitan area; this year the school began accepting fourth graders, and, as was mentioned at the meeting, a well‑known private educational institution will open a, Japanese high school in Purchase within the next two years.  I believe that only one fulltime elementary‑junior high school and one high school will not be adequate and. that the corporations should re-examine their responsibilities to the children of their employees.

For the sake of the children, I hope that my suggestions will be favourably received by the Japanese government or the private sector, or that other courses of action will be considered which will benefit those communities where large numbers of Japanese reside.
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