Photo/IllutrationForeign students learn Japanese at a language school in Tokyo’s Katsushika Ward. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

There's currently no standard test that people need to pass to teach Japanese in Japan, but one is coming soon.

In anticipation of an influx of more foreign workers to the country from April, when a revised labor law goes into effect, the Agency for Cultural Affairs council subcommittee said it will create a standard test to certify Japanese language teachers.

The council subcommittee of the advisory body of the education minister on Feb. 21 announced the move in response to calls to improve language education for non-Japanese people.

Without a standard, it was pointed out, students are left without a reliable method of measuring the quality of the Japanese instruction they receive.

The council said it has come up with a basic framework on certifying professional Japanese language teachers. Under the compiled policy, those who wish to get certified must pass an examination judging their ability to teach Japanese, and then take a teaching practice course in the field.

Further details, including whether the certification will be a government-designated one, will be worked out within fiscal 2019.

Uncertified teachers will still be allowed to teach Japanese. But those with certification will have proof of their ability, which could be beneficial for those who work at Japanese language schools, serve as instructors at companies or teach children at schools.

The Justice Ministry has already set up requirements for Japanese language teachers to work at schools for foreign students licensed by the ministry.

They include completing a course in teaching Japanese at a college or taking 420 lessons on how to teach it at a private institution.

The council is considering exempting those who have already fulfilled those requirements from having to take a portion of the exam.

If a test-taker has done a teaching demonstration in the field as part of a course, it will also likely count toward certification.

The council said it is thinking of using the existing Japanese language teaching competency test, operated by Japan Educational Exchanges and Service, a public foundation, as the examination for the new certification.

Currently, people must pass it to be qualified as a teacher at a Justice Ministry-licensed Japanese language school.

The council will discuss from now how people who have already been working as Japanese language teachers will obtain the certification; if a university bachelor’s degree is necessary; and if the certification needs to be renewed.

About 39,000 people were teaching Japanese in Japan in fiscal 2017, according to a survey by the Agency for Cultural Affairs.

Of these, 9,000 were working at more than 700 Justice Ministry-licensed Japanese language schools across the country. The rest were teaching at Japanese language schools or classes run by municipal governments or private firms, or were community volunteers.

The level of teaching ability required by the different institutions varied widely among the teachers in accordance with the students' needs.