Could you be jailed in Japan if you homeschooled your kids?

By on February 23, 2016

There are many resources about homeschooling in the United States to which some 2 million students have access. Here in Japan, I am surprised by how little information there is about education options for children in non-traditional settings.

Don’t people homeschool children in Japan? The short answer is ‘some do.’ Apparently however, the number of homeschoolers is increasing.

Hiro Inaba, president of The Church and Home Educators Association (CHEA), a Japan-based association raising awareness on homeschooling (through its quarterly newsletters to 1,200 families) says, ” the present number of primary and high school homeschooled children was last estimated by the government to be around 130,000. The education industry claims the number to have reached as many as 1 million children.”

For decades, Japan has been a ‘gakureki shakai‘, an age-old concept of putting great importance in educational achievement by mainstream route.

While Homeschooling is accepted in many countries all over the world, Japan’s Compulsory Education law prohibits such practice. Many homeschooling families therefore, are keeping mum so as not to raise suspicion that could land them in trouble. That makes it difficult for the National Statistics Agency to keep track of the actual numbers.

In an interview with the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), advocates for homeschooling based in Virginia, U.S.A., Hiro said he and his wife Wendy homeschool their kids.

“Wendy and I started homeschooling in the spring of 2000. In the year 1998, my wife Wendy had an interest for homeschooling and she encouraged me to do some research about it. I was the producer of a Japanese TV broadcasting program at the time, so I went to the CHEA California convention and made two programs about the homeschooling movement. We also found out that there was just a handful of families in Japan who were doing home education. Obviously, they were under lots of pressure, so Wendy told me that we should have a channel to encourage them. That was the beginning of Chea Japan.”

While the Japanese law discourages homeschooling per se, the law is also vague as to its interpretation.

Hiro describes the education law in Japan to be in a ‘state of confusion right now.’
He continues, “If we ask the Japanese government about homeschooling, they will say that it is an illegal act. The Japanese constitution and the United States constitution are very similar. We enjoy freedom of basic human rights, freedom of education, parent’s rights, freedom of faith, freedom of study, and other articles of human rights issues support homeschooling. Chea Japan has informed homeschooling families about the practice’s legal aspects with regard to Japan’s Compulsory Education law.”

A top class bureaucrat told Hiro that if parents decide to do homeschooling, ‘the only thing they can do is to send a letter to them (the parents) saying that they are doing illegal things.’   “That means that if parents choose to continue homeschooling, the government is not able to do anything to stop them. So the legal situation of Japan is grave, but we are able to continue homeschooling based on our Constitutional rights,” informs Inaba.

About Ted Tanaka