“Despite an increase of Japanese learners overseas, teachers, especially native speakers, are still lacking. We would like to enhance the quality of Japanese language education through the project,” Hiroyasu Ando, President of the government-backed Japan Foundation, told a press conference at the Japan National Press Club in Tokyo.
“Despite an increase of Japanese learners overseas, teachers, especially native speakers, are still lacking”
The new initiative will be managed through a new ‘Asia Centre’ operating under the Japan Foundation, which will work to promote Japanese language, culture and sports throughout ASEAN’s ten member countries, particularly in the run-up to the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.
As well as the teaching programme, the centre will help to support young artists from Asian countries, preserve cultural heritage sites in the region and promote academic exchanges.
“As the London Olympics in 2012 featured art, we want to do so. I hope the 2020 Olympics will be the one not only for Tokyo, but also for the Asian region,” Ando added.
The first cohort of teaching assistants will be sent to Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines this September, having applied to the programme within Japan. They will spend at least a year working in local high schools, fostering relationships and helping to develop exchange programme events centred on Japanese culture.
Speaking at the Japan Foundation’s launch event in Tokyo, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told attendees: “I hope the younger generations in Japan and other Asian countries will be tied through sympathy and friendship, have the same dreams for the future and begin the next stage [in their relationship].”