Language, Literacy, and Sociocultural Studies ETDs


Kelly King

Publication Date



The purpose of this study has been to apply the lens of Critical Race Theory (CRT) as a means for understanding how Japanese as second language (JSL) learners are racialized in Japanese public schools and the degree to which Japanese public middle school teachers support or interrupt these processes. The approach taken in this study was qualitative; data was collected between December 2008 and September 2009. The data includes an initial survey to middle school teachers, two semi-structured interviews with 16 middle schools teachers, participant-observations in JSL and other subject area classes at four schools— a total of twenty eight 50-minute classes, an observation notebook and reflective journal, and document analysis of official documents from schools, the central and local governments, and the Japanese Ministry of Education, and Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT). It was found that the JSL policies and curricula of the four schools observed varied: JSL students in two schools with similar JSL populations received strikingly different education. Furthermore, a number of participants expressed a belief that JSL students from Brazil and Peru, who are of Japanese descent (Nikkeijin), are less studious or care less about education than their mainstream Japanese and Asian newcomer' classmates. It is argued that such beliefs may allow teachers to rationalize the problematic educational policies toward JSL students, including the disconnect between MEXT and local governments and schools regarding JSL curricula, and the problematic Fundamental Law of Education (FLE) which mandates compulsory education only for Japanese nationals. Although some teachers in the study worked to disrupt the racialization of Nikkei students in their schools, teacher beliefs about Nikkei students appeared to support a core belief that assimilation is the goal of public education. The findings from the study suggest that Japanese public school teachers who work with JSL students are cognizant of the discriminatory effects of the FLE. It is argued that by actively working to change the FLE and improve the quality of JSL curricula, they may disrupt the racialization process and improve the quality of education for all students.'


Race discrimination -- Japan, Discrimination in education -- Japan, Japanese language -- Study and teaching -- Japan -- Foreign speakers, Middle school teachers -- Japan -- Attitudes, Education and state -- Japan

Document Type




Degree Name

Language, Literacy and Sociocultural Studies

Level of Degree


Department Name

Language, Literacy, and Sociocultural Studies

First Committee Member (Chair)

Lopez, Nancy

Second Committee Member

Kubota, Ryuko