|

Let’s discuss English language education in Japan

This week’s featured article

JIJI

Junior high and high school students in Japan have failed to meet the government’s targets in all four English skills: reading, listening, writing and speaking.

Data released by the education ministry showed that starting English lessons in elementary schools and having classes taught in English have not produced significant results so far.

The figures come from a survey conducted last June and July of around 90,000 students at about 500 public high schools and some 60,000 students in 600 public junior high schools.

Under the basic educational promotion plan, by fiscal 2017 half of junior high students are expected to have English proficiency equivalent to Grade 3 of the popular Eiken English proficiency test when they graduate. Similarly, half of high school students are supposed to have English proficiency equivalent to Grade 2 or Grade Pre-2 by the time of their graduation. However, the proportion of students in their final year of junior high who reached the targets was 26.1 percent for reading, 20.2 percent for listening, 43.2 percent for writing and 32.6 percent for speaking.

The students in their final year of junior high are the first generation that received English classes when they were in elementary school. The hours of English classes and the number of English words taught in junior high school were also increased for them.

Some 10 to 30 percent of high school seniors passed the targets. The proportion of those who surpassed the goals increased some 7 percentage points from the previous year for reading and writing and advanced some 5 points for listening. The rate for speaking skills was unchanged. These high school students are the first generation to receive English education under the ministry’s new curriculum guidelines, which include the introduction of classes taught wholly in English.

A ministry official said their improvements came from the change of the English class system, but the scores were low and it can’t be said the change is achieving the desired results. Around 40 percent of junior high and high school teachers conducted integrated lessons of the four skills, including discussions on listening content.

The ministry official said a lack of skills among teachers is considered one factor and better training programs are needed.

First published in The Japan Times on Feb. 3.

Warm up

One-minute chat about school.

Game

Collect words related to studying, e.g., dictionary, homework.

New words

1) equivalent: equal in value, amount, function, meaning, etc.; e.g., “What is the equivalent of $3 in yen?”

2) surpass: exceed; e.g., “He hopes to surpass the world record.”

3) integrate: to bring together, or combine one thing with another; e.g., “The foreign students integrated easily into college life.”

Guess the headline

E_ _ _ _ _ _ skills of Japanese s_ _ _ _ _ _ _ fail to meet targets

Questions

1) What were the government’s targets for improving English skills?

2) About how many students have hit the targets so far?

3) What does the ministry official think could be a reason for this?

Let’s discuss the article

1) What did you think of the English class in your school?

2) Do you think English education is improving in Japan?

3) How do you think English education could be improved in Japan?

Reference

日本の英語教育は”使える”英語を教えられていないのではないかという議論はもう長い間繰り広げられてきたように感じられます。教育の在り方に”正解”はないのでしょうが、それでもこの議論に一石を投じようとした試行錯誤の結果は残念ながらまだ実を結びませんでした。

言語を習得するにはそれなりの時間をかける必要がありますが、その時間を何に焦点を当てて使うかということはやはり重要です。これから先、どのように日本の英語教育は変わっていくべきなのでしょうか。

英語が話せることで広がるチャンスは、これからの世代にはますます増えていくことでしょう。学校でも、また学校を卒業した後も、良い学びができるような社会を期待したいものです。

「朝英語の会」、はじめてみませんか?

「朝英語の会」とは、お友達や会社の仲間とThe Japan Timesの記事を活用しながら、楽しく英語が学べる朝活イベントです。この記事を教材に、お友達や会社の仲間を集めて、「朝英語の会」を立ち上げませんか? 朝から英字新聞で英語学習をする事で、英語を話す習慣が身に付き、自然とニュースの教養が身につきます。
「朝英語の会」の立ち上げ、もしくは参加に興味がある方はこちらまで。
株式会社ジャパンタイムズ「 朝英語の会」運営事務局
Phone: 03-3453-2337 (平日10:00 – 18:00)
email: info@club.japantimes.co.jp | http://jtimes.jp/asaeigo

  • Steve van Dresser

    In the rest of the world, almost all Japanese language teachers areJapanese. Those few non-Japanese who teach Japanese have spent years studying in Japan. In Japanese public schools, there are plenty of English teachers who can’t speak English who are “licensed” by the government to teach, but are there any native speakers of English who are “licensed”? Maybe there are some, but in my 25 years in Japan, I have never met any.

    English language education in Japan will improve when the license to teach English depends more on English ability than on graduation from a Japanese teachers college. Until there are native level speakers doing the teaching in classrooms, Japanese English education is doomed to continued failure.

    • blondein_tokyo

      Non-native teachers can be very good teachers. The rule should be “has at least a 4 year degree in TESOL”.
      Students don’t learn because even if a person is a native speaker, that doesn’t mean they know how to teach the language.
      In fact, even the Japanese teachers I’ve had here didn’t know how to teach Japanese. I stopped taking lessons because it’s a waste of money to sit and listen to someone read Japanese news articles at me.

      • Don’t be gullible

        Being an English teacher for 20 years, I have found that if the student’s native language is strong e.g Japanese or Mandarin, they would not want to use English to communicate as the former is very adequate for all communicating purposes .

    • Don’t be gullible

      Japanese are not fluent in English because Japan does not have an English-speaking culture in daily conversation, unlike non-native English countries like Norway, Sweden , Singapore or Malaysia. In the latter, English is widely spoken daily , along with native languages.

  • blondein_tokyo

    If the lessons in schools are anything like the lesson printed here, then it’s no wonder students aren’t learning anything. This is the equivelent to the work of a lazy eikaiwa sensei who has no training in teaching whatsoever and brings newspaper articles to every class and just reads to their students.
    Come on, JT. This might be okay for a student’s self-study, but it is not teaching any particular skill or sub skill. What exactly is the lesson point? It certainly won’t improve either speaking or listening.

  • blondein_tokyo

    If the lessons in schools are anything like the lesson printed here, then it’s no wonder students aren’t learning anything. This is the equivelent to the work of a lazy eikaiwa sensei who has no training in teaching whatsoever and brings newspaper articles to every class and just reads to their students.
    Come on, JT. This might be okay for a student’s self-study, but it is not teaching any particular skill or sub skill. What exactly is the lesson point? It certainly won’t improve either speaking or listening.

  • KenjiAd

    You can’t shove any learning to people who don’t see the necessity of it.

    The only reason that they study English is for college exam. There is no true motivation to learn English language among the vast majority of Japanese students.

    Can you blame them? Imagine making Chinese language a mandatory education in the USA. How many students will be fluent?

    English is important because it happens to be the current international language. So teach Japanese students some basics for 3 years. After that, however, make it optional. Make English a “hobby.”

    Those who choose this “hobby” will be much more motivated to learn. And I’m sure they will be reasonably fluent.

  • Jay

    I have met many good speakers of English among Japanese teachers, so I don’t think this is the problem. Rather, Japanese seem to always rely upon a translation to verify or reinforce the meanings of the English texts they study, like having the subtitles on when you watch a movie. The result is that Japanese remains the language of study, not English. Japanese students should be taught the way we teach native-speaking children–through the reading of easy picture books, questions and answers to engage the student, role play, games, music, drama, writing practice–from alphabet copying to composition. These classes should be taught in English only by native OR Japanese teachers, at least 3-5 times per week for about 30-60 minutes a session (time increasing with age). All of the material can slowly increase in difficulty and complexity as students grow and learn.

    • Janetjeilson3

      :f158Work At Home….Special Report….Earn 18k+ per monthfew days ago new McLaren. F1 bought after earning 18,512$,,,this was my previous month’s paycheck ,and-a little over, 17k$ Last month ..3-5 h/r of work a days ..with extra open doors & weekly. paychecks.. it’s realy the easiest work I have ever Do.. I Joined This 7 months ago and now making over 87$, p/h.Learn. More right Here:f158➤➤➤➤➤ http://www.dailyfinancialreports.com.­nu .❦2:❦2:❦2:❦2:❦2:❦2:❦2:❦2:❦2:❦2:❦2:❦2:❦2:❦2:❦2:❦2:❦2:❦2:❦2:❦2:❦2:❦2:❦2:❦2:❦2:❦2:❦2:❦2::::::f158….