Break ‘passive’ English effort: expert

by Tomohiro Osaki

Staff Writer

Efforts to foster a generation of more globally competitive talent will not bear fruit unless Japan breaks away from its traditional penchant for “passive” written English exams, Perry Akins, a well-known expert in the field of English-language education, said Friday in Tokyo.

Akins, former president of the ELS Language Centers, was visiting Tokyo to promote iTEP, a fledgling Internet-based English proficiency test developed by Boston Education Services, of which he is chairman.

Since its launch in 2007, iTEP has been used by more than 300 universities for their admission processes, according to Boston Educational Services.

Speaking of the ever-increasing need to beef up the English-communication abilities of Japanese people, Akins said the nation has long been plagued by too much emphasis on book learning.

The biggest reason Japanese students study English today, he said, is “to pass a passive English-language examination” that focuses too much on their reading abilities and little else.

This entrenched “exam-first” mind-set has caused teachers to “teach what’s only tested,” he said.

Akins also suggested that the curriculum should be revised so students learn the language for a longer period of time during their school week — “at least two hours a day, three days a week.”

Unless these problems are fixed, no significant change will be forthcoming, he said.

  • Ben Snyder

    Something tells me this fell on deaf ears…

  • kyushuphil

    What is Akins smoking?

    He really thinks the Japanese will abandon their passivity-focused training in English?

    He just doesn’t understand the glories of regimentation.

    The Japanese have accepted — totally — totally without thinking — all the culture of advertising which the international consumerism interests have foisted on the once-proud national culture. Neon sprawl. Shopping mall parking lagoons. Fast food. Cars, cars, cars. Robot girl pop groups. And insanely dangerous, generations-polluting nuke power plants further to push it all.

    Once the Japanese decided to accept all this, they realized they couldn’t possibly have schools teach anyone to be active as a human individual — let alone (heaven forbid) to imagine or engage anyone else as an individual. Everyone now nicely fits the consumer demographics marketed to all — with TV smiles as enforcement. Nothing else is necessary in the schools except to keep cramming, keep in dō-ki 同期 same-age groups, keep the regimentation mindlessness going, keep the stress and fear levels ritualized, plus some sports thrown in.

    Akins, the naïve visitor, must clearly be smoking something mind-altering to imagine that the Japanese are ever going to change a bit of this, their suicidal happy, happy.