While studying in the United States as a 2011 Fulbright visiting scholar, I strongly felt that there was an urgent need for Japan to create a new elementary school environment of progressive education with skilled teachers. As Japan’s global presence has diminished, “the nurturing of global human resources” has become a main concern for Japanese universities.
As a university English-language teacher, however, I want to stress that it is not at the university level but rather at the elementary school level that the learning necessary for acquiring communication skills should start. Japanese education reform has not been bold enough to substantially improve public education, especially elementary schools. Are Japanese elementary school teachers trained well enough to facilitate a student’s effective, as well as cognitive, growth by connecting teaching and learning meaningfully to the outside world? Are they trained to develop children who inevitably will be required to get involved skillfully in negotiations with various people of diverse cultures?
The principal concern of Japanese education reform after 1984 was human resources. It seems the reform has not been successful in taking the teacher into account as an agent of change.
We must be bold enough to break out of the traditional image of the Japanese teacher and school. Global human resources development will never be possible without improving the quality of elementary school teachers and their school environment. What Japan needs now is a progressive elementary school environment and skilled elementary school teachers. Now is the time for Japan to treat elementary school teachers as true professionals.
The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.