Nearly 90 percent of the 22,526 public elementary schools nationwide introduced activities such as English-language games and conversation lessons in fiscal 2003, according to a survey released Tuesday by the education ministry.

Some 63 percent of the schools offered up to 11 such classes per school year for their sixth grade, while 2.5 percent held more than 36 classes, or more than one such class per week.

At 85 percent of the public schools, homeroom teachers were responsible for running the English-language activities. Native English speakers assisted the Japanese teachers in 60 percent to 75 percent of these classes, the survey found.

It said most schools focused on phonetics rather than writing or reading skills. Over 94 percent of the schools had children in all grades participate in activities such as songs and games, and over 80 percent offered simple conversation lessons to students in the third to sixth grades.

An increasing number of public elementary schools have begun offering activities using English since the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry began recommending the launch of such programs during so-called comprehensive studies classes, which debuted in 2002. The Central Council for Education is considering whether English should be taught as a formal subject at public elementary schools.