Japan’s 60,000 public junior high and high school English teachers may be retrained in order to boost the English ability of Japanese people, education ministry officials said Wednesday.

Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Minister Atsuko Toyama will propose the plan Thursday to Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s policymaking board on economic and fiscal policy, the officials said.

Under the plan, which would run for five years, the nation’s public school teachers would undergo a two-week retraining program, and assistant language teachers would be bestowed teacher’s status.

Japan consistently ranks among the worst of the 21 Asian nations and regions that take the Test of English as a Foreign Language, a yardstick widely used in entrance exams for foreign students at U.S. and Canadian universities.

Toyama believes that by increasing teachers’ linguistic capabilities, the average English-language ability in Japan might approach that of other non-English-speaking countries, the officials said.

The government currently offers domestic English retraining to 2,000 teachers and overseas retraining to 150 teachers annually.

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