The government hopes to have 1,000 native speakers of English assisting English classes at public elementary schools in fiscal 2006, up from 73 at present.

Taro Aso, minister of public management, home affairs, posts and telecommunications, told a news conference Tuesday that the number of assistant teachers will initially be increased to about 400 in fiscal 2005.

The move is aimed at supporting local governments’ efforts to provide elementary school students with more opportunities to get accustomed to English and other cultures, ministry officials said.

Elementary schools are operated by local authorities, which receive subsidies through the ministry.

The assistant teachers were first assigned to elementary schools in fiscal 2002 and teach English to third- to sixth-grade students.

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