The education ministry plans to make English lessons obligatory at elementary schools in line with a recommendation issued by one of its panels Monday, ministry officials said.

The recommendation by the Central Council for Education envisions revising educational guidelines for the requirement as early as the next fiscal year, which begins Saturday, for implementation in later years.

A report by the panel says the classes should focus on fostering communication instead of conversational ability or grammar.

Given that other parts of Asia, including South Korea and China, have made English compulsory in elementary schools, some members of the panel pointed out that Japan should consider following suit as a national strategy.

However, panel members cool to the idea have argued that the conditions are not yet ripe for introducing English at that stage, citing such obstacles as a lack of sufficiently qualified instructors. They have also said young children should be taught other subjects, including Japanese, more properly.

At present more than 90 percent of elementary schools hold English-related activities.

The plan to make English compulsory also aims to ensure that pupils get the same education in English no matter which elementary school they attend.

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