• Kyodo

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A governmental panel on education reform will propose enhancing English-language education in elementary schools by making it an official subject for fifth- and sixth-graders.

As a way of nurturing people who can play an active role amid intensifying international competition, the panel headed by Waseda University President Kaoru Kamata will suggest boosting English-language education in elementary schools, according to a draft proposal.

Teaching English in elementary schools has been mandatory for fifth- and sixth-graders since the 2011 school year. But English is not treated as an official subject and is taught only once a week, mostly by homeroom teachers who have not had proper training in the language.

Upgrading English to an official subject would require more training for elementary schools teachers, adopting a system to evaluate student achievement and preparing textbooks approved by the education ministry.

The education reform body will also call for English to be taught without any Japanese being spoken in some classes at junior high schools and increased student exchanges with non-Japanese through activities such as camping.

The group will propose establishing “special zones for international education,” in which local governments would invite prominent overseas universities to open branch campuses.

To increase the number of college students studying abroad, the panel will urge universities to give credits to students who intern at companies overseas, for the start of the academic year to be shifted from spring to fall, and for experience of studying abroad to be given weight in exams for national public service personnel.

The panel has already reported two sets of proposals on other educational reform issues to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The latest package on English education is set to be finalized by the end of this month.

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