Efforts to foster a generation of more globally competitive talent will not bear fruit unless Japan breaks away from its traditional penchant for “passive” written English exams, Perry Akins, a well-known expert in the field of English-language education, said Friday in Tokyo.

Akins, former president of the ELS Language Centers, was visiting Tokyo to promote iTEP, a fledgling Internet-based English proficiency test developed by Boston Education Services, of which he is chairman.

Since its launch in 2007, iTEP has been used by more than 300 universities for their admission processes, according to Boston Educational Services.

Speaking of the ever-increasing need to beef up the English-communication abilities of Japanese people, Akins said the nation has long been plagued by too much emphasis on book learning.

The biggest reason Japanese students study English today, he said, is “to pass a passive English-language examination” that focuses too much on their reading abilities and little else.

This entrenched “exam-first” mind-set has caused teachers to “teach what’s only tested,” he said.

Akins also suggested that the curriculum should be revised so students learn the language for a longer period of time during their school week — “at least two hours a day, three days a week.”

Unless these problems are fixed, no significant change will be forthcoming, he said.

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