Japan’s largest textbook publisher violated pre-publication rule


Education ministry officials said Friday that Japan’s largest textbook publisher violated rules by showing an unapproved English textbook to teachers it paid, the latest in a series of revelations that have cast doubt over the fairness of the textbook selection process.

According to the ministry officials, Tokyo Shoseki Co. held an “editorial meeting” in September 2010 at a hotel in Nagoya that was attended by about 30 English-language teachers at junior high schools in western Japan. The publisher paid each teacher ¥10,000 ($85) for their feedback and also covered their transportation and accommodation expenses.

During the meeting, Tokyo Shoseki showed them an English textbook that was being screened by the ministry, despite rules prohibiting involvement by outsiders so as not to influence the screening process, said the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. The textbook has been used since the 2012 academic year.

Tokyo Shoseki is the third publisher found to have broken those rules, after Sanseido Co. and Suken Shuppan.

Tokyo Shoseki, which reported the matter to the ministry Friday, is now investigating whether the meeting influenced the textbook selection process by local education boards.

Sanseido has admitted to holding similar meetings over past years. They were attended by 53 school personnel, including principals, who were each paid ¥50,000 as “editing fees.”

Of those 53, 21 were found to have been later involved in choosing which textbooks to use in public schools from among those that had cleared ministry screening.

  • kyushuphil

    Technicality of the law is one thing. Trusting teachers is another.

    Japan’s native teachers of English do three things that cement Japan’s status as annually one of the world’s worst for teaching English.

    1) They speak more Japanese in the classroom than English. The textbooks, geared toward grammatical conundrums, not human interaction, only fuel the need for reliance on the native language to explicate the texts’ idiotic grammar fixations.

    2) They almost never talk as humans about key issues in the English-speaking world. The Tokyo school district saw the laziness of its Japanese teachers of English so incorrigible that it passed mandates that these teachers must travel and stay at least sometimes to some English-speaking country.

    3) They espouse infantilism. Students could wake up in English classes, could see the larger world as welcome to Japanese culture, if their teachers made an effort of citing great works in Japanese culture — novels, films, poetry, essays — as analogous to human issues worldwide. But Japanese teachers not only don’t travel, but also don’t read in their own culture or in the cultures of the English-speaking world. Content infantilism is the legacy left by this to all textbooks of English in Japan.

    We had better discuss technicalities of the law in textbook formulation with the death wish of too many of Japanese careerists for the grammatical pettiness, human irrelevance, and cultural emptiness they impose on English instruction.