YANGON – Myanmar’s first-ever training course for Japanese-language teachers is opening as part of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s plan to invite more Asian youths to work in Japan.
The initial phase of the training program starts this month at the Yangon University of Foreign Languages for students majoring in Japanese and for teachers from private Japanese-language schools, the Japan Foundation said.
The foundation, a government-backed institution that carries out international cultural exchange programs, picked Myanmar as the third country in which to offer such training courses, after India and Vietnam, following Abe’s speech at an international conference in Tokyo in 2017 where he said Japan would choose three locations in Asia to nurture Japanese-language teachers.
Noriyuki Matsukawa, executive director of the Japan Foundation Center for Japanese Language Testing, said the yearlong program aims to support Myanmar’s human resources through Japanese-language learning, recruit a new kind of teacher and improve current teachers’ skills.
“Myanmar has high demand for Japanese-language proficiency,” he said, adding that the number of people in Myanmar taking the Japanese-Language Proficiency Test nearly tripled from 13,099 in 2016 to 37,786 in 2018.
Myanmar was ranked fifth worldwide in terms of the number of examinees this year, coming second — after Vietnam — in Southeast Asia.
“In the past, we teachers had to go to Japan to continue further study,” said Zin Mar Ohn, a former head of the Japanese Language Department at the Myanmar college, which is popularly known as YUFL.
The training program opens doors to teachers from the private sector, which plays a major role in Myanmar students learning Japanese, said Zin Mar Ohn, one of three local lecturers on the training team.
The Japan Foundation also plans to conduct similar Japanese-language training at the Mandalay University of Foreign Languages, Matsukawa said.
The number of private Japanese-language schools in Myanmar increased from 44 in 2012 to 132 in 2015, with the number of teachers rising from 194 to 524 over the same period, according the education ministry.
Myanmar’s modern history of formal foreign-language education began in 1964 through its first Foreign Language Institute, which became YUFL in 1997. The Yangon school started offering a bachelor’s degree in Japanese in 2000.