Regarding Gregory Clark’s Feb. 5 article, “What’s wrong with the way English is taught in Japan”: If I spent 15 minutes carefully showing someone how to do the simple act of juggling three golf balls in the air, and then handed him the golf balls so he could demonstrate how much he had learned, I would not expect that person to be able to juggle.
Clark is correct: There are functional skill levels to learning, and motivation and materials are key to the process. Unspoken in the article is aptitude. It is reasonable to conclude, from their decision to make English mandatory at the high school level, that Japan’s education bureaucrats believe English is as important to every Japanese student as their own language is. Both Clark and I disagree, as I think most people would.
Japan’s educational bureaucrats should embrace what they learned in statistics and realize that those students with a recognized aptitude in English will pursue the subject because of the potential financial rewards and personal acclaim they can achieve. Wasting limited resources on students with marginal aptitude and a corresponding measure of motivation is economically inefficient.
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