• Soka, Saitama


is in an economic meltdown: plunging exports, factory closures, layoffs, corruption, shoddy workmanship, a drunk finance minister. So why not let Japan’s English teachers create a rescue plan? Am I a raving loony? Well, consider: English teachers are every bit as qualified to forge economic policy as politicians are to conceive a way to make Japan a nation of English speakers through the public education system.

I have been meeting with Japanese high school teachers from around the country who are desperately searching for a way to fulfill the government’s edict that high school English classes be taught in English beginning in 2013. I asked if they were given a blueprint for making this change, including curriculum, goals and assessment, as well as how this fits into the bigger picture — the university entrance exam system. They are as clueless as everyone else.

I would wager that the architects of this master plan probably have not gone anywhere near a classroom since their college days, yet they are the “leaders.” So we end up with declarations such as: Instead of the current 1,300 words that students must memorize, they will now have to learn 1,800 words. (Just as in fixing the economy — throw more money at it! Brilliant! Why didn’t I think of that sooner?)

If the prime minister wants a nation whose citizens speak English proudly and correctly, the government had better get some educators involved in the plan, and be prepared to make some changes that matter. Somebody needs to translate this and put it on the prime minister’s desk. Then, again, why listen to me? After all, I’m just an English teacher.

ray andrews

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