Regarding Takahiro Fukada’s Feb. 26 article “Are schools ready for English?“: I have taught Eigo Noto (English Notes) in various elementary schools for three years now, and in my opinion, Japanese teachers do not need to be alarmed. Eigo Noto comes with a CD and a very detailed teacher’s guide, written in Japanese, that has lesson plans already prepared. If a teacher lacks confidence or skills, he or she does not need to use any English at all. Just use the CD for listening and repeating exercises, then discuss the topic in Japanese.
The teacher’s guide also has background information on the topics and suggestions for extra activities. I wish more homeroom teachers would actually read the guide before starting to teach. Teachers should also consider that their “no we can’t” -attitude reflects negatively on students.
As for Wakayama University English-education professor Haruo Erikawa’s opinion that elementary English education is a fruitless effort with only one lesson a week, in the elementary schools that I have visited, Eigo Noto has helped students feel more positive toward English so that they can comfortably use the alphabet and speak English in front of their peers. This hopefully gives them a good base when they start the more grammar-centered English education in junior high school.
Starting English education early helps, at least a little, to bridge the gap between the more fortunate who go to cram schools and less-privileged students.
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