Takahiro Fukada’s Feb. 26 article, “Are schools ready for English?,” accentuates elementary school teachers’ concerns about teaching English as a compulsory subject to fifth- and sixth-grade students from the beginning of the new academic year. University professors express anxiety about the number of classes, including that one class per week is like “pouring water onto a desert.” Yet, the education ministry got it right when it reported that “to further internationalize the Japanese people and nurture human resources who can work competently in international society, it is necessary to bolster English education as a national strategy.”
As an instructor who has taught English at the elementary school level for three years now, I would like to offer some insight from the scene of action. It is human to lack confidence when doing something for the first time. Elementary school teachers should know that they are not alone. A native English teacher is present in class to offer his/her assistance and expertise more often than not. A Japanese assistant teacher, trained and well-versed in teaching English to elementary school students, is there to back up the homeroom teacher.
A curriculum covering the two grades of elementary school is planned to continue into junior high school, where English communicative classes differ from compulsory English. So, the knowledge gained over a total of five years will be utilized.
At least this is how things look in Saitama City. But not just here. Many municipal boards of education have taken things into their hands and have developed original programs. The results and the comments are so far more than positive!
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