Since the education ministry announced its plan in October 2013 to start English education from the third grade of elementary school, more than half a year has passed and the ministry still has not decided when to start. Ahead of the Tokyo Olympics in 2020, Japan faces the problem of how to improve and enrich English education. I think English education at an earlier age is key to globalizing Japan.
Japan is putting the English-from-the-third-grade plan into practice too slowly compared with other countries. According to the ministry, other countries including South Korea, France and Thailand have already implemented English education programs from the lower grades. And in South Korea, TOEFL scores have improved rapidly. In Japan, fifth-grade students started in 2011, but TOEFL scores have not improved. This shows how ineffective English education is at present. Japan should start English education at an earlier age.
Furthermore, communication skills for Japanese people are low in general. English is how we communicate with people from other countries, so it’s important that younger elementary school students begin learning how to communicate with others, and that schools help them understand how important and fun English education is. English education is not just about words and grammar.
To show results in improving English skills before the Tokyo Olympics, Japan should start English education from the lower grades in school as soon as possible.
The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.
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