The capital’s proposal to improve high school English (“Tokyo to build English-language immersion facility for kids” in the March 24 edition) sounds like it has sunk to a watery grave even before it could be floated. The idea that a facility alone will somehow magically solve the country’s abysmal record on foreign-language teaching is so full of holes.

Immersion is an outdated failure which sounds more like forcible drowning. It is a concept rejected by current pedagogical theory. Regular self-study and testing in small amounts is now widely accepted as a superior alternative.

Much worse is the detail of the proposal itself. The math just doesn’t add up. If 200,000 children a year taking one-day classes is the total, then each child just gets a few hours of trite cosmetic teaching a year, unless the building is large enough to house nearly a quarter of a million kids!

Even more fallacious is the vital matter of staffing — judging by the commercial intent of the companies named, minimum investment in teaching staff can be expected — unqualified and low-paid workers shipped in cheaply from countries with the lowest incomes, or even worse, Japanese nationals lacking the proficiency and acumen to improve children’s grasp of or interest in something that taxpayers are already giving the education ministry billions for with no results.

Just look at what’s on offer — first there is the fee structure itself which seems very high for children, especially when one considers that most of it will go straight into the coffers of the companies involved, and next to nothing for all any capable language teachers required to realize such an undertaking.

Have any background checks been made into how the companies chosen won the right to run this project? Almost certainly there are those in power who will benefit from the setup far more than any school child taking part.

The bottom line is that those who should really have been most involved in the decision-making process that led to this new white education elephant, competent language teachers, were not only completely shut out from the start but will also not be among those doing any of the actual teaching.

David John

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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