The increased passing rates of junior high and high school third-year students’ in their respective Eiken Grade 3 and Pre-2 level tests, as reported in “Secondary schools miss English target” in the April 17 edition, is a positive step forward. That these rates fell below the lowly governmental targets is disappointing.

Education ministry survey results showing that students at both levels failed to meet the 50 percent goal set for them is deplorable. Is it not schools’ overall failure to meet even the government’s targets set for schools?

The article states that holders of Eiken Grade 3 are expected to be able to understand and use English concerning everyday topics. Why then are these topics not paramount in school curricula? If they are, why are they not the focus in everyday classrooms? While no test can accurately gauge overall language proficiency, there are undoubtedly wide gaps in students’ command of the language. Further studies would likely show that exceptional learners and learners who attend English conversation schools to make up for the failure of English programs at their de facto institutions of learning are those who pass the Eiken tests.

If the government truly wants to raise overall levels by analyzing successes and to share that information, it might consider looking at what these exceptional learners and conversation schools are doing. They are not likely focused on preparing for decontextualized lexical language elements that may appear on future high school and university entrance examinations.

Great strides are being made in English education at the elementary level. Unfortunately, little has changed at either the junior high or high school levels. That is where focus on change must be made. Don’t forget the Benesse studies — learners begin to detest English during their first term at junior high school.


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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