Regarding David John’s letter “The education ministry’s misguided reliance on testing” in the July 14 edition, I have been thinking about the current state of English education in Japan and how little has changed during the 19 years I have been here.
Now in my third round as a junior high school assistant language teacher, I am more appalled than ever at how English is being taught at this level. Great steps are being made at the elementary level, but these are essentially all for naught once learners are faced with exam-based study at junior high school.
There is very little understanding among lower secondary school English teachers of what is transpiring at the elementary level, and these teachers are not capable of continuing the push forward. I regularly attend classes in which Japanese teachers of English hand out worksheets for students to engage in. Many times I serve as a voice for learners to repeat after. The few times I am permitted to administer communicative activities, I have come under criticism because my activities contain language that teachers have not previously covered with learners in their textbooks — despite the fact the same language was introduced in the ministry’s elementary school textbooks.
John’s criticism of the education ministry’s persistence in opting for foreign teachers and outsourcing teaching jobs needs to be further analyzed. The only way to assure that English education in Japan will ever lead to greater communicative ability among more Japanese is to have qualified foreign-bred educators teach — and perhaps lead — in schools.
An elementary education major, I took part in many training opportunities and participated in a number of English education association events in order to make myself more marketable for future employment opportunities. I later earned a master’s degree in education, yet I remain an assistant language teacher with little influence.
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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