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Beginning in the 2020 academic year, which starts this April, teaching of English will become mandatory at elementary schools. Pupils in the third and fourth grades will go through “foreign language activities” for 35 hours per year, or one or two classes a week, to learn the basics of English language. Fifth- and sixth-graders will study the language for 70 hours a year with the goal of being able to read, write, comprehend and speak English with a vocabulary of 600 to 700 words.

The start of English education is being shifted from junior high to elementary schools because Japan ranks close to the bottom among 29 Asian countries in English-language proficiency. The nation is trailed by only Laos and Tajikistan in TOEFL scores.

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