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Thursday, 23rd May 2013
In General Japan News,

Proposals under way to change English teaching in Japan

Children in Japanese schools will start to learn English at a younger age if proposals by a panel of experts on education go ahead.

The Education Rebuilding implementation Council, which is led by Kaoru Kamara, president of Waseda University, is planning to submit a draft of its plans to prime minister Shinzo Abe by the end of May.

Under the proposals, pupils would start to learn English before the fifth year, which is when they currently are required to take up the subject.

In addition, the council has suggested that it should be a subject which is taught in schools on a regular basis for all pupils in fifth and sixth grade.

Prime minister Shinzo Abe has already proposed changes to the way that English is taught in Japanese schools.

He believes that under the current system, pupils are leaving schools without the necessary English skills needed to meet the "challenges of an increasingly globalized society".

The Education Ministry is set to propose that anyone who wants to enter university in Japan will first have to demonstrate a good level of English, both written and verbal.

Under these changes, the current Test of English for International Communication will become the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL).

Advocates of the new testing system believe that it is a more practical approach to learning a language as TOEFL has more active listening, writing and speaking components to it.

In addition, the Liberal Democratic Party's education reform panel is proposing that 30 universities in Japan would become advocates for learning English. The colleges involved in this programme would hold over 50 per cent of their lectures in English.

If the plans go ahead, these universities would also enter into student exchange partnerships with colleges overseas.

International education association of Australia executive director Phil Honeywood who studied as an exchange student in Japan as suggested that Japan has some way to come before it will master teaching English.

Speaking at an English language teaching conference, Mr Honeywood said Japan has "retreated to grammar and writing" because of a lack of confidence in speaking the language.

He said this approach has "had unfortunate consequences – [as it] hasn't helped them in creaing citizens of the world able to be fluent in another language".

Related news stories:
English zones to be introduced across Japan (29th August 2014)
Japanese employees offered financial incentive to learn English (15th January 2013)
Japan's escape room experiences now available in English (24th November 2015)