As Japan moves into an increasingly global stance – in terms of trade and international relations, as well as its culture opening up to foreign concepts and perspectives – a governmental panel on education is looking to propose major reforms in the way English is taught in elementary school classrooms. The panel is set to pass proposals for major educational reforms, centered on English-language education as an official subject for fifth- and sixth-graders.
Amid intensifying pressure for Japanese workers to be competitive internationally, the panel – headed by Waseda University President Kaoru Kamata – will suggest boosting English-language education in elementary schools, according to a draft proposal that was made available. Currently, teaching English in elementary schools has been mandatory for fifth- and sixth-graders, this since the 2011 school year. The problem seems to be that English is not treated as an official subject and is taught only once a week, and mostly by teachers who are not properly trained to teach the language. Upgrading English to an official subject would push for more training for the teachers, adopting a system to evaluate student achievement and preparing textbooks approved by the education ministry.
Aside from this, the education panel will also suggest greater interaction with international academic institutions, as well as sending more students in exchange programs overseas. This push includes establishing “special zones for international education,” in which local governments would invite prominent overseas universities to open branch campuses locally. To increase the number of Japanese college students studying abroad, the panel is suggesting for universities to give credits to students who intern at companies overseas, as well as giving greater weight for experience of studying abroad in exams for national public service personnel.
The panel has already submitted two sets of proposals on educational reform issues to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, for his office’s review. These latest suggestions on the way English language education is carried out in Japanese elementary schools is set to be finalized by the end of this month, and then submitted to the education ministry and the office of the prime minister.
[via Kyodo News]