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What changes would you like to see in Japan's English education system?


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Start by hiring qualified foreign teachers as ALT's. Just because you have a 4-year degree does not qualify someone to be a teacher. I happen to be a credentialed teacher.

Kill the JET program.

Revise the law so that BOE can hire and retain competent foreign teachers for more than 3 years, giving them all the benefits of a Japanese teacher.

Shift the focus to reading, writing and speaking. Quit focusing on grammar.

That might be a good start. But the dinosaurs have to just go away.

3 ( +11 / -8 )

In general, stop making everything about tests.

Specifically, pay experienced native English teachers a livable salary.

I’ve been teaching in private high schools and colleges here for nearly twenty years. My annual salary is a quarter less than it was 15 years ago and I have a good salary by comparison.

the public school ALT has become a sham. Agencies are offering ¥10,000-¥12,000 per day, which includes transport costs. Teachers only get paid for the days they work with no salary for the vacation periods, school events, etc. The annual salary works out to around ¥180,000. It should be no surprise that the vast majority of public school ALTs are from non-native English speaking countries like, the Philippines, India, Sri Lanka and even Russia.

the sad fact is, after most Japanese have studied English intensively for ten years through secondary and tertiary education only 7% of people have a basic proficiency level (above 650 TOEIC) and only 12% have an intermediate proficiency in any second language.

7 ( +9 / -2 )

Do the hustle

Well said!

3 ( +4 / -1 )

A complete overhaul of the English curriculum. I don't know what it is specifically but there's abundant proof that it doesn't work

6 ( +7 / -1 )

I'd like to see English education like they have in Scandinavia, for example, but only for those who want to study English. It shouldn't be a compulsory subject. 90% of Japanese people will never need English in their lives.

They should only hire English teachers who have a proper teaching qualification from their home countries (e.g. a PGCE from the UK). No more jokers on holiday funding their drinking habits. They should pay them a proper wage, with all the benefits that Japanese teachers get.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

Replacing the current English education system with a 1-2 year exchange program in English speaking countries would do a lot to help with the language acquisition.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

Don't teach them outdated and no longer used English words and phrases. Memorizing only a certain set of words and sentences won't help you learn a language. If Japan would like to overhaul its English education system, they should copy the ESL curriculum in North America that actually helps non-English migrants to efficiently learn English.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

Replace the entire English education system with a 1-2 year exchange program to an English speaking country.

Fosters development of natural conversational English as well as social and economic bonds across borders.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

Students have to spend more time on their English studies with a focus on reading (interesting materials) and writing. To do so the study load must be reduced (cutting out some other subjects). In schools the absurd number of hours wasted on bukatsu has to be drastically reduced. Learning a language requires TIME + passion (curiosity / interest). In Singapore students read English for pleasure, in Japan only for benkyo and exams. Japanese can't communicate by speaking because they have no vocabulary (which can only be acquired by reading, reading, reading and writing).

Communication (words + culture) is like sushi (rice+fish) Japanese English studies are soooo boring focused as they are on grammar and language to the neglect of culture in its broadest sense (neta) and its fascinating and fundamental connection to language. Much more can be said and done on changing English education, but the Japanese proverb suki koso mono no jozu nare (if you like something, you'll become good at it) is the no-brainer starting point for learning any language.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Don't know why "living large" got all those thumbs down.

He said what has to be said.

All that can be added is:

Get rid of those stupid tests students at junior high and high school have to take.

Get better textbooks, not that kind of junk "we" are using at elementary schools now.

Provide exchange programs to all students at junior high and high school level.

And so much more.

9 ( +9 / -0 )

If Japan is going to use foreign teachers, have them teach the Japanese teachers of English, not the students. Having a pet gaijin perform in front of a class of 40 or 50 students usually descends to the level of a zoo, and is mostly useless.

Scrap the curriculum and design a curriculum that teaches and practices to some level of mastery in EACH student the following:

Aural comprehension




English is not something to be memorised and regurgitated on exam papers. It is for use. It is a method of communication. Rather than academic qualifications, teachers foreign or Japanese, should be selected on the basis of their communication skills, and curriculums should be designed to reflect these principles.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

Make it an option. The government wastes educational time and money teaching English with appalling results.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

Remove English as a university entrance exam subject, and make it an elective in high schools. All students take 3 yrs of "4 skills classes" in jr high, taught by qualified near-native Japanese or bilingual native English speakers. Those who wish to take additional courses in HS and uni should do so in classes of no more than 16 students.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Force all Japanese teachers to spend at least one year in an English speaking country. Scrap the JET program to use the savings to pay for it if necessary. Do not hire English teachers who cannot communicate in English. It sets a negative example.

Stop using textbooks produced by publishers full of amakudari from Monbusho. Every textbook I saw when I worked in an SHS looked like it was intended to teach the kids about Mother Theresa or Edison or someone. Those things should be taught in general studies.

Reduce the number of hours spent on compulsory English at JHS and SHS. Make it a positive choice to learn English, not a requirement.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

You'd have to change the whole country, culture, society etc to get better results.

The vast majority of J are just 'too' different, quirky, unique, 'weird' etc, they live in a different world and operate on a totally different logic. You can't teach a cat how to bark.

Better programs, teachers, material etc might help but it won't change the way most J ppl think which is imo incompatible with most other cultures/languages. Ability, fluency etc is only part of the pbm; 45yo blokes shouldn't ask 'excuse me can I go to the toilet?' during biz meetings or make sweeping, inappropriate generalisations. Most are just not logical, perceptive or perspicacious enough to communicate effectively in another language.

2-3 years in a different country fully immersed in their culture - preferably when you're in your teens or early 20s- is imo the best and only solution (or international school on J soil). Worked wonders for Kubo the young J soccer player who spent a couple of years in Spain (13-16yo if I remember correctly).

8 ( +9 / -1 )

Don't know why "living large" got all those thumbs down.

he got all those thumbs down because people still want it to be (relatively) easy to teach english in Japan. i mean, if we look at it, most of the people that want to live in Japan, end up teaching english, and of course, not everybody is a teacher or from a native english speaking country, right? as i have nothing to do with being a teacher, i have no problem in saying that i support his views. it ,s true, after all, having 4 year degrees doesn ,t make one a teacher, and also, just the fact that you can speak english doesn, t make you an english teacher, or at least, the best english teacher that Japanese students deserve. but this is more complex, because this is Japan we,re talking about. on one hand, it ,s all about exams and scores, not if the person can actually have a conversation in english. on the other hand, Japanese people feel that they will never need english, at all. again, because this is Japan we,re talking about, english is not present in many people ,s daily lives. for example in Europe, kids are already used to english even before they start learning it in school. in Japan, i think the first changes need to start happening in Japanese TV, cinema, radio, newspapers, magazines, events, optional courses, etcetera. then we take it to the classroom. if Europeans can do it . . . .

3 ( +3 / -0 )

having 4 year degrees doesn ,t make one a teacher, and also, just the fact that you can speak english doesn, t make you an english teacher

Well, what does make a qualified or good English teacher? If the answer is formal training, certificates and a certain number of years in the classroom, I'm not sure that's entirely true.

I'm guessing the reason LivingLarge recieved so many downvotes is because his post comes off as a bit self-serving. He seems to consider himself to be 'qualified' and wants to pull the ladder up on other aspiring teachers, but he doesn't describe the qualities of a good teacher or how exactly these qualities are gained through the qualification process.

I'm no expert in this field but I'm very sceptical that a 'bad' teacher can be turned into a 'good' teacher through training and experience. Likewise, someone with great interpersonal and communication skills will probably be a good English teacher without a single day of teacher training.

Everybody wants to protect themselves from competition in the workplace so they'll claim that special skills, or qualifications, or years of experience are necessary to do their job properly. More often than not this is untrue, but people believe it because it gives them a false sense of comfort, security and self-worth. In any case, I think most English teachers (and all teachers generally) will be replaced by AI algorithms in the next 10-20 years.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

The vast majority of J are just 'too' different, quirky, unique, 'weird' etc, they live in a different world and operate on a totally different logic

Followed by

45yo blokes shouldn't ..... make sweeping, inappropriate generalisations.

Comedy gold.

On the topic in hand:

★ English elective after one year. Only those with an interest in languages/other cultures etc should be staying foreign languages.

★Make sure the class teachers can communicate in English. Acquiring a qualification to teach English should include at least a couple of years in an English-speaking country and enough English ability to not need to hide when an English-speaking parent turns up at school.

★Scrap the current 'how much obscure/antiquated grammar do you know' exams and replace with real-life communication-based testing.

★Scrap the current 'debut marks for every mistake' system that makes students afraid to experiment with language because if they write something brilliant but make a spelling mistake, they get marked down.

★Stop artificially restricting vocabulary. I'd had textbook publishers tell me that when writing a short piece about 'How to make bread' 'subject chosen by them) I cannot use words like dough, knead or yeast because they're 'too difficult'.

There's plenty more, but that should be enough to explode the brains of the MoE.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

After 20+ years teaching in the states, Canada, and the last 14 in Japan. Yeah, I got a pretty good grip on it. I run my own school now and am contracted (PT, thanks JET program) at 2 high schools, a kindy (PT), and a local hospital where I teach nurses and coach doctors for speeches.

And yes, it may sound a little self-serving, but JET teachers take away opportunities for me, and others, to make a decent living.

I also concur with the posters who believe it should be an elective and cut back on the ridiculous testing.

Required foreign language before Uni: YES

Required English before Uni: No

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Cancel the whole program all together coz no matter how much they improve it, Japanese will never speak the language. That unless they see it as something that's essential or at least useful. Why is everything on TV dubbed into Japanese? The only chance most people would get to be exposed to English but that chance is wasted with reeeaaaally weird dubbed voices. Why? The amount of series and/or movies you could watch in English with closed captions (in English) it's very limited in Amazon and Hulu. That's another chance to be exposed to the language. Those are things that could be changed so people have more access to English. The education system? Ha! What a joke.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

Why is everything on TV dubbed into Japanese? The only chance most people would get to be exposed to English but that chance is wasted with reeeaaaally weird dubbed voices.

not only that, we also have Japanese subtitles. so what happens is that we have the Japanese dub together with Japanese subtitles. how cool is that huh ...

6 ( +6 / -0 )

I imagine the number of Japanese who speak English well but haven’t stayed overseas exceeds the number of US and European students who speak Japanese well but haven’t stayed in Japan. That doesn’t mean the system is great, but some people who want to learn are learning.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Get rid of Katakana, force people to learn proper pronunciation.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Lots of opinions, so I'll add mine.

Salaries must rise. The industry has been undercutting itself into much so that MEXT has decided to have the Japanese teachers lead classes from next year. (We can just do it ourselves with our robots.)

Diversity needs to be recognized and accepted.

Teaching effort and skill needs to be valued above mere appearances and preference for certain accents.

The schools need freedom to Direct Hire teachers that they want to keep.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

The current system in public schools is fine. Private English schools would go bankrupt and private conversation lessons would dry up if it improves.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

★Stop artificially restricting vocabulary. I'd had textbook publishers tell me that when writing a short piece about 'How to make bread' 'subject chosen by them) I cannot use words like dough, knead or yeast because they're 'too difficult'.

Good point, Cleo. This point is never considered enough - when you have such a limited vocabulary, you can never expect to understand anything or express yourself, even if you have the grammar. And with enough voluptuary, you can often comprehend more complex sentences, even if you don't understand all of the grammar.

Given that Japanese students are pretty good at rote learning, I would have thought that this is somewhere they could really get ahead and use their competitive advantage and cut back on some of the grammar.

And they should update their school textbooks - they are about a third of the length that they need to be.

4 ( +4 / -0 )



I must add that word to my vocab!

1 ( +1 / -0 )


I must add that word to my vocab!

A word I only discovered by accident due to intelligent text. For anyone unfamiliar with it, it is defined as a noun or adjective meaning:

"Devoted to luxury or sensual pleasure".

Not one for high school English!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

If it's not to change it is only the English Education System made in Japan.

0 ( +1 / -1 )


I really wish I could give you 10,000 thumbs up!

0 ( +1 / -1 )

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