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English education to start for 3rd graders from FY 2018

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Quantity over quality

7 ( +8 / -1 )

Great, so in less than one year, all schools will find qualified English teachers to begin interesting and fun English classes that will motivate and inspire Japanese young people to love and want to use English for the rest of their lives. Great! Mission accomplished. All of us can go home now as the job will be done correctly once and for all!

8 ( +10 / -2 )

Lol you came for humanity Mark X?

I came for the money .

2 ( +4 / -2 )

A great idea to start them while they are so young and genki. Only reservations are whether the teachers will be able to hit the mark. If they use the same approach to English as they do in junior and senior high school it'll just make kids hate English from an earlier age. Japan isn't exactly known for its ability to recognize nor accept fresh new approaches after all. A huge challenge、hope they can pull it off.....

5 ( +7 / -2 )

i think we all know, most elementary school teachers and junior high school teachers can't speak English well. many a time i have met them and during a jinglish conversation, discovered they were english teachers. already overworked teachers must be the first arrow if Abe wants bilingual students.

Good plan though.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

I'm sure my 7 year old daughter, born and raised in Japan, can speak better (and more natural) English than many of these teachers. Great plan, but let's see how this will work in reality.

3 ( +6 / -3 )

As an English teacher in Japan, I welcome any government decisions to keep pouring billions of yen into English education.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

Poor kids. English should be optional in Japan. 80% of Japanese people will never leave these shores and never have a need for English beyond a few jokes and wise-cracks.

-2 ( +8 / -10 )

Like it or not, English is now well known to be the common language or lingua franca, if you will, not only in the physical world but in the cyberspace. In this respect, it's a good idea to start teaching English in the third grade. The problem is whether the competent teachers are available for the English education in Japan.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

English learning will begin in the third grade

Learning? That should read, "English studying to pass a test will begin in third grade" After many years of teaching in Japan I know they 'learn' very little - in any subject. This will just be another dog and pony show with songs, games, flash cards and no real academic purpose. The need to teach kids to read and to teach them the vowel sounds starting in 1st grade. They also should make katakana illegal!

5 ( +9 / -4 )

Agree with most of the above.  The problem is these kids will be limited to a once a week class with a foreign teacher (many of which today are not even native speakers anymore) doing exactly what Disillusioned said: dog and pony show with songs, games, flash cards and no real academic purpose.

If they are really serious about teaching english then here are a few recommendations:

Once a week is not going to do jack for their english skills, so lets stop hiring teachers to go around 5-10 different elementary schools or JHS. They are ALTs, not the paperboy or milkman. Keep each teacher (or teachers)  in one school and have them teach the same students 2, 3 or 4 times a week. 

If you are serious about education, one of the important things is stability. To get that, you need to retain your foreign teachers for a number of years, if not permanently. To do that, you need to remember that foreigner teachers are human beings.  They need decent wages to survive. Many of these ALTs are also supporting JAPANESE people(spouses, children), so how about we start paying them a decent wage instead of the GOMI 220,000 or so a month that is being offered for a full time 5 days a week position? We can easily do that by getting rid of dispatch companies and forcing the BOEs to hire direct.  There also needs to be a national consensus as to how much the teachers get paid.  Some of the BOEs do hire direct, but they end up screwing the ALTs worse than the dispatch companies. There can be many ways to do this.  For example, you can pay the ALTs 200,000 yen a month but give them free room and board with utilities paid and enroll them in the Shakai Hoken system. Then allow them to leave immediately after their last class so they can get a second job to support themselves and their families. Also, make sure that the teachers can stay in the same school if both the teachers and the school are happy. Stop moving them around. Give them a degree of stability.  Look after your teachers and they will look out for the school and education in your city.

Involve the teacher in the decision making process in regards to what to teach and how to do it.  Many teachers are happy to contribute, but sometimes are left being a human tape recorder. Let the teachers have a say. Their input can be of use.

Set up workshops sponsored by the BOE of the city to help the ALTs improve their teaching abilities.

I could go on, but what's the use?  Nobody out there who makes decisions is listening. My point is that it doesn't matter if you start teaching english to the kids from elementary school 1st year. If the method is flawed, you will get unsatisfactory results. Nuff said.

12 ( +13 / -1 )

Hope they don't make the kids disinterested with too much emphasis on grammar.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

*uninterested.

-5 ( +2 / -7 )

As it is usual, the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing and the right hand the left hand, and the head thinks it knows what the hands are doing but it really has no clue. That's the way I see education (at least English) in Japan. The Boards of Education want to do one thing but schools don't really know what it is and they do something else totally different. Then you have the head, the ministry of education, who now wants to start education from 3rd grade but each BoE works differently and it's all very confusing. Not to mention, homeroom teachers DON'T speak English. Maybe a few do but very very few of them do.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

As long as quality takes a back seat to the politics of quantity, it won't work any better than what there is now.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Over a decade teaching here from k-12 and University. I can tell you they absolutely do not have they do no have the quaildfied teachers for this. Worse yet they are NOT training new teachers to become qualified. Now that that whole Global 4O initiative is over, English departments from both public and private Unis are getting slashed. What I see right now is more English initiative and wishes (100% English by the olympics), it less financial help from the government than ever before and hardly any problems to train new or existing teachers. It's a empty pipe dream with no way to succeed in it current form. Just like 2007 MEXT initiative to change 6-12 English classes to a CLT approach. 10 years later and it's the same teacher centered teaching for exams aproach.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

I have been to several US schools growing up and only German, Spanish, French and Latin was taught as a foreign langauge. Of course this was many moons ago and maybe they had gotten better.

Perhaps this would allow more foreigners to teach Japanese... But why not start at kindergarden instead of just third grade? The younger you are the more you soak up or so I have been told.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Japans pain in learning English is my absolute money gain! I dont mind if its being stubbornly done wrong during my prime business years.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

yes! duck and water go together just like money and English!

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Aly Rustom, I can see where your coming from and you have a lot of good valid points, the school day is quite busy, will other subjects be dropped and replaced by these new English lessons? what also could help is to have English teaching assistants on hand, I don't know if Japan has such a thing, IE a native English person could help out in a school 1, for a bit extra cash and 2 back up the main teacher. and 1 last thing "nuff said" enough said please 8/10 you must try harder, report to my office in the morning.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Contrary to an above post, flashcards, games and "fun" activities can be used to teach prosody (sounds of english). The key issue is how often do students get to attend lessons? English needs to be at least three days a week to show progress if students are not getting a chance to review at home.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Aly, there is a program called JET that seems to tick all of the boxes. In the end, though, as long as there are people willing to work for slave wages, then control in the labor market falls firmly in the hands of the ALT dispatch companies - basic supply and demand. Also, lots of organizations and school districts are only interested in finding a warm English-speaking body. Never mind quality.

In the end, if I am not their teacher, then the quality of their English lessons can automatically be assumed to be inferior.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

English learning will begin in the third grade

Learning? That should read, "English studying to pass a test will begin in third grade" After many years of teaching in Japan I know they 'learn' very little - in any subject. This will just be another dog and pony show with songs, games, flash cards and no real academic purpose. The need to teach kids to read and to teach them the vowel sounds starting in 1st grade. They also should make katakana illegal!

Katagana is an evil of English learning, along with rote learning with grammar translation method without production practice and production.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

I don't want to nitpick, but having so many 'native speakers' here who say they're English teachers and then go on to confuse words like their and they're, or your and you're is not helping matters.

Anyway, when I was at school (which was a pretty ordinary school with no fees), one or two of our French teachers were French, and our German teacher was Austrian. We also had assistants who were native speakers. And out Latin teacher was...well, never mind. But she, like all the other non-native teachers knew their stuff. And they had to spend time abroad as part of their degrees. I'm grateful for that and the way they taught.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Are teachers really needed for this? Some well-made audio/visual material, perhaps delivered to the classroom by the internet might be more effective.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

albaleo Today  07:21 pm JST

Are teachers really needed for this? Some well-made audio/visual material, perhaps delivered to the classroom by the internet might be more effective.

Depends on what your goal is. If your goal is nothing more than language awareness, then yeah. A set of Youtube videos akin to Sesame Street teaching American kids that the Spanish word for "water" is "agua" making them aware that different languages have different sounds will do the trick.

If you actually want them to develop communicative competency, well, languages are a human instinct and they require human interaction to be learned. And it you want them taught, that means hiring competent humans to teach it.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

If your goal is nothing more than language awareness,

At elementary school, might that not be enough? But we may differ on what we mean by "language awareness". I was thinking a high level of exposure to spoken English, and not so much of the explanatory stuff.

If you actually want them to develop communicative competency,

And how do we define that? The ability to express yourself clearly, and the ability to understand others? While interaction certainly helps as practice, we have to accept that the opportunities may be limited. When I taught, we used to have a saying, "Are you a help or hindrance in the classroom?" If it's not possible to hire enough competent teachers, then it may be better to hire none than a bunch of incompetents.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

albaleo Today  08:21 pm JST

If your goal is nothing more than language awareness,

At elementary school, might that not be enough?

It depends on the goal of the program. I'd venture that in the Japanese public school context with the present language teaching that is in place in JHS and HS, no, it's not enough at all.

Now in a hypothetical Japan where everyone teaching English in JHS and HS was competent, the textbooks weren't garbage, the teaching methodology weren't ridiculously outdated, and other languages were offered in public schools as an alternative to English (say, Korean and Chinese), yeah, language awareness would totally be enough.

If you actually want them to develop communicative competency,

And how do we define that? The ability to express yourself clearly, and the ability to understand others? 

I'd probably put it more pretentiously, but yeah.

While interaction certainly helps as practice, we have to accept that the opportunities may be limited. When I taught, we used to have a saying, "Are you a help or hindrance in the classroom?" If it's not possible to hire enough competent teachers, then it may be better to hire none than a bunch of incompetents.

Proposing non-interactive (i.e. hon-human) language teaching as an alternative to ineffective language teachers is a bit like proposing vodka to improve your driving skill because beer isn't doing the job. Successful teaching programs don't counter an ineffective solution with a less effective solution.

Without human interaction, without a need to make children attend closely to the language and try it out interactively and productively for themselves, hoping children can learn English from a video is like hoping children can learn to play piano by listening to classical music.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

This is a good idea. Given that English is the world's globally accepted lingua franca, Japanese do need to catch up with other nations. I have no knowledge of Japan's English education strategy but when you read corporate messages written in Japlish all the time such as LINE company's "LIFE Platform Strategy", it's just garbage and you wonder how international investors for example from the U.S. would be scratching their heads and thinking what language is this? A few thousand yen spent would have got just one native speaker to check it. I'd volunteer for free.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Poor kids. English should be optional in Japan. 80% of Japanese people will never leave these shores and never have a need for English beyond a few jokes and wise-cracks.

The fact that so few Japanese never leave the country and have such limited horizons and poverty of ambitions could be related to the fact that their English is so poor. If more spoke better English, then more might travel overseas or be able to participate in a global society through the internet.

English is the language of the internet, so is not accessible fully to most Japanese.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

It won't make a lick of difference. Form follows function, not vice versa.

Get more passionate, inspirational, and accomplished teachers into the existing classes, and influencing the system itself and you might see results. They do exist in Japan, and I've been lucky enough to work with a few of them. Hamstrung by the materials and curriculum as they are.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Ridiculous to force learning one same language, i.e. English.

There must be a need for the speaking, writing of language.

So to open Japanese mindset, offer of several languages should exist to cling it to real life.

USA and English speaking countries are far from Japan. Japan should start with closer languages that would ease a lot the learning of another when a momentum is created.

I reckon that nearly all my Japanese acquaintances remain 100% Japanese self-centered, even my close family after having come many times in France.

Good luck Japan !

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

I'm still up tonite and grateful for the above posts. Gotta start with PROSODY. Wow, am I humbled! Did not, did not ever know that word ( now I don't deserve to ever be pedantic again, ha ). Then I was blown away by: like proposing vodka to improve your driving skill because beer isn't doing the job. Pure comic genius. OK now, here comes my two bits... firstly, the article is inspiring where it states that Music and Phys.Ed. can be taught under the new guidelines. Transitional guidelines, but still doesn't that mean teaching music in English? Basketball by the ALT? This-if true- is what I have always said, don't worry about more English taking away from Home Ec., etc. Just teach more classes IN English!  Now I will be contra-versable-ing.  Does not the article inspire us natives? More work down the pike, right? And reading on face value, it certainly sounds like they are finally pushing for a proper approach to it all, right?  Maybe not.  'cause I have read articles like this back in 2003 ( when I was teaching to all grades by the way).  So, for fifteen years almost, I have been promised future change leading to a solid, serious career at the primary school level.  Do you think, though, that I have found it? No no, far from it.  More power to the red devil first ( um, that's us ). Then, don't interfere until about three years have past so we can observe/confirm that my way has triumphed...if not show me the highway.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Ridiculous to force learning one same language, i.e. English.

In some ways, true. But the problem is Japan is forever trying to kokusaika itself and trying to be a world player. You can't do that if you only speak a language nobody else speaks. China is the world's second largest economy and even they value learning at least one other major foreign language.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

USA and English speaking countries are far from Japan. Japan should start with closer languages that would ease a lot the learning of another when a momentum is created. yet English is the universal language, most countries where the English isnt the national language speak English as a second language. Having a good command of English will allow you to communicate with far more people around the world. add to this fact that more than half of all WWW internet content is in English you can understand why English is so important.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

It should be one lesson per day, Like one a week is useless. We add religious lesson once a week and over a term I learnt that some bad people nail Santa to a cross which I lent latter it was a bloke name Jesus and we eat celebrate by eating chocolate .Anyway I told my Parents and they told the school that I was to not to these regilous lesson anymore. So yes once a day and started them young.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Aly Rustom, I can see where your coming from and you have a lot of good valid points, the school day is quite busy, will other subjects be dropped and replaced by these new English lessons?

Could be. Or you could limit the club activies for more English study time.  Or you could shorten the classes to 40 min instead of 50 allowing for an extra English class a day.. there are many paths.

Aly, there is a program called JET that seems to tick all of the boxes.

I know the program as does probably anyone who has taught english, but you have to remember that JET is now almost exclusively HS. Elementary and JHS are basically dispatch.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Time to pull out the ol' circus monkey costume! Because they'll want us singing and dancing and acting like embarrassing fools for peanuts. Were they to raise the pay, I'm sure many people would be more intereseted.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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