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Half of students find primary school English education less than useful: survey


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The English they have managed to retain up until that point was probably less than useful as well.

3 ( +7 / -4 )

No kidding.......really? It took some think tank THIS LONG to figure out what so many people have known for years?

Edutainment is the key word for English education in elementary schools here, "Make it fun", "Play games", "Get the children to ENJOY playing English"

Welcome to JHS English education, esoteric grammar and tests that practically no one uses, memorizing words in sentences that have no practical use in daily conversation..."I'm fine thank you and YOU?"

12 ( +15 / -3 )

This isn't a surprise to anyone. Remove constant translation, meaningless grammar and less focus on writing, while focusing more on conversation, comprehension and reading. Grammar will fall in to place naturally.

5 ( +8 / -3 )

By 2117, kids here will be learning English in utero and we'll still have endless government surveys wondering why things aren't working, billions upon billions of wasted yen later. And kids who still belch out "haroo." Have you ever worked with these MEXT bureaucrats, coddled mandarins floating from position to position every 3 years? Their main focus is on not rocking the boat, not disrupting existing patterns of inefficiency and ineptitude. They know their next position depends on not alienating the current fools in power. So on and so forth. If you care about your kids education, not merely English, put them into an international school or be prepared to painstakingly supplement their learning at home.

8 ( +9 / -1 )

I'm looking at all these JHS students on the train.

Poor guys memorizing DICTIONARIES!! With vocabulary that I would be proud of a native speaker their age for using correctly.

They are forced to learn that while not even knowing the phonics for the Alphabet or how to describe what they want for lunch?

2 ( +3 / -1 )

My kid has had English for a couple of years (textbook/classes @ elementary school) and has had ALT visits for six. The kid, who speaks English, has complained that it's the same old thing every time: numbers, animal/sports/things you like, birthday, greetings, and the alphabet.

They need to change English education from the top just like everything here in Japan.

Change the testing system from a focus on reading/writing to more speaking/listening. But everyone already knows this since this idea has been floated around for more than 4 decades.

6 ( +8 / -2 )

"It is important for junior high school students to continue to use their learning method in elementary school, which attempts to link their motivation and questions that have arisen while communicating with others to vocabulary and grammar learning," Yoshida said.

So what he is suggesting is that edutainment replace JHS English, and let's not forget that he is also the beneficiary of just how much from Benese?

Kensaku Yoshida, a Sophia University professor who served as a special adviser in the Benesse Educational Research and Development Institute study,

I am willing to bet he gets a nice stipend for his opinions. Then Benese turns that into more money for their schools and teaching methods.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

Not surprised in the least. And if they asked the high school students the results would even be more abismal.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

My kid is in second grade Japanese public school, English class once a month, they just started learning words for feelings! So exciting!

0 ( +3 / -3 )

English is a pariah to the ordered mind. Have students memorize grammar "rules" then learn the multitude of exceptions; have students memorize spelling and uh oh. Teach the "correct" sentence or conversation and then meet ten native speakers and find out you've learned none of what they say.

Student: Hi. I'm Tanaka. Nice to meet you.

Speaker: Greetings, young sir, and how be you on this fine sunshiny day?

Student: ???? (What happened to: Hi, I'm Smith. Nice to meet you, too?)

Teaching communication in elementary school will of course be useless in junior high. Junior high classes are designed to pass the high school entrance exams which have no communication on them. Check out the difference between TOEIC (multiple guess) and IELTS (no grammar questions; test-taker must WRITE words, phrases, and paragraphs.) Which is easier to teach to? Which does MOE love?

3 ( +5 / -2 )

This problem is two fold in the USA. 1. Does everyone need to learn Spanish because a person may need it in the low paying and high paying employment opportunities? This happens because of the tremendous number of Spanish speakers in the schools and society. 2. Is everyone going to go to a post secondary school such as a university? Two years of any foreign language is required to attend in California. Since every state has its own graduation requirements, the foreign language may not be a requirement to graduate from high school or attend a university in another state. The answer to both questions is NO! Of course every new mother or father thinks her or his child has tremendous learning ability. However, this is not true. It is a great idea to present English in the elementary schools because it may be useful later in life. Schools need to present the opportunity to learn English, and if the child doesn't appear to have the ability to learn another, present other subject that the child appears to show ability and interest. Modern, competitive society and the Japanese educational system do not have to develop the 1960's USA idea of a "well rounded person." There are millions of university graduates in foreign countries ready to take the future Japanese jobs. The Japanese educational system is archaic and needs major reform. Teachers teach the way they were taught, and the government accepts it. Time for change.

-3 ( +3 / -6 )

Half of first-year junior high school students found their English education in elementary school less than useful.

And the other half weren't bright enough to come to the same conclusion.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

Once had a class with five elementary-school aged students, and we began with "How are you" (followed by a similar question - i.e., "How is your mother"), and FINE was not allowed. They had to think - tired? excited? bored? And then we'd ask why, and they had to think again and explain.

Thinking. So simple, yet no one in the BOE seems to have thought of this.

4 ( +7 / -3 )

Multiple guessing, Mr. Beckett. That's funny! 

It's all about time and resources ( time being the best of all resources) and the fact there is not enough of it going round. And no one in places of power or influence wish to allot more time to second language learning. Simple. and things won't change. ever.

Back to guessing, now that is the essential task of early learning.

Daddy:  "Daddy wants another chocolate. Can you reach one for me"?

Baby:     Here.

Older Baby:   Mommy says no more chocklet for daddy.

Yet older baby:  'cause mommy things daddy's gotten too chubby!

No time for the ALTs (foreign workers, possibly unqualified and dubious ) to attempt any communicative exercises to reinforce understanding.  'We' can't easily be intrusted with the future of these kids.  And culturally, Japanese students learn to put up a guard to their natural curiosity and  to unactivate an inquisitive mind.  By the time they are 12, it's mostly too late.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

You don't say. It can't be! You mean that singing "7 Steps" and "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes" every single lesson from first to sixth grade didn't help them with English in JHS!? Shocking...

Sarcasm and joke aside, would be quite nice if ES and JHS were somehow connected in regards to English class and had Elmentary Schools teach something related to what's taught in the first year of JHS. But nope. All they want is to sing Seven Steps and Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes and thinking that's English class.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

I was asked to visit a junior highschool in my town last week as they needed to fill some sort of quota and couldn't find any foreigners, and I said okay for the hell of it since I was free. I have visited schools a few times over the years in such capacity, both elementary and junior high (as well as uni a few times), and I have to say the students seem to have a better general grasp of the basics than they did when I first went a couple of decades ago. So, even if it's minimal, it's working a little. But I have indeed heard from friends' children that they dislike the rote memory and grammar focus in junior highschool.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Based off my old days as an JET ALT, my guess is that in elem school its is almost entirely a CLT approach that is used and then in junior high they begin the exam centered approach.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Don't need to force everyone to study English for several years. It might be handy if you could speak other languages but it's not really a must for a happy life. For someone, it might be just big waste of time.

-4 ( +0 / -4 )

japanese politicians design a curriculum for teaching japanese students in japan, by teachers who teach english using japanese

what could possibly go wrong

the proof is in the pudding, if it looks and smells like doodie..

2 ( +3 / -1 )

The JTEs claim to fame is their remarkable ability to make their students hate and dread the subject that they are being payed to promote and teach. I'd say 90 percent of them have zero passion for the language , are just going through the motions and blaming the students for lack of results . Real pros. The outdated dull teaching methods they STILL use is almost criminal negligence dooming another generation to the same fate as the last. What was Einsteins definition of insanity again?

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I worked on JET and other programs in my 20 years here and it is a mind-numbing program to say the least, with 80% of those on the program (teachers - for want of a better word) thinking they're some kind of elite special group, yet they have little to zero respect for their job or their students!

For students, it needs to start at a younger age where it's also more natural for them to start learning a language, and not through memorisation either! They system is broken.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

I've got private students, as wel as teaching as an English teacher in public schools.

One of my private English students is a doctor. He was honest with me one time about English in public schools. He said that it was a joke.

English will never fit within the confines of Japanese thinking imo.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

The government should just hire elementary school teachers out of English speaking countries and have them teach classes 2-3 times a week (alternating each week). Start this from the kindergarten level. English media (Movies, kids programming, youtube) should be a major part of each class.

Watch as Japan's problem with English disappears in 10 years. Of course nobody would ever dare try this.

If you want your kids to be smart and well-balanced individuals send them to a private international school or educate them overseas.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Once had a class with five elementary-school aged students, and we began with "How are you" (followed by a similar question - i.e., "How is your mother"), and FINE was not allowed. They had to think - tired? excited? bored? And then we'd ask why, and they had to think again and explain.

If you had a class of ES kids that could "explain" their answers that was no average ES.

Oh, my bad...right 5 ES- AGED kids.....sorry, sounds like these kids were being taught at an eikaiwa like ECC Junior or Kumon English right?

Thinking. So simple, yet no one in the BOE seems to have thought of this.

I challenge you to even attempt to do this very same exercise with 40 kids in an average elementary school!

1 ( +2 / -1 )


I agree with you but the problem is how to get rid of companies like interac who control the quality of teachers into the schools.

While I've met good and bad teachers, the pay is just a joke. You don't get paid in August and also the break in New Year. My friend who works there has said that they are getting a lot more non-native speakers such as from Mexico, Jamaica etc to teach due to the low Salary. Plus when working for interac, you can not get another part-time job.

It's these types of companies that overcharge the school then offer the teacher less than half of the payment. I'm sure if they offer a better salary then better teachers will join and stay longer.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

What Paradox and the lonelygaijin said. You get what you pay for. You want to attract talented and qualified teachers and put a stop to ridiculously high turnover, pay them a salary commensurate with their qualifications. Give them full autonomy over their classes, not as paid voice recorders. Welcome them into schools as equals.

Meanwhile, eliminate or drastically reconfigure how English aptitude tests are administered. My ability in Spanish after 4 years of high school was barely mentioned on my university applications, no more important than extracurricular activities like being a 3-sport letterman or a volunteer at a nursing home. Why English ability should be such a major component in admissions is beyond me. Passing the courses should be enough, and, if their career track demands it, building on such skills at the college level.

Most Japanese know the system is a colossal failure. They know their tax dollars are being flushed down the toilet. What I think few know is how horribly underqualified your average teacher here is, how poorly paid and unstable their work. And in my experience they have no idea about the swindle that is Interac or other dispatch agencies. IOW, that their child's public school education is being outsourced to exploitative private interests. Again, it's their money being wasted and hours upon hours of futile "learning" on the part of their kids.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

The English teaching my kids get in Japanese elementary school has no curriculum and no structure. They just do fun and unconnected lessons with an ALT every now and then. If the sole purpose is to demonstrate that gaijin are not "kowai", that's okay, but it is setting the bar very low indeed. You are not going to learn anything without a system that incorporates practice and review. In Japan, I feel there is an over-emphasis on playing games and making English fun, which I suspect has been created by marketing by Nova and the like back in the day to sell lessons. Even today, I often see consecutive ads on tv for a music school (say Yamaha) and then kids eikaiwa (say ECC Junior). The music school advert has the kids singing scales and doing serious Suzuki method-type lessons. The English lesson just has them jumping up and down and saying single words like "jump" and "run". As the size of the music industry shows, playing and listening to music brings people far more happiness than learning foreign languages, yet music schools appear to be under no pressure to make their lessons "fun". They just do what works. I don't see kids' sports in Japan being forced to be fun either. Its only kids eikaiwa where everything has to be games and "head shoulders knees and toes". I suspect that kind of thing should be held back to the last five minutes only.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

English education in junior high school emphasizes systematic knowledge such as grammar

Teachers focus on what's easy to teach but hard to learn instead of what's easy to learn but hard to teach. And that is vocab, vocab, vocab. Unfortunately the average native English speaker knows about 250,000 words.

"I'm looking at all these JHS students on the train. Poor guys memorizing DICTIONARIES!! With vocabulary that I would be proud of a native speaker their age for using correctly"

That's the only way to do it!!

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

When I was in Japan last month my friend's students (about 8 or 9 years old I think) asked me a set of questions... such as "Are you American?" (They know I'm not so these must be standard questions)... "Can you eat sushi?"... "Do you like Gundam?"... etc... Apart from those questions they never spoke any more English the whole time we were with them. Their mothers were very good though.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Not surprising, you barely need English in Japan, so forcing kids to learn a language they'll hardly use again is silly. It's better to make one language compulsory, but let the kids choose what they want to learn so that they at least retain some interest in it

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Unfortunately the average native English speaker knows about 250,000 words.

I challenge you to find any "average" native English speaking with THAT much knowledge of English vocabulary.

It only takes between 2,500 to 3,000 vocabulary words to be able to understand (technically speaking) between 75% to 80% of English conversations.

The average Japanese JHS and HS graduate has between 2,000 to 2,500 (depending upon their education) "words" running around in their brains. The only problem is that they are not taught to use the vocabulary in a practical environment and only know how to realign words into sentences that make no sense when used in conversations.

Not to mention the fact that English-Japanese dictionaries used in JHS only give definitions for words that have the highest frequency of usage. How many ways are there to use the word "run" in English? Japanese will tell you, 走る、はしる。(hashiru), yet according to one author, used in it's verb form, there are something like 645 different uses for the word "run".

You still think the "average" native speaker knows 250,000 vocabulary words? I doubt it. There are roughly a total of 550,000 words in the English language altogether, and something like 80%, if I recall correctly are never used anymore, Shakespearean English/Old English take up a huge portion of that percentage, if again, I recall anything from my prior education.


1 ( +1 / -0 )

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