LDP panel presents proposal on TOEFL prerequisite for universities


The ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s panel on education reform has presented its proposal to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe that universities take TOEFL scores into consideration during both enrollment and graduation. The move is being described as a "radical overhaul" of Japan's English education system.

The required English level is set to vary by institution. For example, the panel recommends that for universities designated as research facilities of an international standard, a score higher than 70% would be required to graduate, TBS reported Tuesday. There are at present around 30 such institutions in Japan.

The LDP says the move is part of a plan to increase the number of Japanese graduates who can work in multicultural environments.

Other changes to the current system include the introduction of science and math components to university entrance exams, even if applicants plan to major in the humanities.

The panel also recommended a 10 trillion yen investment to help Japan's universities compete at global level. The panel specifically pointed out deficiencies in the way English, information and communication technology (ICT), science and math are taught. The panel recommended that tablet computers be available to all primary school and junior high school schools.

Abe plans to make education reform part of the LDP platform during the run-up to the upper house election in July.

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Dumb. There are two versions, the Japanese will probably focus on the one without a speaking component. Neither are / is a good test to begin with. For Japanese students the negative effects are dreadful. Take a look and weep: http://www.ets.org/toefl/pbt/prepare/sample_questions/structure_written_expression_practice_section2

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These recommendations hopefully will fall on deaf ears. This will not help with English education in Japan.

If Japan truly wants people to speak, understand, read, write, and more importantly be able to communicate in English proficiently, they need to be focusing their attention on the other end of the spectrum!

Start with the little one's! It's a FACT that younger children pick up languages faster and better than adults.

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TOEFL is designed to test students' ability to function in AMERICAN universities.

Having a test of English is a good idea, but why TOEFL for JAPAN?

Many of the questions require a knowledge, not only of English, but of American culture and way of life.

What the Ministory (sic) of Education needs to do is to scrap the whole thing and start again. Not just ADD to the pile. They need to take a look at what information and skills a person needs to survive in the 21st century and work back from that to develop a curriculum that will fit a person for life.

The only problem is I don't think they are capable of doing it.


2 ( +4 / -2 )

Japanese students are proficient at studying for tests, adding the written part for the TOEFL will create another cottage industry on top of the one's already there to "teach" kids how to study for the TOEFL and how to pass it.

It doesnt mean that the students will be any more proficient in their use of English, it will just mean that they know how to pass a test.

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Side effect will be one huge Christmas gift to the local eikaiwa industry. Abenomics for the English school owners out there.

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Toefl, at least the full version that includes speaking and writing, is a well-constructed test of academic English. It is most accurate as a predictor of success in the middle range. Very few Japanese high school students without overseas experience will be able to reach the middle range, so what will happen is that either schools will close, or ways around the requirement will be found.

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Start with the little one's! It's a FACT that younger children pick up languages faster and better than adults.


Actually, research shows that there is an age range that makes it easier for children to learn language. It doesn't necessarily mean that they learn it faster and better than adults. Research also shows that an adult can with attention and lots of practice reach a level to that of a native speaker.

Don't know about you but I have met plenty of biracial children in Japan who are just as bad at English as the rest of the Japanese students.

The problem is more about delivery, motivation and attitude. I have met quite a few successful young and old language learners in Japan with very little experience outside the country.

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In our faculty meetings we usually receive a big wad of documents. Typically, some of these are based on education ministry material about how to improve university education and create "world class" universities. It looks like they have a competition to cram as many boxes and arrows into each PowerPoint slide as possible. A recent one depicts a funnel-shaped object with the phrase シーズ・ニーズの密度・圧力を高める (Increase the density and pressure of seeds and needs (?)). Most of this stuff goes straight into the shredder, but I'm keeping that one as a prize example of the tripe they come up with every month.

Later in the meeting we get to pages about the university budget, which has been cut every year for the past eight years at least and will continue to be cut in future years. Most of the budget comes from the education ministry, which appears to think the best way to create "world class" universities is to spend less money and cut salaries each year. It's a novel approach, but I doubt its success.

I think we already use TOEFL scores for entry to the masters course; it doesn't seem to have made any difference to English language communication skills. Mandating a 70% score for graduation is silly: the students did not choose this department because they wanted to study English. Nor should those who wish to study humanities be forced to study maths and science. It's just a waste of time and resources. A better idea would be to force all politicians to study ethics, history and economics.

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the panel recommends that for universities designated as research facilities of an international standard,

based on this criteria, not many unis will be affected i reckon.

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I agree with Farmboy. Mostly likely the schools will have several options to allow the Japanese students to enter the University. I think TOEFL might have more of an impact on the international students from non English countries.

Starting English studies earlier in school like Yubaru suggested would be good. I would go even further and say get rid of Katakana. It does more damage than good. It might have been practical for folks during the immediate occupation of Japan after the war, but now it is a crutch that does more harm than good for language learners.

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TOEFL is expensive. Japan should make their own.

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Another good govt initiative (becoming competent in English) addressed in an ineffective way (standardized tests). TOEIC and also TOEFL has been used in many companies to assess English proficiency for years and yet, we still have many who are not competent. For college students, this issue can be addressed by having them study abroad for 1 year at an English speaking country--which is precisely what the previous ruling party suggested, but now gone.

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TOEFL is expensive. Japan should make their own.

They already have; it's called EIKEN. What's wrong with using that test? It includes both written and spoken components and at a more realistic level than TOEFL.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

It might have been practical for folks during the immediate occupation of Japan after the war, but now it is a crutch that does more harm than good for language learners.

Katakana has been around a lot longer than just after WWII. It served it's purpose and I agree, it's a hindrance now.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

They already have; it's called EIKEN. What's wrong with using that test? It includes both written and spoken components and at a more realistic level than TOEFL.

Cripes, I can not believe anyone would think that the EIKEN has any value in reality. The esoteric grammar, the "perfect" responses needed for EIKEN will forever keep it a "local" test only and not have any value internationally.

Typical EIKEN question and response:

" How are you Tanaka-san?" "I'm fine. Thank you! And you?"

How many people in the world outside of Japan actually SPEAK English like that? EIKEN justifies it existence like the Kanken, SuKen, RiKen, and all other tests here in Japan by making people believe that they have abilities that their test level says they do.

Reality is often times different.

The TOEFL is better by far than EIKEN because it focuses more on the practical vs the esoteric.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

TOEFL is expensive. Japan should make their own.

If Japan makes their own it would be a real mess. All Katakana, grammar only, no speaking and no listening. Not such a good idea. I agree with Silvafan, katakana is the biggest hindrance to learning any language. When things are written in Katakana, they are no longer a different language but are Japanese and the rest of the world can not understand. I think for international studies the TOEFL is fine but for just basic business English the TOEIC is better and easier for people to learn.

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How about IELTS? It's the most realistic and straight-forward English proficiency available anywhere.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

I have no problems with the test itself, but if this is applied like everything else in education, it's going to be a simple matter of whether a student can pass a test or not. Test scores will be achieved but English levels in students will only see a marginal increase.

I like the suggestion of removing katakana from the language, but that would require a large paradigm shift by the government, educational, and social communities.

The good thing is it would be one less subject needed to be taught and it would force people to correctly pronounce foreign words. The big problem is the cost would be HUGE and the transition would be either slow and lingering or abrupt and upsetting. Textbooks would have to be edited, academic procedure would have to reviewed, companies would have to rework their advertising. It would likely end up with foreign words written in latin characters with h/furigana on top.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

making an English per-requisite compulsory won't actually make people's standard of English any better because the teaching methods themselves are flawed. it's all on memorization of grammar, reading ability and comprehension. people who've studied English for years are still unable to hold a basic conversation in the language... (which is the most important thing for conducting business)

this policy suggestion is pointless unless they change the actual focus of the curriculum. even so, this is just an extra stress on an already stressed out student body.

and one more thing... i wish Japan would stop ignoring the fact that they "border" China and Korea and not the US. learning Korean or Chinese in schools could be equally, if not more, beneficial for their futures and national development.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

japan needs to open its doors and allow more foreigners to live in japan. get rid of the must have university degree for resident visa requirement. that way japanese have more English speaking friends. too bad japan isn't multicultural :(

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I bet the high school teacher are scared stiff (how many of them could get the 70% the government is proposing) while the jukus are rubbing their hands together at the thought of all that money they're going to make off of this. As usual, the baby is being chucked out with the bathwater here with regards to English education.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Japanese students should start learn English at Primary School. I don't think Year 10 student in native English speaking countries will get pass 70% score. Japanese economy is behind its neighbor countries because shortage of English language speaking employees in their company. They should recruit overseas borne Japanese who can speak both English and Japanese languages in native tongue.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Most Japanese teachers I work with would struggle to get a decent score in TOEFL. It should be required to study abroad for 3-6 months for all teachers of Junior High and High School English.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

It should be required to study abroad for 3-6 months for all teachers of Junior High and High School English.

Doesn't matter if they study abroad or not. What matters more is what they study here and how they are trained to teach it. Change the here, before looking for unreasonable solutions elsewhere.

There are plenty of foreign language teachers throughout the world that never set foot in the country of the language they are teaching. It CAN be done here too.

BUT no one wants or desires to make the necessary systematic changes necessary to make it happen.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Using the Eiken would be even worse than the TOEFL. If they are going to do this, at least have an interview component.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Japanese children must be taught English right from kindergarten . I teach kindergarten kids and they are quick to learn and have none of the standard pronunciation problems associated with kids in 5th or 6th grade in the Elementary schools. The English text books in the Elementary school are pathetic and they should be confined to the dust-bin!

Kids have no contact with the English language from Grade 1 through Grade 4. There has to be a continuity all the way to University. Japan has to create an ecosystem where kids have easy access to English clubs, story books, TV programmes, debates etc , so that it will be easy and natural to communicate with each other. Thus, emphasising English at the University level is far too late as the bad habits have already set in and hard to change.

The TOEIC and TOEFL tests will achieve little as they are merely standardized tests, and a money-making racket ! The TOEIC tests are beyond stupidity and yet students take them in order to enter University.

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