quote of the day

If teachers start to feel they can’t handle the job, children will come to dislike English. The content of the textbooks is simple and will make classes easy to conduct, so I hope teachers will use it to actively and repeatedly engage with students.


Tamagawa Gakuen Prof. Emeritus Kumiko Sato, a specialist in English education, referring to new textbooks for English, which will become an official subject in elementary schools from the 2020 school year. The books address teachers’ anxieties about their ability to teach English, by creating texts that will be easy to use even for teachers with poor English skills.

© Yomiuri Shimbun

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Her statement is without support and difficult to make comment here. Has the material been thoroughly tested using multiple anxious teachers and multiple live appropriate aged students for a fairly extended period of time? This old school way is the only one I buy into. The others are hit and miss.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

The old school way taught in Japan was input only and failed to teach kids to actually use the languages they were studying. This is good for the Eikaiwa industry but not for Japans economic growth. Hopefully teachers will overcome their anxiety and give the new books a chance.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Keep it simple, take some of the heavy burdens overloading and bogging down the teachers away, use lots of visuals, tech and role plays, encourage mistakes and you may just be able to help the kids not HATE English by Junior High.

From what I’ve seen though, a whole generation of teachers will have to retire first for this to happen, as they’ve been using flawed methods for too long to change. You can hear the murmurs of discontent anytime anyone wants to try and change the system. It’s that far gone. Just imagine if they could pull it off though!

2 ( +2 / -0 )

As Mizu no Oto says, the statement simply asks us to believe the books are good, "silver bullet"-type good, and that everything will be fine. It would be reassuring to know who approved the books and how the books have been tested.

Unfortunately, the "who approved" question relates to the books' effectiveness for language learning, the most important question, but also for their content. The recent case where a "morality" textbook was changed to replace a bakery with a shop selling Japanese desserts shows that the authorities are still eager to dabble in irrelevant matters to project a certain worldview. The reality is that language learning in Japan is not about students' self expression and has always had overtones of imparting certain values. Twenty years ago, high school textbooks would have biographies of people like Mother Theresa, not because the kids had anything like the language ability to read and understand them, but because some high-up bod thought English lessons was a good place for kids to learn about Mother Theresa. This came at the cost of the kids not learning any English, or at least English they could actually use, but that was never seen as important.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

God forbid schools should actually hire teachers who know what they're doing.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Just give up. Japanese learning English is pointless. One Japanese to another Japanese are going to stick with speaking in Japanese. It won't change anything in the work place. So it's only going to benefit the relatively few who seek to escape and work/live abroad.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

True, simple, practical and effective goal setting gets lost in translation somehow. Someone , somewhere will find a way to complicate the hell out of it. Guaranteed. It’s unfortunately the high context culture (on steroids) that turns the lagoon into the swamp. If you’ve never heard of high context cultures vs low context cultures, like I hadn’t until fairly recently google it. It’s a great and effective tool to understand where many of our pains come from. Bit of a eureka moment personally.

It’s seems it’s not just the language that’s the issue.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Just give up. Japanese learning English is pointless

I wouldn’t say give up. Wasting money trying to pump English into kids who don’t want to learn it or are incapable of learning it is pointless. It could be time better spent.

Make it an option and let the kids who want to learn it learn it.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

The primary issue is not the textbook, nor the simplicity or difficulty of it. The issue is teacher training. Have teachers been trained in how to teach a foreign language? For the most part, no. And thus teachers will be uncomfortable, and classes will be tedious.

Furthermore, for what the quote says about the curriculum, I'm ambivalent. On one hand, if teachers are able to introduce material in a fun, meaningful context that gets kids using it over and over again to build fluency, great. On the other hand, if the educational system is merely dumbing down English so that all kids do is play, with no real engagement in English, then this push toward low standards is educationally repulsive. Given the teacher training situation, my guess is that we'll see more of the latter than the former, and we'll see more teachers drilling and boring students that either of those combined.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

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