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English Education in Japanwith reference to Primary English Dr Miyoko Kobayashi, Kumamoto University Chantal Hemmi (British Council, Tokyo)
. Foreign Language Activities MEXT New Course of Study I. OVERALL OBJECTIVES To form the foundation of pupils’ communication abilities through foreign languages while developing the understanding of languages and cultures through various experiences, fostering a positive attitude toward communication, and familiarizing pupils with the sounds and basic expressions of foreign languages I. OVERALL OBJECTIVES To form the foundation of pupils’ communication abilities through foreign languages while developing the understanding of languages and cultures through various experiences, fostering a positive attitude toward communication, and familiarizing pupils with the sounds and basic expressions of foreign languages
II. CONTENT [Grade 5 and Grade 6] 1. Instructions should be given on the following items in order to help pupils actively engage in communication in a foreign language: (1) To experience the joy of communication in the foreign language. (2) To actively listen to and speak in the foreign language. (3) To learn the importance of verbal communication. 2. Instructions should be given on the following items in order to deepen the experiential understanding of the languages and cultures of Japan and foreign countries: (1) To become familiar with the sounds and rhythms of the foreign language, to learn its differences from the Japanese language, and to be aware of the interesting aspects of language and its richness. (2) To learn the differences in ways of living, customs and events between Japan and foreign countries and to be aware of various points of view and ways of thinking. (3) To experience communication with people of different cultures and to deepen the understanding of culture.
Junior Highschool Emphasis on communication for years 1-3
High school • Through a foreign language deepen one’s knowledge about foreign languages and cultures and communicate actively. • 外国語を通じて，言語や文化に対する理解を深め，積極的にコミュニケーションを図ろうとする態度の育成を図り，情報や考えなどを的確に理解したり適切に伝えたりするコミュニケーション能力を養う。
Goto Butler, Y. (2007). Foreign language education at elementary schools in Japan: Searching for solutions amidst growing diversification Current issues in language planning 8,(1), 1-19.
The historical and social background of English Education in Japan • Alternating importance of learning English for practical purposes and learning English as an academic subject • Modern foreign language education in Japan began with the Meiji Restoration in 1868 • Role of education to advance modernisation, frequently interpreted to be Westernisation
Higher education offered through foreign languages • Arinori Mori the first minister of education emphasised the economic power of English speaking nations and the need for Japanese to acquire English in order to maintain Japan’s sovreignty (Mori, 1873 cited in Suzuki, 2002)
Higher education offered in Japanese • The victories of the Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895) and the Russo-Japan War (1904-1905) • The rise of nationalism led to a renewed emphasis on Japanese language education • Slogan: ‘Education in Japan in Japanese’ • Overall intelligence measured through grammar and vocabulary learning and translation exercises using English • English viewed as the language of Japan’s enemies- English education: period of neglect until the end of World War II
‘English boom’ • Need for a practical command of English to communicate with US occupation forces • Japanese educational system re-established as 6-3-3-4 system
Economic revitalisation • English recognised again as an academic subject • Grammar-translation dominated English education
Concern over exam-based English • Not preparing Japan to fully compete in international business and technological innovation • Kokusaika (internationalisation), simply a reflection of Japan’s efforts to assimilate Western ideas while maintaining and promoting ‘Japaneseness’ / Japan’s distinct national identity (Kubota, 2002)
Two conflicting claims for English at elementary schools • 1. The study of English for practical purposes versus the study of English as an academic pursuit • 2. Assimilation with the world outside Japan while at the same time trying to maintain a distinct Japanese identity (Kokusaika) • Opponents of EES argue that elementary schools students should focus on Japanese language education
Introduction of EES • New course of study in 1998 (implemented in 2002) allowed individual schools to introduce foreign language activities of their own choosing as a part of ‘international understanding’ • MEXT introduced resource manual, Practical handbook for elementary school English activities • Many of the practices formulated at local level
Action plan to cultivate Japanese with English abilities • Efforts by the central government fell short of meeting local governments • Local governments aggressively hired native speakers as ALT’s • Local governments started their own English language curricula • Ohta City established an English-Japanese immersion school • Kanazawa City introduced partial English-Japanese immersion instruction
Comparison chart based on Goto Butler (2005) survey Eigo Notes 英語ノート
A Survey with Primary School Teachers in Japan Dr Miyoko Kobayashi Kanda University of International Studies
What do you think is the main purpose of primary ELT? To develop practical English skills To promote interest in foreign language learning To raise language awareness To deepen the understanding of other cultures and values To cultivate general communication skills
Do you currently teach English? （N=418）
How often do you teach English? (by school type) （N=323）
Time spent for English activity (net) sorted by school type （N=311）
What level of English proficiency do you think is desired for teaching English? （N of respondents）