The reality of English education in Japan

Articles in English

< The reality of English education in Japan – Quantitative expansion of English education >
 Korea has been providing quantitative English education to students from the past to the present. The Japanese government started to offer quantitative English education just like Korea.

 The Japanese ministry of education implemented the English education rule that every elementary school has to offer the English class for 3rd to 4th-grade students for thirty-five units per year (time = 29.2h) and 5th to 6th students for 70 units per year (time = 58.3h).

 The standard college entrance examination changed the point, reading from 200 to 100 and listening from 50 to 100. In addition, the introduction of the English speaking test to the university entrance exam was being reviewed, but the introduction was eventually extended.

 Japanese Ministry of Education is changing the English education system from grammar-centered  education to communication-oriented education. The Japanese government created an educational system that aims to reduce the distribution of scores in reading and improve listening scores on college exams.

 It is good to educate communicative skills and words, but starting the English learning in the third grade of elementary school and expanding the English learning time quantitatively gives a sense of reproduction of the quantitative education system Korea has been offering.

< English education system for scores in college entrance exams >
 The problem of the education system in Japan on English learning lies in the English education to get good grades or points in college entrance exams.

 Japanese students study English to get good scores on college exams to enter in good universities.  Besides, most of the English tests in Japan are four-choice questions, so Japanese students are getting better at scoring points on tests, not improving English. Such college entrance exams can give students a negative impression of English learning due to just increasing the time of learning English.

 The government is changing the grammar-oriented English education system, but in the end, the ratio of reasons for learning English is dominant for entering a good university. Therefore, students are likely to form a negative impression of English learning because they have to memorize difficult words and spend a lot of time studying English.

 The test scoring method in Japan seeks perfection, so if there is one grammar or spelling mistake, the question is considered wrong. It turned out that students become more focused on grammar, and language learning becomes just processing tasks, resulting in producing a fixed concept that learning English is tough and learning becomes less efficient.

 Japan had previously attempted to introduce English learning from the first grade of elementary school students, but this gives a sense that Japan is also creating an educational system based on the Critical Period Hypothesis that learning foreign languages from a young age is better.

 The Critical Period Hypothesis is theoretically incorrect, and it is not desirable to apply to the educational system. This is because brain scientists and experts suppose that expanding vocabulary in a mother tongue and communicating well with parents is vital to mature brain development, not educating a foreign language.

 The reason for this problem is that the Ministry of Education in Japan has failed to accurately define the line and direction of how much students should learn English. Therefore, the direction was poorly set, and the proportion of the scores on the English test became high because it came into the college entrance exam as an English subject over time, becoming globalized, and the importance and demand for English increased. So last year, the Japanese Ministry of Education finally began to focus on forming a system that let educate and improve communication skills, listening and speaking in daily-life scenes.

< How many times should be English education required – That is the key to success >

 Japanese Ministry of Education’s decision on how much time English learning should implement in public education is a solution. This time, the Ministry of Education decided to improve communicative ability, not grammar-oriented reading skills. So, in this case, the government needs to educate students with the degree that they can communicate in English, and letting continue English learning for students who want to master English and letting other students study other academic things for those who do not want to learn English.

 What is more, using AI technology will be helpful for English education. For example, elementary school students should not be taught English itself, but to use Google Translator first and teach how to use Spell Checker such as Grammarly. This allows students to learn vocabulary or grammar autonomously by placing sentences in a translator even if they don’t know English, and by placing the translation in a spell checker, they can learn the spelling and meaning.

 There is also a need to change the evaluation method of schools. It is recommendable to change the method to give scores even if the spelling or grammar is slightly wrong. This is because if students were in an environment that was easy to get points, they would have positive emotions, not negative emotions. It will be easy to continue autonomous learning due to positive perceptions of English learning.

 Finally, the Japanese Ministry of Education implicated educational policy based on the critical period hypothesis to educate elementary students, which is inappropriate, as explained earlier. Therefore, the Japanese Ministry of Education needs to create an educational system with scientific grounds based on the opinions of English experts and brain scientists.

 Japan has developed technology by translating foreign papers even if Japanese people were not good at English. As a result, Japan’s international competitiveness increased, and its GDP ranked third in the world. Japan, which has developed through translation and even now almost of Japanese cannot speak English, should not put value too much weight on English education, but improving skills and technology helps develop the country. Also, the importance of English education will be lower with developing AI technology, so the Japanese Ministry of Education should discuss and determine the line and direction of what education is practical and available.


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