6 Disappointing Facts About English Education in Japan!

6 Disappointing Facts About English Education in Japan

There is a good deal of truth in the commonly held perception that Japan’s education system does not produce people with good foreign language skills, especially English. With English being the lingua-franca for international relations and global commerce, perhaps we should do better as a nation. Here are a few of the reasons why Japan’s English education falls behind that of other Asian nations.



 

6 Disappointing Facts About English Education in Japan!

 

1. Attitudes

Motivated people may derive a sense of personal achievement in mastering English, others may view it as a means to a better career, but few Japanese fall into either category. Many students cannot see the benefits of studying a language they may never use in future, whilst parents see Japan’s English education as a waste of valuable time that might otherwise be spent on more ‘important’ subjects.

 

2. English for Exams

For most students, English is just one of many mandatory subjects of high school and college entrance exams and, with neither the time nor inclination to learn beyond test requirements, students rarely develop the ability to communicate effectively in English. It seems rather pointless, therefore, to give such prominence to English in the Japanese education system.

 

3. Classroom Methodology

Because Japan’s English education is about passing entrance exams, JTEs (Japanese Teachers of English) must focus all their attention on the grammatical and lexical structures those exams are designed to test. Typically, explanations are in Japanese and comprehension tested through translation, but no practical experience of real world usage is given.

 

4. Teachers

The fact is, most JTEs cannot themselves speak English! Indeed, if they had any real English ability, teaching might be the last career they would choose. This is a major flaw in the Japanese education system that has been consistently overlooked or ignored where, with a vested interest in job security, many teachers have opposed reforms.

 

5. Assistants

Many schools employ native English ALTs (Assistant Language Teachers) who follow up on the JTEs’ lessons by monitoring what the students produce, though simply parroting a language is not the same as learning to use it. Few ALTs are qualified EFL instructors; most are little more than kids themselves, glad to spend a few months in Japan after college.

 

6. Materials

Japanese English classroom materials have often been criticized for presenting grammar and vocabulary that is archaic or suspect, and for topics that fail to engage student interest. Textbooks are certainly better than they used to be, but where the aims and methodology remain the same, such improvements will have less impact on learning.

 

Conclusion

The education system in Japan is deeply flawed; it streams students with little regard for individuality, creates unreasonable competition for places at ‘better’ schools, and relies far too heavily on ‘low grade’ schools and the private sector to catch students who fall through the cracks. Worst of all, it encourages a very blinkered view of the world and Japan’s role within it. Perhaps Japan’s English education can only improve when the entire education system is overhauled, and English downgraded to a minor subject, but with advanced classes for those who are motivated enough to really learn it.

 

6 Disappointing Facts About English Education in Japan!

1. Attitudes
2. English for Exams
3. Classroom Methodology
4. Teachers
5. Assistants
6. Materials