Thursday, November 19, 2009

Japanese Primary School English Education

English will be a mandatory school subject for 5th and 6th graders in Japanese elementary schools starting April, 2011 (year 23 of the current imperial era). To assist homeroom teachers of these grades, the Ministry of Education has published the two-volume textbook series English Note. While not perfect, the books are far better than nothing for most teachers, who are not specialists in teaching or speaking the language, and the texts' arrival at schools was eagerly anticipated by educators in Niigata earlier this year. But now comes word from the Ministry of Education that the texts will likely be discontinued the year English becomes a required subject. Why this about-face? In the words of members of the Finance Ministry working group studying this and other Ministry of Education outlays, the texts are muda (無駄) or "an utter waste", quite harsh and direct language for Japanese. If you are concerned about the fate of English Note, you can contact the ministry at the

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