English teaching in Japan: same old same old

I’ve flagged a couple of articles from recent Japan Times postings.

English fluency hopes rest on an education overhaul

(The byline is: “Systemic, structural problems hinder government goals.” What I interpret this as, is: The government really doesn’t want to do very much to further the goals of the parents who pressure it to do more, because it doesn’t really want the population speaking English like it’s Hong Kong.)

English education set to get serious

Junior high school English teachers should conduct classes exclusively in English and be periodically tested on their skills in the language using a third-party proficiency test, and formal English instruction should start in the fifth grade of elementary school from 2020, according to a blueprint for education reform unveiled Friday.

As part of the plan for elementary to high school English education, more assistant language teachers also will be hired, education minister Hakubun Shimomura said.

The year 2020 is the new fashionable way of saying, “maybe in the future”. It’s far enough away that weak effort won’t immediately be a cause for alarm, so that plans can go astray. But close enough that it seems like it’s right around the corner when you think about it.

Lastly, there is commentary from the current talent pool of Eikaiwa instructors, which is illuminating in its frankness. Obviously, if you’ve been reading on the issue of English teaching in Japan, a lot of this has been said in the past fourteen years. It’s the frankness and resignation in the way it’s presented that is refreshing. English teaching in Japan is the way it is, because it is the way it was designed to be. Although I disagree that collective bargaining is the only practical solution (that sounds like the voice of others in there, pitching another tired line), I agree that speaking up about the rough edges of exploitation is worth it. If people don’t, then the same sort of unfairness, cheating, and lawlessness will continue to happen.

I look forward to whatever next article comes along, which should likely be another one about Japan’s desire to expand the JET program, with a quote or two from the US Embassy about how that’s such a welcome move.

However, the idea that the government is actually going to offer career paths to foreigners (or native Japanese who are as good as foreigners!) to teach in Japan just never seems to make the radar.

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