Teachers' blog


【English Teaching in Japanese Schools 1】

(Contributed by Takashi)
Recently I encountered an interesting article titled, “What’s wrong with English education in Japan? Pull up your chair…” Here, the author, KK Miller, discusses three basic causes of English education failure in Japanese schools.
The first of the three (the most fundamental in my opinion) is the fact that teaching is conducted to the tests. Miller explains that Japanese students learn English according to “a mandated set of content,” which mainly focuses on certain grammar and vocabulary. Accordingly, school teachers test their students on them. If the students get passing grades on the test, the English education has been accomplished as far as the teachers are concerned.
The same is true for the goal-oriented students, particularly when their top priority is firmly set on passing the entrance exams.
Thus, Miller correctly surmises the student mentality, “if Japanese students have to learn specific material for the tests, why should the learn anything else?” Miller concludes, “a broader understanding and the practical uses of English are largely ignored.”
The second cause listed is the textbook quality. The author says many foreign English teachers criticize the textbooks for the inclusion of grammar that is unpractical and unused in real life. In addition, their contents are, simply put, boring.
The final cause of Japanese English education failure, according to this article, is “a focus on translating into Japanese and Japanese teachers of English speaking in only Japanese.” Naturally, the foreign English teachers have to ask, “Where is the English?” while being “relegated to human tape recorders, and then set free to roam the class and ‘help’ the students” in the speaking last culture of Japanese English classrooms.

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