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July 18, 2003

Eikaiwa Encroaching on Hallowed Ground

A lack of faculty members with English communicative skills is forcing an increasing number of universities to take on teachers from eikaiwa schools as assistant lecturers. Also, credits for English classes are becoming more widespread. Tokyo Institute of Technology started a course in Technical English for 3rd year students last October. But they discovered that there were not enough teachers with both the technical expertise and English skills to handle the course. So last month they contracted with Berlitz to take on 24 "temp teachers." Also, following a survey of graduates asking them the degree to which they had achieved their academic goals, in which English ranked last of 11 subjects, they have set a target TOEIC score of 650 for all graduates. According to lecturer Osamu Kusakabe, "Teachers who have only taught Shakespeare and literature may resist the changes. But we have to condsider the students' needs and educate engineers who can use English at work."

Tokyo University of Agriculture took on 10 teachers from eikaiwa school ECC in 2000 in order to teach classes in English conversation, composition and TOEIC preparation. An administrator said, "We had to swallow our pride in order to start these English classes. But they are well received by the students." But there are those who disagree, seeing it as "passing the educational buck."

In April, lecturers at Keio University had their hands full with English classes of higher-level students. So the Environmental & Information Sciences and Policy Studies departments took on 2 Berlitz teachers to teach 4 classes of students who had chosen English as their compulsory foreign language class, but had TOEIC scores below 400.

Berlitz currently has contracts with about 60 universities, while ECC has about 50. Of these institutions, about 20% give credits for the English classes, following approval given by the education ministry in April. Both eikaiwa schools see this as a growing market, particularly with the deregulation of state-run universities set to take place next April. (translated from Asahi Shimbun)

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