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December 17, 2003

Mixed Views at JALT Forum

Yesterday's Daily Yomiuri carried a report on the open forum sponsored by the newspaper at the recent "JALT 3002" (sic) conference. Education minister Takeo Kawamura was scheduled to appear but was unable to attend. Hitoshi Nara, head of the ministry's international education section, stood in and with the other five forum panelists discussed the current state of education reform. Not all opinions expressed were in accord. JACET president Mamoru Morizumi was critical of the compulsory training imposed on all 60,000 English teachers as part of the reform plan introduced last year, saying that it was "too one-sided and uniform." He also said that overall the plan was unfocused, adding, "It's not clear why we should learn English, what we are trying to do with English and what kind of Japanese we want to be." Also, in a direct contradiction of the views of Kiichi Matsuhata, president of JASELE, former U.N. undersecretary general Yasushi Akashi questioned the change of focus from reading and writing to a more communicative approach. "To have a high-level conversation in English, we have to acquire proper reading and writing abilities first. It is also necessary to acquire wide knowledge about the world - the differences in culture, ideas, logic, etc - before English ability itself," he said. Other speakers looked at the role of ALTs at all education levels and the importance of English in international business.
Daily Yomiuri article

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