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April 23, 2004

Examining Elementary School English

Yesterday's Japan Times ran an article on the spread of English at elementary schools. It looked at Tokyo's Arakawa Ward in particular, as the area is one of the few that have been granted special status as reform zones. The ward has introduced English to the curriculum of all of its 23 public elementary schools. "Under the board's English guideline, schools hold 34 to 35 English classes a year, each 45 minutes long, mainly to nurture listening and speaking abilities. By the time students finish elementary school, they are expected to acquire enough English ability to give foreigners directions or introduce themselves in English." The article also highlighted the shortage of teachers qualified to teach English to young children. Often "homeroom" teachers are given the task, sometimes with the help of a native-speaking ALT. Sophia University Kensaku Yoshida suggests that the formal introduction of English to the elementary school curriculum – a proposal currently under consideration by the government – would be a good move, but would take about five years to complete.
English classes all the rage at elementary schools

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