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February 28, 2005

Experts, Readers Have Their Say on English Education

Last Friday, the 16th installment in the Daily Yomiuri's "In Pursuit of English" series looked at the opinions of local experts on the question of English in primary schools. Though English is already part of the curriculum at over 90% of public elementary schools, opinion on the subject is divided. Those in favor cite such things as: a need to keep up with other Asian countries; teaching students at an age when their intellectual development is still at a level where it can be expressed using basic language ability; and learning to listen and convey their thoughts in a clear way. Those who question the need for early English education have doubts as to whether starting in primary school even gives an advantage in terms of listening ability or vocabulary size. They also fear that giving more classroom time to English will result in less time for other important subjects. They also cited the common concern that English study has a negative effect on the development of Japanese language ability.

The final installment in the series included responses from several readers to the various topics raised in the series. One lamented the lack of communication skills among Japanese students, regardless of whether they were using English or their own language. Another claimed that proficiency in their mother tongue is a prerequisite to acquiring English ability, citing Japanese students in New Zealand who fail to develop fully in either language. Another reader questioned the value of foreign ALTs, suggesting that the budget allocated to them would be better spent on sending Japanese English teachers for training abroad.
Proficiency in mother tongue is essential (link will expire)

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