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July 19, 2005

English Classes Not Being Taught in English

Public schools nationwide are not teaching English classes in English anywhere near to the extent set out in government guidelines, according to yesterday's Daily Yomiuri. The front page article reported on a recent education ministry survey which found that "only 4% of public middle schools...conduct a good portion of English lesson in English." Even high school classes that are supposed to focus on English communication skills are still predominantly taught in Japanese.

The February survey of about 10,200 middle schools and 3,800 high schools found that the number of schools where English was used in English classes more than half the time accounted for just 30%. For English 1 classes, a compulsory course for 10th graders, the number was a pitiful 1.1% (excluding those students studying international relations). Even the Oral Communication 1 course, which is meant to help 12th graders with their speaking and hearing skills, only 25.1% of high schools conducted classes in English.

The fundamental cause for the current situation can also be seen from the survey results. The standardized test scores of Japanese teachers of English clearly indicate that most are not equipped to communicate in English. Just over 8% of junior high school teachers and less than 20% of high school teachers have managed to reach the 730-point threshold on the TOEIC test, the level set by many companies for employees claiming to have "good English." Similar statistics were seen for teachers who have passed the pre-level 1 or level 1 of the STEP test (eiken).
Ministry survey finds schools' English teaching falling short (link will expire)
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