Japan seeks more native English speakers to instruct Japanese teachers
Japan’s bid to become more globally competitive has driven elementary school teachers to seek instruction from native English speakers to improve their language skills.
The education ministry is currently looking for 20,000 native speakers and Japanese fluent in the English language to be assistant language teachers. The ministry hopes to meet its target by fiscal year 2020, according to a report by Kyodo News via Japan Times.
A five-year road map was also created to train and raise “leaders” in English education for elementary schools.
At present, fifth- and sixth-grade students learn simple English once a week through games and songs. Time spent learning the language is expected to double come 2020 when English becomes formal language in the curriculum. Teachers are doing their best to keep up by enrolling in English classes taught by a native speaker.
Prior to the 2020 plan, English became compulsory for fifth- and sixth-graders as part of their extra-curricular “foreign language activities” in 2011.
Thirty-four-year-old elementary teacher Yuko Shigematsu said most of her colleagues were not confident of their English skills. They feared teaching children “the wrong thing.” Many also admitted to be lacking in expressiveness and grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation skills.
Shigematsu has been taking classes for the past two years and her students are noticing the difference. She has grown more confident with her skills plus her students now think her pronunciations “are cool” so they try to copy her.
Local boards of education from different prefectures are pitching in by providing their own training strategies.
In Akita Prefecture, teachers are provided mock classroom lessons in collaboration with Akita International University and its foreign students.
The Fukuoka board turned to the Fukuoka International School to conduct English conversation classes for teachers. Lessons are conducted by a native speaker for one hour every week. Four hundred people have so far attended and 80 percent of them are elementary school teachers. Alfred Bayle /ra
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