小学校の英語 楽しく学べる環境を整えたい

The Yomiuri Shimbun May 30, 2013
Create enjoyable environment for primary schoolers to learn English
小学校の英語 楽しく学べる環境を整えたい(5月29日付・読売社説)

If Japan wants to hone its competitive edge overseas, it is essential to foster broad-minded human resources with superb foreign language skills. To do so, the government should improve the nation’s educational environment.

The Education Rebuilding Implementation Council, an expert panel under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, has compiled a set of proposals that emphasize the necessity of expanding and improving the nation’s English education at all levels, from primary school to university, to foster individuals who can compete globally.

One noteworthy proposal suggests that the government consider making English a regular subject at primary schools.

Since the 2011 academic year, “foreign language activity” has become a required course at primary schools. Now, fifth- and sixth-graders take English classes once a week.

The course is aimed at familiarizing students with the language and places emphasis on nurturing basic conversation and listening skills. Unlike middle school English classes, students do not study grammar.

Hurdles remain

As it is not a regular subject, no textbooks are used. While homeroom teachers are charged with leading foreign language activities, most did not receive sufficient instruction on how to teach English during college-level teacher training courses. As a result, many are concerned about their ability to instruct pupils.

We duly understand the aims of upgrading the course into a regular subject, making an English textbook available at primary schools and improving the quality of classes.

However, many hurdles remain.

If English is made into a regular subject, student performance must be graded. But is it fitting to give exams in a class that is aimed at familiarizing students with English? If grammar lessons are required, it may cause some students to dislike the subject from the primary school level.

Enhancing the English skills of primary school teachers cannot be accomplished overnight. In addition to improved teacher training, it is necessary to establish a system in which classes are taught by teachers who specialize in English, or native English-speaking assistant language teachers work together with Japanese teachers.

In other parts of Asia, such as China, South Korea and Taiwan, students begin learning English when they become third-grade primary school students. Some experts assert that early English education is key to helping students master the language.

On the other hand, many people insist that Japanese, the nation’s mother tongue, should be prioritized over learning English. Whether the government should promote an earlier start to English lessons is likely to become a point of contention in the future.

Universities lagging

The panel’s proposals also refer to university education, saying “their lagging globalization has reached a critical state.”

The number of Japanese studying overseas is on the decline. There are also fewer foreign students studying in Japan than in the United States and European nations. It is crucial, among other things, to increase the number of courses taught in English to train Japanese students and attract foreigners.

The panel also suggested TOEFL, a test that gauges the English proficiency of nonnative speakers, and other outside tests be used for university admission and graduation. We believe this idea merits consideration on the basis of prodding students to acquire practical language skills.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, May 29, 2013)
(2013年5月29日02時07分 読売新聞)

srachai について

early retired civil engineer migrated from Tokyo to Thailand
カテゴリー: 英字新聞 パーマリンク



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