11 April 2009

Why English learning fails in Japan: Reason #8

Note: This is a series that was started about a year ago, so it really is time to bring it to a close, with installments on reasons 8, 9, and 10. This blog post will be reason number 8, with reasons 9 and 10 to follow soon.

First, below is a recapitulation of reasons 1-7, with links to the full articles that detail each of those reasons:


Next, reason number 8.

Why English learning fails in Japan: Reason #8

Reason #8: A lack of EFL programs

It is often said that Japan has not committed sufficient 'resources'--money, personnel--to improve English teaching and learning. However, I would argue that in terms of public and private spending, Japan actually spends more money than most other EFL countries, both in total and per capita. The problem is more the 'scatter shot' approach.

In terms of public policy and expenditure (but note, this includes, for example, language education at the numerous private, non-profit senior high schools and universities), much of the issue could be called a 'socio-linguistic pipe dream', and that pipe dream is the often-expressed goal of making Japan a country where most of the population will have functional fluency and literacy in EFL. Because of the pursuit of this pipe dream, so much in terms of personnel and money is wasted on students at the secondary and tertiary levels who have never shown much aptitude or desire to learn English. That might appeal to the modern sense of 'fair' and 'democratic' (two terms you will often hear in education here in Japan) but it dooms EFL teaching and learning here to delivering a vague, goal-less general education requirement, with the result being, predictably enough, ineffectiveness and wastefulness.

What Japan needs to do instead is systematically to identify language learners with the aptitude, motivation and long-term patience to master foreign languages. And then the educational system needs to implement nationwide programs that train EFL majors, minors and concentrations.

At the university and college level, this has to start with faculties, programs and departments identifying and specifying the foreign language needs and goals of their enrolled students. This information then has to be compiled to form language policies across the curriculum that all stakeholders at the universities and colleges sign on to as practical agreements leading to real changes to the curriculum and graduation requirements. For example, students in a public administration program might take so many credits of EFL in order to get a nationally recognized 'concentration' in it and would achieve a minimum TOEIC or EIKEN/STEP (a criterion-referenced EFL exam here in Japan) score as part of their graduation requirements.

No comments:

Back to top

Back to top
Click on logo to go back to top page.