30 April 2009

Law schools in Japan need to cut back admissions and improve programs

Law schools in Japan face admissions retrenchments and calls for improvement. Two stories in English-language newspapers here explain:

Law schools in Japan face admissions retrenchments and calls for improvement. Two stories in English-language newspapers here explain:



>>The number of students to be admitted to 74 law schools throughout the nation will be slashed by about 18 percent during the 2010 and 2011 academic years, it has been learned.

The widespread plans will see a cut in the current total intake of 5,765 students nationwide to between 4,700 and 4,800, sources said, although they added that six schools were not planning any cuts.

It has been pointed out that an excessive number of students at law schools has resulted in a lower percentage of students passing the national bar examination.

A special panel of the Central Council for Education has called for drastic cuts in the number of students allowed to enroll at law schools to improve the quality of education at them.

As the Japan Federation of Bar Associations also has proposed that the intake of students should be cut to around 4,000, it is expected there will be further calls for cuts in the number of law students accepted by schools, the sources said.<<

See full story at Yomiuri online.



>>Raising the bar at law schools

In April 2004, 68 law schools were established in accordance with the nation's legal reform. Since then, the number has increased to 74. Earlier this month, about 5,800 people enrolled in these schools. Those who have not studied law at undergraduate level will have to complete a three-year course and those who did, a two-year course.

These schools were created to help satisfy a national demand for legal professionals who can provide high-quality services, in particular lawyers. But criticism persists that some of these schools fail to offer high-quality education.

The Japan Law Foundation, the National Institution for Academic Degrees and University Evaluation and the Japan University Accreditation Association have recently evaluated 68 of the law schools and determined that 22 of them have problems with their curricula and teaching methods.

Problems identified include a shortage of basic subjects, a lack of balance between theoretical studies and practical application, a lack of transparency in the evaluation of students' performances in tests and under-qualified teachers.<<

See full story/editorial at Japan Times online.


by Charles Jannuzi, University of Fukui, Japan

Here is a list of brief summaries of all the reasons, with links to all ten reasons as they appeared in serial form at the JPN HEO Blog.


Reason #1: Japan is linguistically and culturally self-sufficient--so most Japanese do not have a pressing need to learn or use English (English is a FOREIGN language).


Reason #2: Japanese is not closely related to English--so it takes longer for beginners to learn how to learn English.


Reason #3: Japanese is not written with an alphabet--this makes literacy for EFL a hindrance to learning the language.


Reason #4: Learning to read and write Japanese fluently takes away too much time from the rest of the curriculum, including EFL learning.


Reason #5: Lack of national consensus on foreign language education--most agree change is needed, but it is hard to get agreement on concrete steps.


Reason #6: The situation at universities--negative washback from entrance exams and the preparation for them at the senior highs.


Reason #7: The situation at universities--elite academics, non-elite students, mismatch of expectations, poor results with general education studies.


Reason #8: A lack of EFL programs, specialties, majors, minors, concentrations.


Reason #9: The foreign language teaching and learning 'culture'. That is, the overall approach to teaching and learning EFL (and these are collaborative activities) that is specific to Japan.


Reason #10: The language teaching 'profession' in Japan. There is a lack of serious and useful teacher training and professional development. In higher education, those who are most often designated to teach EFL courses have backgrounds in literature, linguistics, and teacher training, not actual EFL teaching.

Why English learning fails in Japan: Reason #10

Note: This is a series that was started about a year ago, so it really is time to bring it to a close, with installment 10, the final reason. We will follow this up with a quick summary that links to all 10 reasons and their separate entries at the JPNHEO Blog. Then, a bit later, we will conclude the series with an article that integrates all ten reasons into one coherent piece.

Why English learning fails in Japan: Reason #10

Reason #10: The language teaching 'profession' in Japan

At all levels, EFL teachers face a situation where English is treated as just another school and test subject, and yet the effective teaching and learning of a foreign language require something well beyond the standard treatment as a school subject. So it is hard to write this reason without seeming to be harsh on the teachers. However, much of this situation hardly seems to be attributable to the teachers, but rather programs, schools, school boards, universities and the national government.

For teachers at most levels, there is a lack of serious and useful teacher training and professional development. In higher education, there is also the issue of who is designated to teach EFL courses. Most have backgrounds in fields that are supposed to be related to and support TEFL (e.g., literature, linguistics, and teacher training), but the reality is that such academic backgrounds prove limited for serious language teaching or the development of future language teachers.

It also means, at least at the level of higher education, academics are not rewarded for their language teaching but instead for their scholarly achievements in their original specialties (literature, linguistics, and teacher training). Moreover, this creates a double problem at the universities and colleges: university and college personnel are not really serious about creating effective EFL programs and courses for the general student population, but even the training of EFL teachers slights EFL at the expense of concentrating on education, applied linguistics, and theoretical ELT (largely imported from the US, UK and other Anglophone countries). This issue then proliferates because such inadequate teacher training programs send out young teachers to teach in the junior and senior highs.

Meanwhile, at such 'professional' organizations as JALT here in Japan, scholarship and 'research' about EFL learning and teaching abound, but a closer look at much of this discourse reveals the true state of the 'profession'. On the one hand much of it lacks any real depth of understanding of EFL and EFL in Japan and reflects instead imported teaching techniques and materials which are mostly superficial adaptations of ideas that come from Anglophone countries' ESL or British ELT for Europe.

27 April 2009

Setting the record straight on JALT language policy

In the book, Non-native educators in English language teaching (Edited by George Braine) both George Braine (in an overview piece) and Masaki Oda claim that I supported an English-only language policy in JALT in the 1990s.

First, in the 1990s JALT (the Japan Association for Language Teaching) was run by a bunch of alcoholics, so you were never certain what exactly you were supporting or against anyway.

Second, I recapitulated a position set forth earlier by Richard Marshall (who was a national officer in JALT at the time)--that is I summarized his position--in order to make my own.

Third, my own position was for a bilingual policy, but with the additional thought that an English-Japanese bilingual policy still had exclusive elements to it.

I have never yet been able to get Braine or Oda to acknowledge that they misrepresented or misunderstood my positions.

Are graduate programs relevant and worthwhile?


End the University as We Know It


>>GRADUATE education is the Detroit of higher learning. Most graduate programs in American universities produce a product for which there is no market (candidates for teaching positions that do not exist) and develop skills for which there is diminishing demand (research in subfields within subfields and publication in journals read by no one other than a few like-minded colleagues), all at a rapidly rising cost (sometimes well over $100,000 in student loans).<<

Comment: It's true of university education here in Japan too, right down to the undergraduate, four-year university level. Although I'm uncertain about their delivery of courses, it's still the case that university faculty in Japan are largely set up as if their main task was to train the future generation of university faculty. If this expands to a larger pool, it would be a future generation of public and private school teachers and civil servants. This hardly reflects a forward-looking plan for a country in demographic stagnation and decline run by governments elected on 'less government, more free market liberalization' platforms.

In short, Japan's HE is locked into an approach that seems to ignore the serious intellectual and vocational develpment of nearly 100 percent of the students who pass through for 4-8 years of their life. I hope that is medical school notwithstanding.

As for the irrelevance (and huge expense) of US graduate education, read the rest of the NYT opinion piece here:


Back to top

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