Panel to propose English in elementary schools

Panel to propose English in elementary schools

TOKYO, Jan. 19 Kyodo

An advisory panel to the education minister said Friday it has finalized a proposal that Japanese children start learning English in public elementary school, instead of in junior high school under the current curriculum.

The panel headed by Mineo Nakajima, president of the state-run Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, will require the ministry to study introducing compulsory English lessons in elementary schools.

The panel is an unofficial advisory body to Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Minister Nobutaka Machimura.

If the ministry implements the proposal, teachers in public elementary schools would be required to spend more time teaching communicative English instead of grammar as they do in junior high schools, the final report said.

But the panel members acknowledged there may be some reaction against the proposal, saying, ”Young students should learn sophisticated Japanese first.”

The panel also proposed that the government encourage public bodies and private companies to hire workers with higher levels of English than currently.

The members stopped short of indicating why they proposed an early start to learning English, but it suggests concerns over Japanese people’s difficulties using English.

A 1998-1999 score report by the organizer of the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) suggested that Japanese have a poor command of the language compared with other Asian nations.

Among 26 nations in Asia, Japan placed 23rd in the ranking of average scores, although it had the largest number of test-takers in the region.

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