Controversies

From English Education in Japan

Some of the controversies about English education in Japan are:

  • Whether all school students should be required to study English
  • If all school students are required to study English, at what age that required study should begin and how long that study should continue
  • If only some students are required to study English, how those students should be chosen
  • Whether English classes should teach explicit knowledge about grammar and other linguistic aspects of English or whether they should emphasize the acquisition of speaking and other automatic communicative skills
  • Whether the purpose of English education should be the broadening of general knowledge (kyōyō 教養) or the acquisition of practical skills (jitsuyō 実用)
  • Whether English classes should emphasize receptive skills (reading and listening) or transmissive skills (speaking and writing)
  • Whether English classes should be taught only or primarily in English or whether Japanese should be used by the teacher and students
  • Whether English teaching should focus on passing tests (school or university entrance exams, or qualification tests such as TOEIC or Eiken)
  • When tests are used, which tests are appropriate for which purposes (such as whether TOEFL is appropriate for university entrance examinations)
  • Whether English teaching should emphasize the reading of English-language literature
  • Whether textbooks and other teaching materials should be authentic, naturally generated texts or should be written and adapted specially for Japanese learners
  • Whether the content of textbooks and other teaching materials should focus on countries and people for whom English is the first language or also include those for whom English is a second or foreign language
  • Whether textbooks and other teaching materials should include content for political or didactic reasons
  • Whether yakudoku (訳読, the use of translation to explicate lexical meaning and grammatical structure, also called the "grammar-translation" method) should be used in the English classroom
  • Whether the pronunciation, vocabulary, and grammar of the English taught should follow those of British and/or American English or whether they should reflect other varieties of English (including English as used by Japanese and other nonnative speakers)
  • Whether, and how, the teaching of English should be linked with the teaching of Japanese as a first language (kokugo kyōiku 国語教育)
  • Whether approaches to language education originating outside Japan—such as approaches based on second-language acquisition research or the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR)—are suitable for application to English education in Japan
  • Whether English teachers should be native speakers of English, Japanese, or other languages
  • Whether other foreign languages should be taught in addition to or instead of English
  • Whether English-education policy should be controlled by language-education experts or by other stakeholders
  • Whether the learning of English by children interferes with their acquisition of Japanese
  • Whether the widespread teaching of English harms the Japanese language
  • Whether the actual outcomes of English teaching in Japan are better or worse than should be expected
  • Whether the effort put into studying English is worth it in the long run for most Japanese people