High schools

From English Education in Japan

English education in high schools

In Japan, high school is a part of secondary education, and those who graduated from junior-high schools are qualified to enroll at high schools. The usual ages of high school students are 16 to 18.

Public high schools generally offer a full-time course (全日制), while some also offer a part-time course (定時制) or a correspondence course (通信制). Attending high school is not compulsory, but, as of 2012, 94% of junior-high school students go on to a full time course at either a public or a private high school (MEXT, 2013). Unlike public junior-high schools, which only accept students coming from the neighborhood area specified by the local government, public high schools accept students from residential areas throughout the prefecture (県) to which the schools belong. Different public high schools may also set different admissions requirements and passing scores for a common entrance examination.

In public high schools, English is taught in accordance with the Course of Study for High Schools: Foreign Languages (高等学校学習指導要領: 外国語). This Course of Study specifies that the current objectives of English education in high schools are “[t]o develop students’ communication abilities such as accurately understanding and appropriately conveying information, ideas, etc., deepening their understanding of language and culture, and fostering a positive attitude toward communication through foreign languages.”

The revised Course of Study for High Schools (高等学校学習指導要領) announced in 2009 stipulates that English classes in high schools are to be conducted in English. This has resulted in a heated discussion among educators and experts (Erikawa, 2009; Kanatani, 2014; Kubota, 2014; etc.); some assert that conducting classes mainly or only in English with increase students’ acquisition of the language, while others claim that such a policy can interfere with students’ learning and might not be feasible in many schools.

Since the revision of the Course of Study for High Schools (高等学校学習指導要領) in 2009, English classes divided by the four skills (reading, writing, speaking, and listening) have been replaced by Communication I/II/III, English Expression I/II, and English Conversation (MEXT, 2009). Since then, English education in high school has focused on developing students’ communicative abilities in a comprehensive way (Ogushi, 2011: 16). For details, see also Course of Study for High Schools: Foreign Languages (高等学校学習指導要領: 外国語)


Each school has the authority to choose its textbooks in accordance with its students’ achievement level. Because subject teachers can be involved in the textbook selection process, adopted textbooks may reflect the teachers’ belief at the particular school (Ogushi, 2011: 42). For the textbooks certified by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, check the latest list released by MEXT.


Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology [MEXT] (2009). Course of Study for High Schools: General provisions.(J) △文部科学省『高等学校学習指導要領解説 総則編』 (MEXT website)

Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology [MEXT] A list of certified textbooks for high schools for SY2015. (J) △ 文部科学省 『高等学校用教科書目録(平成27年度使用)』(MEXT Website)

Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology [MEXT] (2013). International Comparison of Education Indexes. (J) △文部科学省『教育指標の国際比較』(MEXT website)

Erikawa, Haruo. (2009, September 1). "Jyugyō ha Eigo de okonau he no iron (Objections to the idea that ‘English classes should be conducted in English’)" Kibou no eigo kyōiku e △ 江利川春雄「’授業は英語で行なう’への異論」、『希望の英語教育へ』2009年9月1日。Accessed December 5, 2013.

Kanatani, Ken (2014) ‘Eigo kyoiku o meguru giron o seiri suru (Classification of arguments concerning English education)’ The English Teachers’ Magazine, 62(11), 13-15, Taishukan. △ 金谷憲「英語教育をめぐる議論を整理する」『英語教育』、Vol. 62、No. 11. 大修館、2014年。

Kubota, Ryuko (2014, January 17). "Orinpikku to eigo kyōiku: Han gurōbaru teki kaikaku (The Olympics and English language teaching: Anti-global reforms)". Shūkan Kinyoobi. △ 久保田竜子「オリンピックと英語教育:反グローバル的改革」『週間金曜日』、2014年1月17日。Accessed September 16, 2014. (Ryuko Kubota's website)

Ogushi, Masanori (2011). Eigo kentei kyōkasho: Seido, kyōzai, soshite katsuyō (Approved English textbooks: Systems, materials, and utilization). Sanseidō. △ 小串雅則『英語検定教科書 : 制度、教材、そして活用』、三省堂、2011年。(WorldCat)