The Role of English Education in Japan


The language-in-education policy is a competitive initiative to promote English teaching in foreign countries. The one has been recently announced as the officially taught academic subject for the fifth and sixth graders in Japan, while not being limited to the needs of educating practitioners in colleges and universities. Japan as an economy presents a significant potential for cultivating English teaching, since one is a highly developed country with major technological resources that will empower the growth of global talent potential.

Furthermore, it was previously articulated that the Japanese government intended to follow an action plan of developing new educational settings for meeting the requirements of multilingualism as a driving factor for cross-cultural educational performance. Considerably, the present study addresses the aspects of using English in educating Japanese people from the perspectives of instruction, subject requirement, and foreign language acquisition, tailoring those to the socioeconomic context.

English as The Medium of Instruction

The instruction purpose follows the idea of developing a graduate population of learners who can clearly apprehend the information produced in English at a basic level. Considerably, it is primarily applicable at school level, where basic notations and forms of communication are developed. The main aspect to be considered is that English vowels are more varied to Japanese ones, which creates issues with the approaches to distinguish the meaning and pronunciation. As specified by Hanazaki et al. (2017),

the sounds that correspond to Japanese /a/, [æ] is one of the toughest sounds for Japanese EFL learners, for that sound requires the mouth to open the most, while producing Japanese sounds does not require the speakers to open up their mouths as much as this [æ] sound”

Basically, it means that instruction medium is obscured with the linguistic origin of two languages, which is best addressed through the use of the following points to begin. First, it is reasonable to emphasize on the importance of using the audio classes, which are best utilized as homework attempts, especially during the times of remote education. Specifically, there is a great potential to use educational efforts in sharing videos in English related to the use of technology or acquisition of cultural heritage, similarly to the efforts previously done by National Geographic.

Second, the in-class approach known as an audio-lingual method that requires an instructor to pronounce a correct model of wording or sentencing could be used for initiating students’ repetition. However, in terms of the behaviorist psychology and challenges of teaching students remotely, it might become a significant challenge to adopt based on the sound education specifics in Japan.

English as a Subject

The education of English in Japan refers to the several social, economic, and cultural norms that are required to be considered prior to the deployment of specific teaching plan. Previously, it was mentioned that the Japanese educational system experiences controversies related to the choice between the homeroom and specialist teachers to provide related services. The argument for not actively involving homeroom teachers was primarily associated with the association of the core curriculum, meaning that core subjects such as math might not be adequately comprehended.

However, the one has not considered the aspect of involving such experts based on the incorporated approaches such as Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) practiced across the world. The basics of CLIL suggest that a second-language education is essential to acquire academic content through balancing between the native and foreign notations. However, certain criticism involves using CLIL as a commercial effort to structure the foreign knowledge education to the proprietary content, which is not evident for the personal educational plans.

Overall, English as a subject taught in Japan requires more tailored approaches initiated by the government participation to promote competitive educational advantage.

In terms of allocated hours, it is important to consider the level of learner and the overall intentions of the educational facility. For instance, if the learner is in an elementary school, the number of allocated hours should be limited to the Japanese government constraints of the foreign language acquisition. Alternatively, if the learner pursues the high school curriculum, the frequency of English lessons teaching should be advocated per means of the future education perspectives. Hence, the hour allocation is a subject for the personal alignment and purposeful agreement with an educational facility in Japan.

English as a Foreign Language

The aspect of foreign language application to teaching is primarily based on the application of leadership in teaching that is based on apprehending cultural and social norms. For instance, instructional leadership could be described through strategies that are employed by teachers depending on the learners’ group, subject, and targets, including generating and testing hypotheses or contrasting and comparing problems or cases.

The nature of instructional strategies is to create parallels to how human brain works, thus requiring learners to focus on a particular content for the defined period, like course, semester or exam. The language acquisition could be also manifested through engaging learners into decision-making process, like solving applied problems or case studies, setting performance goals, and suggesting future avenues for thinking depending on the granularity of English. Overall, instructional leadership is required to encourage students to educate themselves through development of personal approaches to acquire knowledge, which is natural to the biological composition of how the human brain works.

The freedom of thinking is naturally applied to the aforementioned model for the following reasons. First, the instructional strategies nowadays become more and more focused on transforming learning experiences of students through challenging mental models of learning. These applications seek for freedom and empowerment in individual learning efforts and thus completely reframing learning process towards self-centered efforts. Hence, such transformation eventually emerges in various forms of the student-centered learning, which is the process of critical reflection on the individual knowledge acquisition becomes paramount.

The need for engaging Japanese students to study English emerges from the peculiarities of social studies, educational norms, and overall economic requirements to develop student capability to manage intended social contribution. Similarly to the instructional strategies, the student-centered learning might exist in various manifestations; hence, its relevance varies depending on the situational context. For instance, a congregative dialogue as one of the approaches used for student-centered learning might be complex to be practices in the classrooms where instructors failed to set up the leadership principles of voicing personal concerns. However, it might be efficient for developing the cross-cultural understanding and better comprehension of socioeconomic expectations.

The Culture of Learning

From the cultural perspective, it is also worth admitting that Japan ranks the middle-to-low positions in the English proficiency band overall. Among the equal countries in Asia and developed world, it looks like an offensive social position despite the constant efforts related to reshuffling and refinement of the educational system. Particularly, such trend is unexpected given the social association of Japanese population with the white people, major advertisements produced through the video screens in English, and overall aptitude to the US-based products.

Furthermore, it is unclear why Japanese still perceive a confrontation of the English language adoption in families despite successful commercial relationships maintained globally. Considerably, the culture of learning deserves more focus on the collaboration between the nations and associating past wins with current benefits in education. Furthermore, it is a call for promoting egalitarianism against the individual learning efforts, suggesting that the abstract perceptions of individual thinking would contradict the overall perception of teaching practice.

National Curriculum Constraints

The goal of teaching English in Japan is perfectly explained by the need to confront the social barriers existing for the knowledge acquisition. Japanese nation is very distinct; therefore, proud of its language and origins which, symbolically, brings barriers towards the acceptance of alternative means of communication. However, with the recent advancements in the language-in-education policy, it could be considered that potential goals of teaching could be met.

For instance, Japanese natives with fluent English might become ambassadors in the foreign countries to develop productive economic relationships given that English will still remain an international communication medium. Alternatively, teaching English for the fellow learners would be beneficial from the perspective of acquiring technical reading and writing experience in the commercial environment given the Japanese exposure to develop and market innovative products.

Nevertheless, it is worth admitting that the country will never follow the principles of the Anglophone culture. Potentially, it is threatened by the past events of the world wars that should not be exposed to learners and, therefore, it is a point of communicating English as a language as an opportunity to expand individual thinking. However, such effort requires following certain principles national curriculum and adjustment of teaching practices.

Specific Goals

The specific goals of teaching are explained through the following SMART objectives:

  • To apply the language-in-education policy across the Japanese learners to ensure that learners in fifth and sixth grades are well-prepared for conventional voice exchange by the end of 2021.
  • To develop a package of instructional material that provides insights for adjusting language teaching in line with the government standards by the mid of 2021, assuming further revisions until the end of 2021.
  • To recruit a team of educated and capable teachers to conduct English lessons learning based on the approved plan by the end of 2021.
  • To conduct interviews with Japanese professors regarding the attitude of empowering English classes participation by the mid of 2021.

Concluding Remarks

The case study points towards the employment of mentorship in education. Mentorship requirements in contemporary education systems are following those of leadership, and are frequently associated with organizational notion of emotional intelligence. In educational environment, emotional intelligence serves as a bridge for aligning personal and subordinate goals so these could fit institutional objectives. Thus, mentors should be skilled in leveraging conflict or complicated situations in various educational scenarios, such as matching Japanese and foreign culture driving English knowledge.

For instance, to encourage reading comprehension, a teacher must be able to illustrate how to have a grand conversation with the students using the reading story. It is expected that learners are already aware of written text aspects like possible endings, which is reminded throughout conversation. However, if a teacher is unable to handle a disruptive student and one’s leadership role in the class is challenged the knowledge and training to carry out this exercise become futile. Such a failure in a class can reduce teaching efficiency and affect the perception and effectiveness of mentoring attempt.

The biggest challenge potentially faced by practitioners is to ensure the attention of all students. This is because students from various socio-cultural backgrounds attend school together, and these differences affect the manner in which different students understand and analyze various educational concepts. Teachers are generally selected based on their subject matter skills and their ability to comprehend and emphasize with their students’ cultural background is overlooked.

This not only shows that there is a need to have teachers from multicultural backgrounds but also shows that such teachers need to interact with each other to provide children with a conducive learning environment. For instance, considering the case of teaching English as a second language in mind it is worth looking at the following example. While English was not spoken as a first language, the minorities were able to acquire one from the school effort.

Furthermore, it was elucidated that there exist three popular methods for language instruction for students: bilingual classroom environments, English classroom environments, and classroom environments where the method of instruction is the children’s primary language.

Hence, these varied classroom environments are important factors in deciding a child’s secondary language acquisition. The primary language acquisition requires a child to become proficient in phonology, vocabulary, grammar, discourse, and pragmatics of a language. It is impossible for every student from every kind of ethnic and cultural background to be provided with a teacher from similar background for every subject or course. The only means to address the issue of student-teacher interaction barriers because of cultural and ethnic differences in schools is to ensure that teachers from various cultural and ethnic backgrounds interact with each other.

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ChalkyPapers. "The Role of English Education in Japan." July 21, 2022.