Current Problems and Tasks Facing English Teachers


August 4, 2003

by Nara Katsuyuki (New English Teachers’ Association)


  On the occasion of the 40th National Conference, we raise the following problems and tasks as topics for discussion. 


1. Current problems 

(1) Mandatory Training Initiated by the Ministry of Education

   In March 2003, the Ministry published the “Action Plan to Cultivate ‘Japanese with English Abilities.’” One of its intention is to enhance communicative competence of English of teachers through mandatory training. Specifically, English teachers are expected to reach English levels equivalent to certain scores of the TOEFL (Test Of English as a Foreign Language) exam.

   In Tokyo, public junior & senior high school teachers are obligated to undergo five-day training session of practical English during the summer vacation.

(2) Tightened Control on Teachers

   For the past several years, the government and local boards of education have imposed on harsh controls upon school teachers through evaluation of work performance, submission of self-training plans, and so on. As a result of these controls, teachers have become more pressed for time and work, and they don’t have enough time for interacting with their students. 

(3) Overly Competitive Education

   As the United Nations Committee of the Convention on the Rights of the Child has criticized, the Japanese education is overly competitive-oriented. This is exemplified by cramming classes and severe competitive entrance examinations known as “examination hells.” Consequently, such problems as increasing number of school-refusers, school bullying, violence, suicide, and juvenile delinquency have arisen.

(4) Introduction of English education at primary school

   The Ministry tries to introduce English education as formal subject at primary school although a lot of teachers are skeptic of it because there are many harmful effects in it. Most primary schools throughout the country have already started English conversation with help of native speakers during the “comprehensive class” in the name of “international understanding.” But a survey of a prefectural teachers’ union shows that a majority of English teachers are against or skeptical about  English education at primary school on the grounds; English education does more harm than good, such education at a 30-40 student class with an hour a week won’t produce any good effects; at primary school level,  more teaching of Japanese knowledge and culture in reading and writing should be given priority to English education, local governments in turn should realize smaller-size class at junior high school for better education.  


(5) Compulsory patriotism and civic-mindedness

   The government intends to make education in patriotism and civic-mindedness compulsory by revising the Fundamental Law of Education.


2. Teachers’ Tasks to Tackle

Under these circumstances, we teachers are required to tackle the following tasks.   

(1)Let all students have joy of learning foreign languages

(2)Carry out student-centered education in class

(3)Conduct “self-expression” activities in class

(4)Try to implement understandable and joyous classes

(5)Carry out education on peace, human rights and environment

   We are determined to educate children, who can be responsible for the future of society, on the basis of the Japanese Constitution and the Fundamental Law of Education.

   The meeting, emceed by Mr. Asakawa Kazuya, started with presentations of two Korean teachers, which were followed by report on ‘Self-expression Activity’ by Mr.Tanaka Yasuyuki and the report on Japan’s English education by Mr.Nara Katsuyuki. After the presentations and reports, lively discussions took place. The discussions centered on “Right or wrong --- English education at primary school,” improvement of teaching methods and development of self-made teaching materials. Those present at the meeting voiced opinions on these topics based on their own teaching practice.

   In the end, Mr.Asakawa said, “Let us continue our quest for developing creative textbooks and teaching methods, and hold such kind of meeting or some other next year to exchange teaching practices and to promote friendship between us teachers’ groups.”   


March 1, 2004

Nara Katsuyuki