Ministry proposes minimum skills for present, future English teachers

The education ministry has proposed guidelines on the minimum capabilities and skills college students need to acquire when studying to become licensed English teachers.

The ministry, which unveiled the proposals at a symposium in Tokyo on Saturday, expects the guidelines to be used in training programs for university students willing to become English teachers and for established teachers starting in fiscal 2018.

The guidelines come as the ministry has set a goal of having half of high school students acquire English proficiency equivalent to Grade Pre-1 in the the Eiken English proficiency test by graduation, by improving their skills in reading, writing, speaking and listening.

According to the ministry’s plan, English will be taught from third grade in elementary school and become an official subject for fifth and sixth graders, starting in fiscal 2020.

English classes taught in English are scheduled to begin in junior high school in fiscal 2020.

But there are problems that need to be addressed to implement the plans. Elementary school teachers have no experience offering English classes, and teaching methodology is not a mandatory subject in elementary school training courses.

Critics have also pointed out the need for English teachers in junior high school and high school to improve their capabilities to teach speaking and writing.

According to the proposed guidelines, courses on English education, including on teaching skills and overseas children’s literature, will be mandatory to acquire elementary school teacher licenses.

In training courses for English teachers in junior high and high school, candidates will be advised to acquire English proficiency equivalent to Eiken Grade Pre-1 or above. The guidelines call for improvements in the ability to measure students’ proficiency and expressive ability in English, as well as the promotion of intercultural exchanges such as studying abroad.

The guidelines also stress the importance of teaching experience and cooperation among elementary, junior high and high schools.

The ministry also found it necessary for incumbent teachers to have similar capabilities.

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