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MEXT is asking for comments concerning the new curriculum changes for kindergarten, elementary, and junior high. As far as I know, the information is only available in Japanese. I think the native-English teachers offer an important perspective on English teaching so those interested PLEASE send in your comments. The deadline is March 16.

Here is the link:

edit: I have removed the link since the deadline has passed.


Last edited by funwithstories on Mon Mar 17, 2008 3:38 pm, edited 1 time in total.



Sat Mar 01, 2008 3:55 pm
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I thought I would summarize the post. It looks like you may be able to write your comments in English. Don't know however if someone will try to take the time to read it.

I am concerned about the elementary curriculum. It looks as if the homeroom teachers will be in charge of teaching 5th and 6th year English once a week. The ALT would then become an assistant in the curriculum they devised. I have my own strong opinions about this and I'm sure others do as well. They are accepting comments from the public until March 16,2008. Pass on the link in Japanese to your Japanese colleagues!

edit: I have removed the link since the deadline has passed.

All comments must include:
* title: one of the 3
kindergarten curriculum
elementary curriculum
junior high curriculum
(this is my rough translation, there is one more that I can't understand)

* name

* age and sex

* occupation

* address

* telephone number

* comment/opinion

For multiple comments they ask they you send only ONE opinion per page/e-mail

Comments, minus name address and phone number, may be published.
All personal information is requested in case clarification of comments is needed.


Last edited by funwithstories on Mon Mar 17, 2008 3:39 pm, edited 1 time in total.



Tue Mar 04, 2008 10:12 am
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funwithstories, why do you think it's a bad idea to have the homeroom teacher teach? What alternatives do you suggest?

The curriculum should come down from the education ministry and I'm sure it will be loaded with supplemental resources, videos and CDS. I think the homeroom teachers are the ones best prepared to execute this in the current situtation.

There just aren't enough NS teachers to do this and certainly not enough trained teachers. The ALT (assistant language teachers) often have no training and up to now that was OK for language introduction and cultural exchange which went on in English class at elementary schools. However, this is something different. The ALT isn't really responsible for teaching under the education ministry's idea for what happens at elementary school from my understanding of the situation.

I actually put forth a curriculum and plan for a local elementary school. It was denied because they felt it was "based on the idea of building English speaking competence" and they just wanted the children to "enjoy English" and be exposed to a foreigner.

Obviously, they are really testing the system by making the homeroom teachers teach something that many 'technically' aren't qualified for or, in most cases, prepared to do. I think it will perpetuate the problem of 'teach how you were taught' but that's a different discussion.

However, of the choices, I would choose the homeroom teacher over the ALT.

We probably have to wait and see what the curriculum and supporting resources actually look like.

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Tue Mar 04, 2008 1:45 pm
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First of all, I think Funwithstories opened a can of worms because we could really easily argue about this all day...


I don't know Mark...I think it's dangerous to say what you said below. Of course everything is situational, but if I would have to make a choice betwen the two, I would choose an ALT hands down. I wish I could talk more but I'm working on a project for graduation tomorrow.
mesmark wrote:
However, of the choices, I would choose the homeroom teacher over the ALT.

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Tue Mar 04, 2008 3:09 pm
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Mark,
You ask a valid question. I am not exactly against the homeroom teacher teaching English. It does seem that teachers of all levels are worried how the implementation will affect English education. This is a good chance for them to express their views.

As for my personal views I wonder exactly what MEXT wants to accomplish with a fun and game curriculum taught by teachers who don't even speak English. Maybe someone can tell me how this will improve English education or even education in general.

Shouldn't the goal first be to provide training for the homeroom teachers? Shouldn't there be more substance than 'enjoy English'? At least they will not be grading students, but I do think that whatever they do decide to include in the curriculum should be something students actually retain. I don't think it's enough for teachers to say they covered various themes if students don't actually remember them.

I hope you are right in that the supplemental materials will be enough. However AFTER the curriculum is decided is too late. That's why those with ideas or comments should mail them in by the 16th.

I, too, have offered ideas on what to include in the curriculum. I have seen a lot of positive changes with what I have been using this past year. The students were learning English without the rote memorization and boring drills. They were having fun. However, I got some responses similar to yours. 'The goal is not to improve English ability, but to get the homeroom teachers teaching English and the students having fun.' Huh? Maybe someone can explain that one to me.


Tue Mar 04, 2008 3:31 pm
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patrick wrote:
I don't know Mark...I think it's dangerous to say what you said below. Of course everything is situational, but if I would have to make a choice betwen the two, I would choose an ALT hands down.

Patrick - I'm not choosing individuals or saying anyone is better or worse at teaching English.

This would be a decision to use the 1,000s of teachers Japan already has and pays. Train them or create a curriculum and system that they can use.

The opposite choice would mean paying 1,000s more teachers and training them. Then training the next lot that comes next year. Then training the next lot that comes next year. Then training the next lot that comes next year...

All of those resources (time and money) will instead hopefully be put into the system and present teachers.

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Last edited by mesmark on Tue Mar 04, 2008 6:45 pm, edited 1 time in total.



Tue Mar 04, 2008 6:34 pm
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funwithstories wrote:
'The goal is not to improve English ability, but to get the homeroom teachers teaching English and the students having fun.' Huh? Maybe someone can explain that one to me.

I think the 5th and 6th graders would be on a new system, not the 'fun introduction to English' and foreigners.

I assume they'll be in a designed course that works to build some English competence prior to entrance into junior high. Also, every students in every school will learn similar, if not the same, content. At least that's my understanding of it, but I'm not that well informed.

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Tue Mar 04, 2008 6:39 pm
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Mark,
If I thought MEXT was providing adequate training and a curriculum that will improve English education, I wouldn't be posting anything at all.


Tue Mar 04, 2008 6:50 pm
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Hi Guys,

A lot of this is because classroom teachers approach the subject from a very different viewpoint than ourselves. For many of them "learning English" is simple the grammar exercises they learnt in JHS, hence if it was left to them that's what the curriculum would be.

Hence why MEXT bans reading/writing and puts the emphasis firmly on fun, just so it doesn't turn into JHS style learning or even preparation for JHS style learning.


As far as I can see the best lessons in Japan are all still ALT led, they are far and away better than most of the classes held by most, but not all, classroom teachers. If nothing but for the simple fact that the best ALTs, like everyone on here, takes the time the research and improve their lessons.

It will be interesting to see what the new version of the official guidelines looks like when it's finally published, hopefully it won't be too different to the current ones which are actually rather good!

Be genki,

Richard

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Tue Mar 04, 2008 6:51 pm
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I was in a bit of a rush yesterday and I reread my post and it sounded kinda nasty. Mark, sorry about that!

I would say on average the ALT is better at capturing the students' attention and creating new and inventive games to keep the little rascals interested than their own HomeRoom Teacher (HRT). I'm not saying the HRT is bad but like what Funwithstories said, the current system isn't providing adequate training to the teachers.

One of my biggest pet peaves is katakana-English...I HATE IT!!! I understand people having an accent when they speak English but katakana is Japanese and in my opinion, anything said in katakana is not English. Therefore, if HRTs teach using katakana sounds, it is my opinion that it will just further hurt the students in the long run.

I think using the existing teachers salaries to take on one more subject is a good idea but how I see it being implemented is crap! One of my HRT is REALLY REALLY good at English and is in one of these pilot training courses to teach ES English. He said that they were forced to teach English using a set script and when he had to abide by a strict code, he was stumbling all over the place. This is a guy who I speak to like he was a native speaker. The training for teaching is going to continue to suck in Japan until it realizes that language is not a scripted formula.

Adequate training...is that too much to ask? Take this how you will but MEXT is looking for ideas on how to better improve ES English...but the post was only written in Japanese...and, that is where I will stop...

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Last edited by patrick on Wed Mar 05, 2008 7:07 pm, edited 1 time in total.



Wed Mar 05, 2008 9:16 am
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funwithstories wrote:
All comments must include:
* title: one of the 3
kindergarten curriculum
elementary curriculum
junior high curriculum
(this is my rough translation, there is one more that I can't understand)


Was the other one High school perhaps?


Wed Mar 05, 2008 5:25 pm
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eikaiwa no sensei wrote:
Was the other one High school perhaps?


No, I'm not even sure it was a separate category. It had words like educational enforcement regulations and ministerial ordinances...


Wed Mar 05, 2008 10:12 pm
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I am also uneasy about what a curriculum may do to ES English. If it is written and produced like the current one for JHS then I think it will do more harm than good. However if it has input from the people who have had success teaching English to younger students in Japan, and there are a large number of good programmes around the country, then it could be a success. Like any schooling system anywhere, if it isn`t resourced well then it will rely on the ability and goodwill of teachers. I am not convinced that there is enough exposure in Japan to different ways of teaching for this to be successful.

As for having fun and learning the fundamentals of English. If the powers that be don`t realise that they are not mutually exclusive then that is the problem that needs to be addressed first!!!
From my two times in Japan, 11 years apart, I can see that there has been a definite change in how people react to foreigners. I don`t hear `gaijin da` all the time like I used to, pulling up to gasoline stands the attendants don`t shy away from me like they used to, people are a lot more inclined to try to understand what I am saying now than they were.
This is the biggest success of the JET program, and the employment of private ALTs. However English language is still poorly spoken.

Will a curriculum in ES help - Yes it could, Will homeroom teachers teaching English help the learning of English - possibly, but there are a lot of things that need to be done right for this to occur. Given the slow rate of change in education methods in Japan, I won`t hold my breathe.


Mon Mar 17, 2008 2:52 pm
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I think the whole ES English is being setup to fail due to the ongoing anti-foreigner opinion perpetuated by MEXT in terms of building or improving on English in Japan.

I don't know whether to laugh or cry at the government blatantly disregarding the teachers who, wholistically speaking, have the most experience teaching English at the ES level. I'm not saying foreign teachers are experts at teaching ES English but I would argue that they have the most experience and couldn't do any greater damage than the current JHS English textbooks.

I think it's also interesting to point out that I can think of at least a dozen fairly huge websites created by ALTs that focus on resources for teachers. To me, this shows there are dedicated 'foreigners' wanting to help out. I think this is ironic that these foreigners who spend the greater part of their free time trying to help out the English education system are passive aggressively told to shutup, which is evident by foreigners having no meaningful part of the English system.

I think it's even more interesting to note that these resources were built to help improve the quality of Japan's English education. These resources were built by a group of people who usually don't have anything invested in the country...except for the fact that they want to help out.

Until MEXT looks past their superficial skindeep issues and see that their are non-Japanese who have demonstrated their commitment to improve the English system here in Japan and who should be included in the English education process, MEXT can kiss my white lilly... :smt072

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Mon Mar 17, 2008 3:53 pm
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Here is the new "sample curriculum" put out by MEXT. Unfortunately it seems to be only in Japanese but in the pdf file, the target phrases are in English.

http://www.mext.go.jp/a_menu/shotou/gai ... /index.htm

It looks to be a basic English introduction as well as an introduction to other countries.

Since English will not be considered a separate subject, schools are not required to use a mandatory textbook. MEXT is hoping schools and school districts will use the sample curriculum and flashcards to get the schools discussing and thinking about the upcoming English requirements.

At first look, the main goal seems to be a very basic intro to English.


Sat Apr 05, 2008 7:58 pm
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