Formal English education in Japan: What causes ‘unsuccessful’ English language learning?
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Formal English education in Japanese high schools was examined on the basis of its unsuccessful outcome in the acquisition of communication skills in English despite the government's strong initiative to implement communication-oriented teaching and learning in its 2003 Action Plan. The primary cause of this is assumed to be the discrepancy between the official goal advocated in the Action Plan and the realistic goal that both teachers and students are forced to confront the entrance examinations to universities. Due to the severe gap between the dual objectives in the teaching/learning of English, high school teachers and students face pedagogical and motivational challenges in the acquisition of English as a means of communication. This primary cause extends to four related problems. 1) High school English classes tend to focus more on grammar-translation and reading long passages because they are included in the examinations. 2) Due to a lack of sufficient training for pre-service teachers and inappropriate English teacher qualification criteria, current in-service teachers have difficulty in conducting classes with a communicative focus. 3) As the uniform style of teaching English with colleagues using the government-approved textbooks is common, it is relatively difficult to utilise communicative materials. 4) Students in these class environments can be easily demotivated to learn English. These issues have been already discussed in a number of articles; however, a fundamental solution has yet to be developed.
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