Experts have said it is important to secure a sufficient number of native English speakers, and utilize them to enhance the learning environments for students.

About 800 ALTs first came to Japan in 1987 when the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program was launched as a state international exchange project. As of 2002, the number of ALTs had increased to about 5,600, but it began to decrease after that due to financial problems. The current number is about 4,100.

Besides ALTs on the JET Program, about 8,000 ALTs hired independently by municipalities and other organizations have been dispatched to local primary and middle schools across the nation. In some cases, an ALT teaches at several schools.

According to experts, considerable disparity exists among the nation’s 21,000 public primary schools. While some schools have resident ALTs, some schools are visited by an ALT once about every six months.

The government therefore plans to increase the number of ALTs in the JET Program in stages. From the 2020 school year onward, English lessons will increase from the current once a week to three times a week for fifth-grade and sixth-grade students. Third-grade and fourth-grade students will have English lessons once or twice a week, and the education ministry plans to have ALTs frequently instruct students in English classes.

The budget for English education utilizing ALTs is expected to increase from about ¥30 billion this school year to about ¥50 billion a year eventually. The government also plans to launch a subsidy system for supporting municipalities that independently hire ALTs.


An ALT assists Japanese teachers in teaching foreign languages such as English at primary, middle and high schools. In addition to ALTs who come to Japan on the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program, a state international exchange project, others are directly hired by municipalities or private organizations contracted to dispatch ALTs.

From the 2011 school year, foreign language studies became compulsory for fifth-grade and sixth-grade primary school students. The role of ALTs has expanded to include assisting with pronunciation and listening comprehension.Speech

Source: The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sep 22, 2014



In other news:

Kyoto University ranks No. 2 in iPS research (The Yomiuri Shimbun, September 25, 2014 via

Among world institutions influential on research into induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells, Kyoto University has been ranked second — behind only Harvard University — in a field that is rapidly capturing global attention. The results were revealed in a recent survey conducted jointly by The Yomiuri Shimbun and Elsevier, a Dutch information service company.

In the broader category of regenerative medicine, however, Kyoto University ranked much lower, at 17th, while the University of Tokyo ranked 54th, Osaka University 93rd and Nagoya University 94th — their rankings suggesting inadequate presence in the field among Japanese institutions. The most influential institution in the category of regenerative medicine as a whole is again Harvard University, with 17 U.S. universities and institutions dominating the top 20 ranking. Other Asian universities also made their presence known in the survey with National University of Singapore ranked 26th, South Korea’s Seoul National University 40th and China’s Shanghai Jiao Tong University 80th.

The survey was conducted by analyzing more than 60,000 articles published in the 2008-12 period. Japan is one of leading nations in iPS cell research — as was recently demonstrated by the world’s first transplant of retina cells on a patient suffering from an “incurable” eye disease on Sept. 12. The transplant was performed by a group led by a researcher at RIKEN.

The Yomiuri-Elsevier survey results will be presented at the Regenerative Medicine Forum to be held Sunday in Tokyo. The event is organized by the Japanese Society for Regenerative Medicine and co-organized by The Yomiuri Shimbun.

Tsukuba University climbs to 13th in global new university rankings
Japan Times, SEP 24, 2014

The University of Tsukuba has been rated the 13th best new university worldwide, in a ranking that compares the merits of such institutions set up within the past 50 years.

Quacquarelli Symonds Ltd., a London-based education services company, compared institutions of higher education for their academic research, teaching, international outlook and — of crucial interest to many students — the employability of graduates.

Tsukuba placed 13th in the QS Top 50 Under 50 list.

Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University came first, followed by Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, and Korean Advanced Institute of Science and Technology in third place.

The University of Tsukuba was the only Japanese university to feature in the top 50. It climbed one place, from 14th last year.

QS has been ranking institutions of higher education since 2004. The company says the principal aim is to “help students make informed comparisons between their international study options.”

Its flagship list is the QS World University Rankings, a ranking of more than 800 colleges around the world, selected from more than 3,000 surveyed.

The institutions are rated on the same factors as the Top 50 Under 50.

The rankings also consider the international student ratio, which measures the international diversity of the student community, and how many foreign teaching staff are employed.

The University of Tsukuba was founded in 1973 as a state-run institution. Education experts in Japan commonly rate it as among the nation’s finest.

Tsukuba is also credited as a pioneer in university reform, for having designed its academic and research units to encourage interdisciplinary research and education.

Moreover, the university has embraced internationalization by offering a variety of degree programs taught in English to attract overseas students, and by opening liaison offices in nations such as Tunisia, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, China, and Germany, which aim to promote student exchanges.
(Source: Japan Times, Sep 24)