English language education in Japan

Primary school English classes to start early The Yomiuri Shimbun

About 40 percent of Tokyo’s 23 wards and 17 ordinance-designated special cities plan to conduct English lessons at least once a week at primary schools for fifth- and sixth-graders from April, a Yomiuri Shimbun survey has found.

Under the new school curriculum guidelines, English lessons for fifth- and sixth-graders will become compulsory from academic year 2011.

The cities and wards will hold 35 lessons or more each year, or at least one lesson per week, from April, ahead of the subject’s official launch. Each lesson will last 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, some local governments such as Osaka and Hamamatsu, Shizuoka Prefecture, will conduct nine to 12 classes a year, or one class per month.

The Yomiuri Shimbun survey polled boards of education of the 23 wards and the 17 cities.

Budgetary differences among the cities and wards might affect the effectiveness of the classes, as some municipalities can afford to hire English-speaking assistant language teachers, while others have to use homeroom teachers for the classes.

The 16 municipalities that plan to have English lessons at least once a week include Kyoto, Saitama, Chiba, Yokohama and Kitakyushu, as well as Chiyoda, Chuo and Minato wards.

Minato Ward plans to hold 70 lessons a year for both grades, working out at a two lessons per week. This is the largest number of lessons planned among the 40 municipalities surveyed.

Twelve municipalities, including Kawasaki and Katsushika Ward, plan to have 15 to 35 classes a year.

Osaka plans nine classes, while Sapporo aims to hold 10. Shizuoka and Hamamatsu both plan to have 12 classes. Budgets for employing ALTs vary.

Minato Ward can afford to spend 5,860,000 yen for one school on average, while the Osaka municipal government can afford only 120,000 yen, about 49 times less than Minato Ward. (Mar. 30, 2009)

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