Currently, I serve as the leader of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP)’s working team to review English proficiency tests for the standardized university entrance examinations. (For the details, please refer to my article dated December 5.) As one of the activities of this team, a few members and I visited Showa Primary School which belongs to Showa Women’s University in Tokyo. We observed English lessons in the second and fifth grade classes, and both lessons were designed to enhance listening ability. The English teacher spoke to the students all in English with gestures and the students understood almost perfectly what the teacher had spoken and responded to the teacher’s directions and questions. English education at this school is based on the idea that the listening skills should be enhanced first, and then the speaking skills. After these skills are acquired, students will pick up other skills that are recognized visually such as writing in the grammatically-correct way and reading. It was a shocking experience for me.
We, members of the working team, exchanged views with the teachers involved in English education at this school, and I learned a lot from them. I was impressed by their excellent English lessons, but at the same time, I thought that it would be difficult to apply the same method to an ordinary public primary school.
My responsibility as the team leader is to formulate a guideline on the introduction of proper English proficiency tests in the standardized university entrance examinations which involve extremely technical and complicated issues, but at the same time, I want to also challenge the fundamental question of what English education should be like in the future of Japan. It is not an easy task for the working team. Following our visit to Showa Primary School, I am planning to visit some junior and senior high schools and universities to observe their English lessons, and if possible, I want to visit some foreign-affiliated companies with forward thinking to observe their English training programs and business activities.