Journal Article How Competent Do Elementary School English Teachers in Japan Need to Be?


13pp.161 - 171 , 2015-03-30 , 北海道言語研究会
Since April 2011 all public elementary schools in Japan now include in their prescribed curriculum for5th and 6th grade students a subject entitled ‘Foreign Language Activities’. In practice this equates to the teaching ofEnglish. According to the official course of study issued by the Japanese Ministry of Education (MEXT), the chiefaim of the subject is to “help pupils actively engage in communication in a foreign language”. Such an aim assumesthat teachers possess the experience, competence, and confidence in their English language abilities to realize thisaim. This paper will draw upon the results of a two-year long longitudinal series of case studies of four Japaneseelementary schools and their implementation of the new course of study. It will detail how the curricular aspirationof foreign language communicative competence is subject to the influences of an expansive circle of constantlyinteracting variables. These include teacher education, curriculum design, resource allocation, and societalexpectations. In particular the paper will highlight how the desire for communicative competence must take accountof classroom reality.

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