English Education in Japan Part II

High School to University

In the last article, I discussed English education up until college admission and pointed out some problems—most notably how unbalanced assessments affect the ways young people study English and teachers teach the language. Here, I would like to mention the status of college education in our country. For better or for worse, college admission is the climax of many young people’s academic lives, and naturally, many college students study much less than they did in high school—partly because of the rebound from the hard work and partly because it is much easier to graduate from most colleges in Japan than in other countries. Some go so far as to say that the college years are four years of a moratorium period, where young people can heal the wounds from the battle of the entrance examination and prepare for another battle in their business life.

Many native speakers teach conversational skills in colleges, but most classes teach only basic English because many students have not received enough speaking education during high school. They also only receive one or two lessons a week, which is not enough to improve their speaking skills. The exception are those students who aim to study at colleges abroad. They take four-skills exams, such as the TOEFL iBT or IELTS. Some make tremendous efforts to get a good enough score in the speaking section, which the statistics show is the biggest weakness of Japanese students. Many others give up because they cannot get a good enough score. The gap between these four-skills tests and the Japanese college entrance examination is just too wide for most students to bridge.

There is another problem associated with the commonly used TOEIC listening and reading test. The test was developed by ETS and can fairly assess listening and reading skills. ETS officially states that this test can assess learners’ listening and reading skills; its ratings range from level A1 to level C1. The perfect score is 990, and the median value is 500. The maximum score for the listening and reading parts is 495 points each. TOEIC, a globalized test which was suggested by a Japanese businessperson, started in the 1980s and spread across borders. In the 1980s, people still believed that they could assess speaking and writing skills with multiple-choice questions. Thus, the name of the test was not TOEIC Listening and Reading but simply TOEIC (Test of English for International Communication).


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日本の皆様へ 合衆国認定NPO ELT Societyでは、世界の教育者との情報交換の場、学びの場を日本の皆様にも提供しております。皆様の研究や学習に役立つウェビナーやコンテンツを引き続き提供して参りたいと思っております。英語評価に関する最新の情報を学びたい皆様は、ぜひ会員登録をお願いいたします。 安河内哲也

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