Primary, Middle School Curricula Linked Up

The Daily Yomiuri (Toyko, Japan), August 12, 2016 | Go to article overview

Primary, Middle School Curricula Linked Up


The way in which English is taught will change drastically, based on the teaching guidelines to be introduced in stages at primary, middle and high schools from fiscal 2020. With English becoming an official curriculum subject for fifth- and sixth-grade primary school students, many teachers have already been taking part in training sessions, and an increasing number of schools and local governments have launched new initiatives independently. We visited some schools to find out about these changes. This is the first installment of a series.

"Now I raise the hurdle higher than it was in primary school. Introduce yourself and continue a conversation in English with your partner."

It was early June in an English class for first-year students at Tochigi Prefecture's Nasushiobara municipal Kuroiso Middle School. Teacher Munehiro Ishii, 37, gave these instructions to the students and held a model conversation with an assistant language teacher (ALT) from Canada.

"It's very important that you react. Try asking for more information about what the other person just said," Ishii continued.

The students were working in pairs. At first, they talked to each other with occasional pauses. As they repeated the exercise, conversation flowed more easily. In primary school they learned how to introduce themselves, but in middle school they learn how to develop this into conversation.

Rannosuke Akiba, 12 , said happily, "I was able to use some words I learned in primary school in a conversation."

Beginning this fiscal year, the Nasushiobara city government has fully introduced at every primary and middle school in the city an English education curriculum that integrates the teaching at primary and middle school.

The city government is promoting communication activities by allocating 10 of the 140 annual hours of middle school English class for this purpose.

In fiscal 2011, "foreign language activity" became compulsory for fifth- and sixth-graders in primary school. The city government had introduced lessons in the subject two years earlier, and in 2012 began teaching it from the first grade.

However, "even though they began studying English in primary school, there was no continuity with middle school," recalled Sachiko Yamamoto, 51, a teaching supervisor at the city board of education's English education promotion office.

Yamamoto said that although many students enjoyed English in primary school, where most of the lessons focused on speaking, they came to dislike the subject at middle school as a result of courses that focused mainly on reading and writing.

For that reason, the city board of education spent two years creating an integrated primary and middle school curriculum booklet. It is A4-size with 458 pages, containing such things as activity ideas for classes from the first grade of primary school through the third year of middle school.

This booklet enabled primary and middle school teachers to grasp what their counterparts were teaching in lessons.

Ishii, who was involved in creating the booklet, said: "As students become familiar with English in primary school, they're less hesitant to speak English even with the ALTs. English in middle school focuses more on having students master grammar, but we also need to place importance on communication."

Enthusiasm in Kanazawa

The Kanazawa city government, which is passionate about English education, also created an integrated curriculum for primary and middle schools in 2012. …

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