Disregard of Opportunity Gap Inequalities in Policy Debates over Mandatory English Education at Public Elementary Schools in JapanReport as inadecuate

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Educational Perspectives, v43 n1-2 p46-51 2010

On January 17, 2008, the Japanese Central Education Council submitted a newly revised set of official curriculum guidelines to the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) in Japan. These guidelines for elementary schools will become effective in the 2011 academic year and include a controversial new policy: the introduction of mandatory "foreign language activities" at all public elementary schools. Japanese fifth and sixth graders will receive about one period (approximately forty-five minutes) per week of mandatory English education called "foreign language activities." Prior to implementation, these guidelines were vigorously debated by supporters and opponents of the policy. However, they have now been made official and every public and private school in Japan is required to follow them. This article identifies supporters and opponents of the policy and summarizes their arguments in order to demonstrate that neither side has ever discussed the policy in terms of the opportunity gap that exists between different segments of the Japanese population. Considering that the existence of an opportunity gap is a major issue in educational policy debates in the United States, the author argues that a similar opportunity gap exists in Japan, but that it tends to be ignored in policy debates. Next, he shows that the gap is manifested in differential access among sectors of the population to shadow education and to private schools. Finally, he evaluates the new policy in terms of narrowing this opportunity gap between students with access to shadow education and private school lessons and those without them.

Descriptors: Private Schools, Elementary Schools, Second Languages, Student Diversity, Guidelines, Foreign Countries, Grade 6, Educational Policy, Public Schools, Grade 5, Second Language Instruction, English (Second Language), Achievement Gap, Access to Education

College of Education, University of Hawaii at Manoa. Wist Annex 2 Room 131, 1776 University Avenue, Honolulu, HI 96822. Tel: 808-956-8002; e-mail: coe[at]hawaii.edu; Web site: http://www.coe.hawaii.edu/research/ep

Author: Matsuoka, Ryoji

Source: https://eric.ed.gov/?q=a&ft=on&ff1=dtySince_1992&pg=3627&id=EJ912114

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