Japan Curriculum Changes Include More English, Expression

(Photo: Wang Hongying, Creative Commons)

(Photo: Wang Hongying, Creative Commons)

New teaching guidelines in Japan have been released in an interim report by the Central Council for Education, an advisory body to the education minister, that include a push for “active learning” in primary, middle, and high school classes.

Active learning will require students to be taught through discussions and other such activities that focus on allowing students to respond to the globalization of society and the progression of information technology.  Students will be required to find solutions through class discussions in all subjects in an effort to shift away from passive classes that focus on lectures to convey information.

The guidelines emphasize the importance of speaking English for all students, including the ability to listen, read, write, and speak in both a conversational and presentation manner.

In order to accomplish this, the ministry plans to use core teachers who are already proficient in the language and make improvements to training courses.

The report also included English as a compulsory subject for fifth and sixth grade students in primary schools, in addition to a new subject combining Japanese history with world history in high schools.  A course on “public study” will also be introduced to offer high school students a civic education on such topics as exercising the right to vote as a result of the recent decision to lower the minimum voting age to 18.

An additional subject, “the exploration of science and mathematics,” will be also be offered as an optional course for high school students.

Meanwhile, middle school students will see improvements made to the course on premodern world history.

While English activities are already offered at primary schools for fifth and sixth grade students, the new guidelines will offer these activities beginning in third and fourth grade, as English will become a required school subject for fifth and sixth graders.

Programming education will become a requirement in which students will use logical thought to consider the steps necessary to operate a computer in math, science, and other subjects.

The new guidelines, which will no longer focus on a “cram-free” education policy, will be implemented in primary schools in 2020, while middle school students will see a change in 2021 and high schools in 2022.

While class time will remain the same for middle and high school students, primary students will see an increase to the number of hours they spend in English class.  The goal is for the number of English words learned by the time students reach high school graduation to go from the current 3,000 words up to between 4,000 and 5,000 words.

According to the report, the new guidelines will help children gain the qualities and skills necessary for them to accept and help to advance society.  Children will learn through three main pillars created especially for their development, including “knowledge and skills,” “the ability to think, judge, and express,” and “power toward learning and humanity.”

The national university entrance examination will also see a change in the 2020 school year with an introduction of description-type questions and others that will measure the ability of students to think and express ideas.