Japan has been traumatized by English teaching methods focused on testing, direct-translation, lacking listening and speaking. Writing is introduced too late and without strong basics in reading/writing rules and practice. This has drained confidence from generations since the 1964 Olympics.
To celebrate the first Singularity U Japan Summit, We challenge you to start "Shaping Japan's Future Together" by rolling up your sleeves and help us from Okinawa to Hokkaido to jumpstart English education reform by the 2020 Olympics.
Each $10,000 prize will be crowdfunded culminating to a $100,000 National Prize.
The first challenge will focus on Okinawa, Ryukyu Islands. The prefecture with the lowest scores in English. Challenges will follow in major cities including Tokyo, Osaka, Fukuoka, Kyoto, Nagoya, Sendai, Sapporo as logistics allow, then culminating in a NATIONAL All Japan Challenge before the Olympics.
We need tools that will turn frustration into innovation by restoring the fun, confidence and imagination in English learning and teaching in the land of the rising sun. The app supported materials need to interact and support existing materials with a focus on sounds, reading and writing. The younger the student, the more accurately they can process sounds. The teachers need guidance as they will be "teaching" a language they do not speak nor have confidence in.
The more students are exposed to English, the more students dislike the subject to the point of study abroad numbers dropping along with official surveys that tell us young adults prefer not to work with English even if it pays a higher salary. Japanese is a phonetic language with a vowel following a consonant except the character for N which is closer to an M. Some English sounds do not exist in Japanese. Foreign words are processed using the KATAKANA phonetic characters. McDonald's would be translate to MAKUDONARUDO. As reading levels are low or non-existant, English is transliterated using KATAKANA in order to get by.
Would you understand this Japanglish? Although ministry guidelines advise otherwise, the KATAKANA English is rampant. Before students have a strong command of basics such as speaking, writing and reading, they start Junior High School with the assumption that they can do all of the above but can't.
The Ministry Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology known as MEXT has issued several reforms. The latest English Education Reform Plan corresponding to Globalization states:
"In order to promote the establishment of an educational environment which corresponds to globalization from the elementary to lower/upper secondary education stage, MEXT is working to enhance English education substantially throughout elementary to lower/secondary school upon strengthening English education in elementary school in addition to further advancing English education in lower/upper secondary school. Timed with the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, in order for the full-scale development of new English education in Japan, MEXT will incrementally promote educational reform from FY2014 including constructing the necessary frameworks based on this plan."
It has not worked. It is time for "English X Innovation for Japan" on HeroX.
After the Olympics, English will become a mandatory subject in the elementary schools. Due to a shortage of qualified teachers, the classes will be led by regular elementary school teachers who do not speak English. They will rely on programs provided by MEXT. Crowdsourcing for innovation can provide us with the jumpstart we need to guarantee the success of these reforms.