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Junior high students show mixed results in English-language push

  • February 25, 2017
  • , The Japan Times
  • English Press

Third-year students in junior high schools across the country achieved a state-set goal for writing in English. But, at the same time, they failed to meet targets for listening, speaking and reading skills, an education ministry survey showed Friday.


The government expects half of junior high school students to have English proficiency equivalent to at least Grade 3 in the nation’s popular Eiken English proficiency test by the time they graduate.


The ministry surveyed some 60,000 students at 579 public junior high schools across the country in June and July last year. Of them, some 20,000 sat for a speaking test.

In the writing test, 50.8 percent of the students were rated upper level of the A1 grade or higher, by the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages, an international standard for describing language ability. The figure rose 7.6 points from the previous year’s test. The upper A1 grade is equivalent to Grade 3 in the Eiken test.


The ratio of students placed in the upper A1 grade or higher in listening rose 4.6 points to 24.8 percent, while in the reading and speaking tests the ratio fell 0.8 point and 1.4 points to 25.3 percent and 31.2 percent, respectively.


In the writing test, 15.6 percent scored zero, up 3.0 points.


A related survey found that the proportion of the students who didn’t like studying English rose 2.2 points to 45.4 percent.


Of them, 33.7 percent said they didn’t like English itself, followed by 16.3 percent who said they are unable to get higher marks on the exams and 13.8 percent who said they find English grammar difficult.


The ministry said the improvement in English writing skill can be attributed to the current curriculum guidelines, which focus on nurturing this.


“There is a possibility that (teachers) failed to give appropriate lessons” to students who did not succeed in meeting the state-set goals in writing and other English skills, the ministry said.


Under the upcoming curriculum guidelines, to be implemented from fiscal 2020, English will be a regular subject for elementary school fifth-and sixth-graders, who will study how to read and write in the language.


The ministry said it hopes to improve the guidelines so that students can make use of what they learned at elementary school in junior high school.

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