English just ‘candy’ for the brain

Likening English education to “sweets”–pleasing but unnecessary–[newly appointed] education minister Bunmei Ibuki has again expressed his opposition to making the language compulsory at elementary schools.

Questioned on the issue during a post-Cabinet meeting news conference Friday, the new minister insisted that teaching fundamental subjects such as Japanese should come first.

Describing those core subjects as “protein and starch,” which he said were important to maintain the body, he brushed aside suggestions that English classes were necessary.

“They (elementary school pupils) can eat delicious cakes and Japanese-style sweets if they still have an appetite for them (after eating the necessities),” he said.

While admitting that when children study English they also gain other positive benefits associated with cross-cultural communication, he said, “Children should be taught English conversation from the alphabet only after they have acquired the minimum good grounding in Japanese.”

In March, a special team of the Central Council for Education recommended compulsory English classes be introduced one hour a week from the fifth grade up, prompting widespread discussion on the issue.