Plan to teach English classes in English prompts worries among educators in Japan

New high school curriculum guidelines calling for English lessons to be taught in English have sparked worries among teachers in Japan, with some doubting that teachers and students will be able to handle the classes.

The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology has explained that “teachers should first display an attitude of actively using English themselves,” in order to boost English conversation ability.

However, concerns have been raised over large disparities in both teachers’ English ability and students’ level of understanding — at some schools there are reportedly students who can’t tell the difference between the letters “b” and “d.” In addition, university entrance exams are likely to remain unchanged, raising questions from educators about how effective the move will be.

“The Education Ministry doesn’t understand the teaching scene,” one English teacher at a Chiba prefectural high school says with a forced smile. “Teaching lessons in English would be impossible.”