In an effort to improve the quality of English language instruction in anticipation of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, The Tokyo Metropolitan Board of Education will begin an initiative next academic year that will require public school English teachers to participate in short term study abroad programs. These three month programs will send an estimated 200 third year junior and senior high school teachers to universities in English speaking countries. Upon completion of the program, participants will receive a certification for teaching English as a foreign language.
The goal of of the program is to improve teachers’ abilities to conduct classes in English while encouraging students to engage in active debate. This is a change is methodology, from rote based and grammar-translation learning methods to a more communicative approach, often seen in classroom in the West. A new national curriculum will be put into place this April mandating that all high school English classes will be conducted primarily in English. These experiences should help teachers through what may be a difficult transition.
Japanese public school teachers are not required to have studied abroad or have lived in an English speaking country. There is a study abroad program that the Board runs for teachers between the ages of 31 to 42 years old, but only about four teachers a year participate.
In addition to this initiative, the board plans to increase the number of Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Program teachers, foreign assistant language teachers, in Tokyo public high schools from five to 200 in the year 2015.