February 15, 2017 6:00 am JST

Japanese students to begin English lessons in third grade

Two-year head start aimed at cultivating global talent

A third grader in Chiba Prefecture tries out her English with a native-speaking teacher.

TOKYO -- Students in Japanese elementary schools will start learning English in third grade, two years sooner than now, under a proposal announced Tuesday by the education ministry.

From fiscal 2020, third graders will initially acquaint themselves with the language through listening and speaking as fifth graders currently do. Fifth and sixth graders will learn to read and write as well, taking two classes a week instead of the current one.

The changes are proposed for elementary and middle school curricula being revised for the first time in around a decade. Middle school English classes will be taught in English, with the vocabulary expanding about 50% to between 1,600 words and 1,800 words. The changes for middle schools are to take effect in fiscal 2021.

The broader curricular revamp is built on the theme of offering a "curriculum open to society." It calls for schools and communities to cultivate the skills and qualities required of those who will go out into the world in the 2030s.

(Nikkei)

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