English as a foreign language in early childhood care and education in Japan: Policy and pedagogy

Sachiko Kitano
page. 3~17 / 2008 Vol.2 No.1


This paper gives an overview of English education policy and practice for youngchildren in Japan. Recently, a strong need for English education has emerged andchanges have been made at the elementary school levels. English education has notyet been regulated, however, in early childhood education. This study investigatesEnglish education for young children in Japanese preschool settings, in lessons forpreschoolers provided outside of preschool, and in English preschools. The resultsshow that English lessons are offered more widely at private institutions than inpublic, and a strong commercial involvement that makes English education hard toaccess for families with fewer economic resources and families with two workingparents. The results also revealed issues of quality in instructional method and inteachers' skills. Although there is a wide gap in opportunities to learn English from anearly age, the result in English knowledge and skill in latter education level do not yetdiffer. More practical research and policy studies are needed to provide equal educationalopportunities and also methodologically and professionally appropriate Englisheducation for young Japanese children.

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