Time for education innovation
By E. Heinrich-Sanchez
Okinawa is striving to become an Asia-Pacific hub for distribution, and a gateway to Asia. Quality English education has been identified as a priority yet the management of English teachers and teaching in Okinawa is fragmented. English teachers in Okinawa are coming together to see how we can make Okinawa into Japan’s leading English Education prefecture.
Municipal governments have been known to hire Assistant Language Teachers (ALTs) using agencies. Many ALTs are moved around as disposable staff easily replaced regardless of teaching accomplishments in the schools. At the boards of education, many in charge of overseeing the teachers do not speak English themselves.
Pay and benefits vary including questionable practices when it comes to accrued leave, paying health insurance and others. Some local governments force ALTs to re-contract during the summer break in order to avoid paying health benefits.
Its time for Okinawa Prefecture to take the initiative and follow other prefectures who have questioned the status quo. Japan needs a new baseline in order to achieve the English Reform goals by the 2020 Olympics.
Osaka is taking the lead questioning Tokyo’s passive approach to the MEXT (Education Ministry’s) “Radical English Education Reform” (Japan Today Dec.15 2013)
To begin within the next year, the four major changes to Osaka’s English-language curriculum will be: Dedicated TOEFL iBT preparation, a comprehensive English program starting in grade one, the hiring of Super English Teachers and the acceptance of third-party English exam scores (such as the TOEFL iBT) for high school entrance exams.
In the Japan Times March 30th interview of Osaka’s Toru Nakahara, the Superintendent of the Osaka Prefectural Board of Education, said that, “We have land issues with China and Korea — we need to resolve issues with them through direct in-person communication without a translator. It would make a big impact if we spoke directly to the Korean president and high-ranking Chinese officers who do speak English.”
The full article is very much worth reading and includes comments by Osaka’s “first non-Japanese civil servant to be hired,” Matthew Cook.
Okinawa has a pool of talented, English teachers many who came to Okinawa under the Japan English Teaching (JET) Program and have married into Okinawa or stayed for many other reasons including Karate.
NEWS FROM THE General Union in Osaka:
It seems that the Abe government’s goal is to make Japan “the world’s easiest country to do business in”. And so the notorious “white-collar exemption,” already rejected once, has come up yet again. Presumably as a part of this, a debate has already begun at the Labor Policy Council within the Welfare and Labor Ministry over a new system, one that would drastically loosen the Labor Standards Law regulations on working hours, and would have wages decided not by hours worked, but by results achieved.
At the special session of the Diet of September, and then at next year’s regular session, there is a dangerous possibility that the rules protecting workers by regulating working hours will disappear, and that the checks on making employees work long hours for “zero overtime” will collapse. The problem is still not getting strong interest from the general public. It will be vital to get the word out to the public during the present Diet session about what is wrong with this bill, and make sure that public opinion opposing the deregulation plan becomes visible.
For more information contact http://www.generalunion.org
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