Japan is falling behind. The state of English education in public schools isn’t very good right now. I don’t think it ever has been. It’s curious how this country teaches English through junior and senior high school, yet the average person can barely speak any English. Why?
It’s quite simple. The way the students are taught English is for tests. They drill them on grammar and vocabulary, as well as reading comprehension, but not speaking. Tests are everything in Japan. Unfortunately, tests don’t show how well someone can use the knowledge in practical situations, they show how well they can study. This system doesn’t encourage independent thought. Independence is something that threatens Japan’s culture of following the group. It may be good for teamwork, but it’s terrible for innovation. Many people don’t seem to understand this. This attitude is changing, but traditions hold strong still. And this is hurting education, which hurts industry. As one student I’ve taught said, “Japan is full of sheep.”
Unfortunately, a lot of English teachers in public schools don’t actually know English very well. I saw a junior high school textbook and couldn’t believe the awkward and unnatural English it used. You can’t expect someone to be good at English with that kind of education.
I’m not surprised Japan has the lowest TOEIC scores amongst its neighbours.