English to be upgraded to official course at elementary school

A government panel on education reform on Tuesday proposed upgrading English to an official course at elementary schools, as part of an effort to better prepare students for an internationalized business environment.

While a one-hour-a-week English course has been introduced for fifth and sixth graders since the start of the 2011 academic year in Japan, the panel headed by Waseda University President Kaoru Kamata said the class hour should be extended and younger children in and below fourth grade should learn English.

While the Central Education Council, an advisory body to the education minister, will examine the proposals, submitted to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, they will still face challenges, such as how to secure teachers who can teach English at elementary level.

The panel also proposed creating several "Super Global High Schools" nationwide, at which mathematics and science courses will be taught in English.

As other measures to promote internationalization, the panel cited the establishment of a scholarship for students studying abroad by seeking corporate financial support, while urging universities to set up overseas bases to attract more foreign students to Japan.