IELTS, TOEFL and numerous other public English testings have repeated revealed that the English level of Japanese people is one of the lowest amongst Asian countries. Many foreigners, me included, have been wondering for years. (http://www.ielts.org/researchers/analysis_of_test_data/percentile_ranks_2011-1.aspx)
I was at a meeting yesterday in one of the government buildings in my region. The meeting is for Japanese English teachers (JET) and all ALTs. There were 3 ALTs, 29 JETs, a guest speaker, and some other officials working for the education department. One of the aims is to show JETs how they can use the textbook when they are with / without an ALT in the classroom. The meeting last for roughly 2.5 hours. During the talk, the guest speaker who was supposed to show JETs how they could use the book spent over a third of the time stressing how attractive the pictures and colors on the front cover and insides pages of the book by pointing at the them one by one. There was no Q&A time and the guest speaker didn’t bother to ask if us, as teachers and ultimate users of the book, had had any problems when we used the book. ALTs were not asked one question or given any chance to speak!
After the talk, we split into small groups. ALT paired with one JET to give a demo lesson of 5 mins in turn. YES, 5 MINS! What the hell can we do within 5 mins? You figure it out by yourself!
Oh! You wanna impress your audience by showing some videos or pictures? There is no TV, no projector, no stereo, basically no nothing you could use except for a chalkboard with 2 color chalks – red and white. If your the reminiscent type of person, this room will definitely brings you back to your childhood. Plus, there was no duster. You may use the towel that comes with the 2 precious chalks though. Funny isn’t it? (I’m regretting I didn’t take a picture of the room).
For the text itself, as you can see, it’s more a picture / comic book than a text which is for English study. The kids spend tons of their time on pictures and colors instead of some serious reading containing words! They won’t see any sentences or passages until they get into high school.