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Thursday, May 1, 2003
NPO looks for English boost via teacher-accreditation plan
By ERIKO ARITA
A newly established nonprofit organization is planning to create an unofficial accreditation system for people deemed capable of teaching English at elementary schools.
Japan-Shogakko Instructors of English, or J-Shine, said the accreditation will be given to instructors who are currently teaching English at private educational institutions so they can teach at public elementary schools and help other teachers conduct English lessons.
The first step, which begins Thursday, will be to accredit private institutions as providing qualified English education and training for instructors, according to J-Shine.
The idea is to supply public elementary schools with experienced English instructors, because many schools are short of qualified personnel who can teach the language, according to the organization.
J-Shine said its accreditation system will be used by local boards of education looking to appoint English instructors.
Many public elementary schools have worked English lessons into their "comprehensive studies" programs, which were introduced last spring.
According to the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry, 56 percent of the nation's public elementary schools conducted at least one English lesson for sixth-graders during the 2002 academic year.
J-Shine Chairwoman Aiko Okawara told a symposium in Tokyo's Minato Ward last week that the number of instructors who can teach English at elementary schools is limited, and many teachers are anxious about conducting foreign-language lessons.
"Without the help of trained and qualified English teachers, English education at elementary schools will not work," Okawara said. "It is a pressing task to mobilize experienced English teachers at private institutions to teach (elementary school) classes."
Hirohiko Yoshida, managing director of the organization, explained that ministry panel members and private-sector educators had suggested that the private sector establish an accreditation program for people capable of teaching English at elementary schools.
J-Shine was set up in February in response to these calls, Yoshida said.
Certificates will be awarded after the accreditation committee of the organization, which consists of university professors of English education and representatives of private institutions specializing in teaching English for children, has examined the application form, along with recommendations filed by accredited private educational institution to which the applicant belongs.
The organization will start accepting applications Thursday from institutions that want to be accredited.
When the program progresses to the phase when individual teachers will apply for accreditation, both Japanese and non-Japanese will be eligible. Although the application form is only in Japanese at present, English forms will be available in the future, officials said.
It plans to post a list of qualified English teachers on its Web site in June.
Sixty-two private institutions, including foreign-language schools, have so far shown interest in registering as accredited institutions. Some local boards of education have also contacted the organization over the plan, according to J-Shine.
The education ministry has no plans to start an official accreditation program for English teachers at elementary schools, ministry officials said.
They added, however, that the private-sector program may be used by local boards of education in hiring English teachers for elementary schools.