CHAPTER VIII

ADAPTATION OF THE COURSE OF STUDY

TO LOCAL NEEDS

I. Patterns of English Language Curriculum

Not Rigid or Inflexible

This Course of Study attempts to outline a course in English which will be of general use in all of the lower and upper secondary schools of Japan, so that, it is not expected that teachers will use this course of Study as a rigid or inflexible guide to the organization of the English language course. Modern education is based upon the assumption that individual needs differ and that these vary from community to community. Needs for English may differ greatly between such widely separated and disparate locations as Hokkaid, and the mountainous districts of Gifu, and Nagano. Needs for English would differ among the capital city of Tokyo, commercial cities such as Yokohama and Kbe, and isolated towns and villages. There should be consequently adaptations of the Course of Study to meet these local community needs and the individual needs of students.

1. Pre-War Education in Japan

Generally speaking, pre-war education in Japan was what has been termed among us, guniform education.h The central government decided what to teach, and this was applied to all pupils throughout Japan. There was practically no room for adapting education to actual situations and for carrying out effective original plans. It was a type of education conducted by those who simply taught what they knew they were expected to teach in compliance with authoritative commands. It was not democratic education in which everybody who was interested could give assistance. In other words, until the postwar period, the community surrounding the school had little if any influence on the policy of the school, and left educational matters to educational institutions, which in turn followed the dictates of the central government.

It is significant too that secondary education was limited to a select few. The less capable boys and girls and those without sufficient financial resources to pay for secondary school attendance had little chance of receiving secondary education. The system, by and large, did not allow much room for meeting local needs, especially in the case of government and public schools. Moreover, nobody had to think about meeting local needs.

2. New Democratic Education

Today education is directly concerned with people living in each community, to whose welfare it has the obligation to contribute.

This democratic education is not to be regarded as feasible without guiding educational principles or sound organization. In the democratic education of our day an account must be taken of the bases of education established by experts in the field. One of these bases is the aims of the English language as stated in this Course of Study, which are believed to be fundamentally sound, and which may be the foundation for any English language course. They are the over-all aims and the major functional and cultural aims, from which the specific aims are derived. It is these specific aims in particular that require adaptation, since the over-all and major aims as stated in this volume have been prepared with the utmost care so as to provide the maximum flexibility compatible with educational principles in the field of a foreign language program as applied to Japan. What must be borne in mind is the fact that just as there are common and special needs of pupils a course would have to meet, there are special local needs which a program would have to satisfy.

II. Developing Local Specific Aims by Adapting

the Aims in the National Course of Study

1. Curriculum Decentralization

Since communities differ from each other, progress made by them should be characterized by differences. The social differences between communities also call for differences in specific educational aims. In a totalitarian state a unified system of education is the rule, but it is in the very nature of a democratic state to provide for local and personal differences. The establishment of local boards of education is justified only if they serve this purpose. Article 49, (3) and (9) of the Board of Education Law (Law No. 170, 1948) reads: gThe boards of education shall take charge of the following matters. However, in such cases they may require advice and recommendation from the superintendents of education; (3) Matters concerning the curriculum contents to be taught and their treatment; (9) Matters concerning the planning for arrangement of instructional materials and other equipments.h

Curriculum work done by the central committees is made available to the educational leaders of prefectures, cities, towns, and villages. Almost all prefectures have lately organized their respective curriculum research institutes, which consist of various specialized branches. It is anticipated that the day will soon come when every prefecture will have textbooks adapted locally. It is hoped, too, that the plans will be based on principles and policies which have been established as sound.

2. Adaptation to Local Living Situations

Social needs for the English language do, and ought to, vary from locality to locality. People in urban communities have interests and needs that are different from those which people in rural communities have. For example, in big cities, such as Tokyo, Yokohama, and Osaka, people would feel a more immediate heed for advanced and more practical instruction in English. Moreover, social needs in commercial cities are not the same as those in industrial cities. Even in a place remotely situated among mountains the people may have a deeper interest in foreign languages if it happens to be a favorite resort for foreigners. The interests and needs of adolescents are similarly bound up with the physical and social environment in which they live.

However, in adapting a program to local living situations, care must be taken so as not to comply without discretion to uninformed ideas and wishes of the community. If it is evident that an idea or criticism cannot be given scientific supports, it is the duty of educators to enlighten their community in a spirit of goodwill. Compliance with certain suggestions and requests, when reasonable, is advisable; but it is the duty of educators to supply the leaven which will raise their community to higher cultural levels.

Another highly important thing to remember is that local situations are subject to constant change and that curriculum development is therefore of necessity a continuous process. Because communities change and develop, there can be no such thing as a rigid and unchangeable curriculum.

III. Making studies of Pupil Interests and Needs

in Local Situations

1. Through the Teacherfs Own Experiences, Study, and Observation

In order to reap the best possible results among his pupils a teacher must acquire an understanding of the nature, of pupil growth in general and the individual characteristics of pupils. He must become acquainted with the principles and applications of adolescent psychology, and make a close study of the interests and needs of his pupils. Taking these things into consideration on one hand, a teacher must on the other hand form a true estimate of his pupilsf ability to learn and to make use of their knowledge. Upon this foundation he must build a classroom ideally suited to teaching his pupils with their cooperation all the possible devices which may be useful.

Adolescent interests and needs depend largely on the actual situations of the community in which adolescents live and on the situations both of their country and of the world. A teacher ought, therefore, to weight his pupilsf needs in their own community, their needs as citizens of Japan, and their needs as citizens of the world. As regards teachers of English they should list the actual living situations in which their pupils will need, or are reasonably likely to need, English. It must be emphasized that it would be a serious mistake to concentrate only upon the pupilsf needs in as members of their immediate community, because all pupils, even in the most remote mountain villages, are citizens of the nation and the world.

A full realization of the needs of adolescents and a knowledge of their actual life are matters of great importance to sympathetic teachers who wish to fulfil their duties in a satisfactory manner. It should not prove too much of a burden for teachers to strive toward full efficiency, if they have a love for their pupils, their community, and their country, and a desire to bring up worthy citizens of the world who may contribute to the cultures of their nation and of the world.

Teachers can achieve understandings of the type described only through study of educational psychology, adolescent psychology and pupil guidance, and a constant study of his pupils based upon techniques learned from these fields.

2. Through Questionnaires

In order to build an excellent course of study, teachers of English should conduct a preliminary study along the lines described below.

A. With regard to Pupil Interests and Needs

Teachers should make a study of pupil interests and needs (a) when pupils first learn English in class and (b) at the beginning of each grade.

(1) When pupils first learn English in class:

Have you ever studied English?

(a) When?

(b) Under whom?

(c) Where?

(d) For how long?

(e) Why did you study it?

Describe specifically when and under what circumstances you have felt a need for

(a) understanding spoken English

(b) being able to speak English

(c) being able to read English

(d) being able to write English

What do you want to learn in

(a) hearing and speaking English? Why?

(b) reading English? Why?

(c) writing English? Why?

What do you want to learn through English? Why? (Justify each item listed.)

Such a study should be made not only by use of questionnaires; the questionnaires should be supplemented by pupil interviews and discussion.

(2) At the beginning of each grade:

The teacher should have on file the answers to the questionnaires given at the beginning of the pupilsf study of English. There is great likelihood that their aims will have changed to some degree during their study of English, or that their vision of their needs in this field may have broadened or become clearer to them. Thus, at the beginning of each grade, pupils might be asked to fill out a questionnaire which is a partial repetition of the first, as follows:

In what situation during the last year have you felt a need for English, aside from your need to use it in class?

Describe specifically when and under what circumstances you have felt a need for.... (Use same form as in (1).)

This questionnaire might be accompanied by a preliminary evaluation in the use of aural-oral-and written English and in the ability to read English in order to determine the exact status of the pupilsf progress, however slight the knowledge might be. A fundamental principle of teaching is that the teacher must take the pupil where he is and lead him on from there.

B. With regard to Social Interests and Needs

In order to appraise social interests and needs teachers might send questionnaires to (a) pupilsf parents, (b) people acquainted with educational problems, and (c) other interested community groups, and also ask the Superintendent of Education, through the principal, to consult the Board of Education for its advice.

Questionnaire:

(1) Check in the following list those abilities which you think should receive emphasis, and in each case state why

(a) Conversational English


(d) Ability to deliver short speeches (upper secondary school)

(e) Ability to take part in debates (upper secondary school)

(Note: If you think two or more should receive emphasis, check all in which you are interested and discuss relative emphasis.)

(2) Check the types of literature you think children should read, and indicate their order of importance by figures.

  (a) Stories (b) Biographies
  (c) Dramas (f) Letters
  (d) Poems (g) Diaries
  (e) Essays  

(In each case designate whether in lower or upper secondary school.)

(3) Check in the following list of subjects those you think should receive emphasis, and indicate their order of importance by figures if more than one are checked.

(a) Foreign customs and manners

(b) Political and social problems

(c) Nature study and science

3. Through Interviews

Teachers should make use of every available opportunity to have interviews with the pupilsf parents, members of the local board of education, and those acquainted with or interested in the field of English language teaching. Conferences can be held, too, at which there could be and exchange of opinions. Conferences have an advantage over private interviews in that they provide opportunities for the ironing out of problems. Teachers should keep for future reference and study all records of interviews and conferences.

4. Contact with English Language Teachers in Other Schools.

In developing the English language curriculum, just as in the case of any other curriculum, teachers should not depend solely upon their local resources. Studies are possible being constantly made in other prefectures, not to mention onefs own. Teachers must, moreover, work in concert with the staffs of other schools in a town can help each other solve problems common to some or all of the schools. Without such close co-operation little improvement can be expected in the curriculum.

In Japan many of the farming and fishing villages are situated quite near a city or a town. Wherever this is the case, village and town school teachers should keep in sympathetic touch with each other. Again, in developing their own local curriculum, teachers should study reports of studies made by other groups outside of their own prefecture. Of course, the ideas and conclusions in such studies may not be useful, since the localities are different, but on the other hand they may find much material that is adaptable. Ideally, results of curriculum studies made by local groups should be reported in detail in professional journals in the English language field, and each local group, after making a study, should consider the desirability of trying to get it printed in a journal.

IV. Adapting Pupil Experiences Outlined in Chapters,

gSuggested Program for the Lower Secondary

Schoolh and gSuggested Program for

The Upper Secondary Schoolh

The teacher should evolve his own specific programs so that they may meet the needs and interests of the students in his locality, taking into consideration the studentsf general ability and any characteristics peculiar to his school. The following sections will illustrate the point in hand.

1. Concerning Experiences in Hearing and Oral Expression

In the views of some authorities the proper time for any serious beginning in what may be loosely termed, edaily conversationf, might be the 9th grade. But if the locality in which the pupils live happens to be a noted place much frequented by foreign visitors or a place where English is very often heard, or if the school happens to have a teacher quite conversant in English, this type of experience can be given earlier and to a greater degree.

2. Concerning Reading Experiences

If the pupil live in an out-of-the-way place, where there would be little likelihood of a need for ability in the aural-oral aspect of the language, it may be advisable to lay greater stress on reading experiences, provided a scientific approach is employed. In adapting a course of study so as to lay greater emphasis on reading experiences the teacher should pay attention to individual interests and needs, because not every student may require the same amount of learning activities in reading. Also in schools located in remote parts of the country it may be advisable to provide a wider variety of readings on political and social problems and foreign customs and manners, since it would be more difficult than in urban districts in closer touch with Western civilization to get a good idea of the lives and institutions of the peoples whose language they are studying. Much of such knowledge, however, can be supplemented by reading in the vernacular, provided this is done without any sacrifices in the learning of English.

It must be noted, in connection with rural problems, that there is a trend among young people to gravitate to cities soon after graduation Also, it is necessary to take into consideration the fact that learning spoken English contributes directly to the achievement of ability to read English.

3. Concerning Writing Experiences

Writing experiences may need greater emphasis in commercial towns and cities where there is need for communication with foreign firms. In such cities there would also be need for a good knowledge of the effective use of English for purposes of advertising.

It is not uncommon to come across strangely worded sign-boards as one walks along a street, which may not only be embarrassing but misleading or unintelligible. Teachers of English are in a sense responsible for their improvement. They should, through their pupils, help to correct mistakes in spelling or grammar. What applies to sign-boards would apply equally to all types of advertisement.

V. Listing Available Local Resource Materials

One good project for each English language teacher and group or organization of teachers would be to make a fairly complete list of materials which are available to help in teaching. This Course of Study contains (Chapter VI) a list of materials compiled by the Tokyo-to Associations of English Teachers. A list of all materials available might be extensive or brief, depending directly upon the availability of resources. Some schools may have quite different materials from those which others have. If your locality is rich in resources, they ought to be utilized to the full. If not, teachers should think of every means of bringing their pupils and themselves in contact with materials which are outside the locality, but near enough to be utilizable.

The following resource materials are mere examples. Different localities have different materials. Even if a locality happens to have little available in some categories of materials, teachers in most communities an easily make use of the gramophone, the radio, some English books, newspapers and magazines.

1. Library

Most cities, towns, and even villages have their own libraries which can be utilized by English students. Especially at present, CIE libraries can be found in every big city in Japan, where students can learn much through English. It may be that those in charge of a public library can be persuaded to provide some materials in English, if none are on hand.

2. Foreign Films

Adolescents like to see movies; some particularly like foreign ones. If very good foreign films, whether newsreels or stories, should be screened at a motion picture theater nearby, teachers should not fail to recommend them to their pupils. Nothing offers pupils better practice in hearing English in realistic situations than listening to English speech carried on in the talkies. It may be a good thing for a class to select, with the guidance of the teachers, a good film in English which is currently showing, and visit the theater as a class group. If the school is in a village and there is no motion picture theater, perhaps an excursion to a nearby town which has a good theater may be made at a time coinciding with the appearance of a worthwhile film.

3. Resource Persons

The school should utilize people of the community who are well-qualified to speak on the cultures of English-speaking peoples. There may be people available who can talk to the class about English and American literature, the English language itself, their travel and experiences in English-speaking nations, or culture in general.

It would be desirable, if there is an American or British family in the community, to arrange a visit to their home, if this can be done. If there is a distinctly foreign-style house, pupils can learn more about the homes and home life of English-speaking people in this way than by any amount of reading.

In developing a list of materials available locally, include all useful reference books, newspapers magazines, motion pictures, radio programs, slides, phonograph records, maps, charts, and potential resource persons.

VI. Developing Specific Programs for Evaluation

Possible under or Applicable to

Local Conditions

Since a curriculum should be a specific one in accordance with local situations, programs for evaluation should also correspond with local conditions. Stated another way, the local aims of English language should be based on the local conditions, and evaluation should then be based directly on the aims. Evaluation instruments and techniques include standardized tests and examinations, observations, interviews, pupil logs, pupil diaries, self-evaluation by pupils, the anecdotal record, the cumulative record, and others. One and the same program for evaluation cannot be adopted by every school in a uniform way. In a locality which attaches more importance to the more immediately practical side of learning, teachers should try to evaluate so as to realize the results of aural-oral training.

Evaluation programs naturally vary according to the kind of school. As upper secondary school programs are different as a whole from lower secondary ones, so commercial schools and technical schools must develop their own particular programs. In schools which have pupils who wish and plan, after graduation, to enter schools of a higher level, teachers must conduct evaluation of development accordingly. However, no upper secondary school should teach specifically so as to enable pupils to pass university entrance examinations. Such an aim is too limited and will inevitably lead to neglect of other and sometimes more important aims. If pupils attain a good speaking, reading, and writing knowledge of the English language, they ought to be able to pass any examination which a university may give. In other words, university entrance examinations should be based directly on the curriculum of the upper secondary schools, not on separate university requirements. Otherwise, the universities will dominate the upper secondary school curriculum, a development which cannot be defended on educational grounds and which ought to be combated by educators interested in the welfare of secondary education.

No matter what school it may be, it must develop the specific program for evaluation which is adapted to local conditions. Again, the teachers should always evaluate so as to learn to what extent aims or anticipated outcomes have been achieved in their locality.

VII. Organizing Local English Language Curriculum Work

In order that there may be consistent, continuous work on the English language curriculum, it is suggested that a formal organization of some kind be set up. Such an organization should be attempted from the bottom up, rather than from the top down. The following might be steps in creating such an organization.

A. School Organization

In schools with several English teachers, the teachers should organize an English Curriculum Committee for a continual study of curriculum development. In a small school where there are only one or two English teachers, and where the faculty as a whole organizes a Curriculum Committee, these teachers can improve the English language curriculum by co-operating with those from the other fields. Even in a larger school, at least one person from the field of English should join the entire school Curriculum Committee which gives leadership to curriculum work.

B. City or Gun Organization

At a suitable time the English teasers of a city, a gun, or some other suitable subdivision of a prefecture might organize an English Language Curriculum Committee which consists of a Lower Secondary Subcommittee and an Upper Secondary Subcommittee. This committee should not in any way control the general local committees, but merely be an agency for getting many English teachers together to study their common problems.

C. Prefectural Organization

Later there might be an English Teachersf Association, with a Curriculum Study Group as a sub-group, at the prefectural level. The prefectural association should not in any sense control the local groups, but merely be a channel through which they can express their ideas, plan work, and engage in curriculum planning and study.

The Curriculum Study Group might be divided into a Lower Secondary School Section and an Upper Secondary School Section, but those two sections should co-operate with each other in the continual improvement of the English Language Curriculum It must be pointed out and understood that there ought not to be sudden changes in the nature of the English Language Curriculum between the 9th and 10th grades, simply because these grades belong to two different levels of school. Development in any field, including English, must of necessity be continuous. There should be no large gaps if effective learning is to take place. Teachers of 10th grade pupils should take up the teaching of English exactly at the point which each individual had reached at the end of the 9th. To attempt to change the nature of the program suddenly would violate important laws of psychology, with consequent disruption of learning. There is too much of a tendency for there to be, in various prefectures, a Lower Secondary School English Teachersf Association and an Upper Secondary School English Teachersf Association, one having nothing to do with the other. This can hardly be defended on educational grounds.

As is stated above, the organization ought to go up from the bottom from each school organization to a city or gun organization, from a city or gun organization to a prefectural organization. But there seem to be some prefectures where the prefectural group was organized first, or is the only one organized, each school and each city and gun not organizing its own Curriculum committee. Actually, the most important curriculum work ought to be done right at the school and community level, with the larger organizations providing an opportunity for joint study and exchange of ideas and techniques.

2. Duties of Committees or Groups

The most important functions which the school, city or gun, and prefectural organizations might perform are listed here:

a. Organizing and carrying out in-service training programs in the field of curriculum development. There could include conferences, institute, workshops, discussion groups, study groups, demonstrations, inter-visiting among schools, and many other things.

b. Studying the needs of the community and the needs of adolescents in the community.

c. Planning and working out patterns of English language curricula.

d. Organizing resource units in English.

e. Helping each other develop teaching units.

f. Introducing the latest studies available for curriculum development.

g. Developing a definite plan for continuous evaluation of the curriculum.

h. Working out plans for using local resource materials.

i. Arranging for an exchange or rotation among schools of teaching materials.

j. Publishing a journal on English language teaching (possible at the prefectural level).

k. Exchanging individual curriculum studies among individuals and groups.

l. Working with the teacher-training institutions in the prefecture to develop good teacher education chouses in the field of English.

There should be constant liaison among these different committees and groups, and it would be useful if such committees and groups should sent their best work to the City Superintendent of Education, the Prefectural Board of Education, and the Ministry of Education, which would study it and incorporate ideas considered worth while into local, prefectural, and national Courses of Study.