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Globalization and History of English Education in Japan

Globalization and History of English Education in Japan

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Published by: Zurneva Rosy on Jun 01, 2010
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Globalization and History of English Education in Japan
Author  Naoki Fujimoto-AdamsonTokyo University of Science, Suwa, Japan
Biography:Ms. Naoki Fujimoto-Adamson is currently completing her Ed.D. thesis fromLeicesterUniversity, U.K., on team-teaching in Japanese Junior High Schools. Sheteaches presentation skills at university, TOEIC at a local company and English to elementaryschool children. Her research interests are in the field of team-teaching on the JETscheme, young learners and the history of ELT in Japan. She can be contacted atnaoadamson@hotmail.com
This study investigates the history of English language education in Japan over the past150 years. For this purpose, tabulated representations have been devised which illustratethe educational events in each historical era alongside key national and internationalevents and trends. This is a means of illustrating how local education is a microcosm of the society and the world around it, and the manner in which globalization has an impactupon it. In tracing the inter-relatedness between education, society, politics andeconomics at the local and global levels, various issues are raised which explain whychanges have been made in English language education. Among these issues are the periods of immense popularity of English in Japan, seen by some as "linguisticimperialism" (Phillipson, 1992), yet in the early part of Japan's modernization as "a product of the struggle against imperialism" (Brutt-Giffler, 2002, as cited in Park, 2004, p.87). The tables clarify these two polarized stances and give insights into the fluctuating periods of popularity and decline over time in English language education in Japan.Keywords. English language education in Japan, globalization of English languageteaching, Japanese 'macro' events and English education
This study investigates the history of English education in Japan by describing andcritically analyzing the historical changes over the past 150 years. It addresses the generalhistory of English education in Japan and is organized according to the various eras of theJapanese Imperial Calendar, similar to literature which refers to the "Victorian age" or "Kennedy years" in British and American contexts. Looking back through history, I willattempt to trace the complex influences upon language education over the years and showhow they may shape the current situation. It is argued in this combination of perspectivesthat influences upon general English education over the last 150 years may help tounderstand the current complexities of the language education. History is seen in thissection as referring to not simply what happens in the English classroom, but what hashappened socially, politically and economically around it.In terms of the structure of this paper, it is divided into three parts. Firstly, therelationship between globalization and English language education will be explainedfrom a wider perspective including not only in Japan but also all over the world. Thesecond part will look at the world history from the aspect of the "Great Navigation"Period (Urabe, et al., 1995) and the colonial period from the end of 15th century inEurope. It also describes how Asian countries were influenced by Europe during this period of time. Finally, the third part will move on to the history of English education inJapan which mainly focuses on the following four eras: Meiji (1868-1911), Taisho (1912-1925), Showa (1926-1988) and Heisei (1989-today). Each era contains some significantsocial events which are not only domestic but also international in origin and investigateshow those macro events influence English education in Japan.
1. Globalization and English LanguageEducation
In this section, the history of English education in Japan will be investigated, focusing onthe globalization of English language teaching and the position of foreign languageeducation in Japanese society. According to Giddens (1990), globalization can be definedas follows:… the intensification of worldwide social relations which link distant localities in such away that local happenings are shaped by events occurring many miles away and viceversa (Giddens, 1990, p. 64 as cited in Block, 2004, p. 75)In terms of language education, Imura (2003) expresses a similar view, saying thatforeign language education and social events in the world are closely related to eachother. The history of English education in Japan is, however, not the exception to thisinter-connection between world, 'macro', events and the effects they have had on localeducation, the 'micro'. Looking back in history, according to Block (2004, p. 75), someresearchers think that the clearest effects of globalization started in the 15th century"when Europeans began to map colonize the world". This process of colonization wasaccompanied by the globalization of the English language which Phillipson (1992) terms
as "linguistic imperialism". However, Brutt-Giffler (2002) recently contradicts thisconnection between colonization and the enforced spread of English:…colonial language policy was not necessarily related to language spread, andthat the spread of English was just as much a product of the struggle againstimperialism (Brutt-Griffler, 2002 as cited in Park, 2004, p. 87).Taking this alternative stance, the history of English language education in Japan may beviewed as being partly based on Brutt-Griffler's idea of a "struggle against imperialism", but also, I would argue, as a struggle for imperialism in which English, and its teaching,have been at various times in history regarded as positive and negative influences onsociety. To explain this apparently complex "struggle", it is necessary to outline howEnglish education was introduced to Japan and how it has been operating in this countryfrom the mid 1800s with respect to the inter-connection between world, 'macro' eventsand local Japanese 'micro' events. Consequently, such a detailed and reflective account of the history of Japanese language education requires, as Phillipson (1992) and Pennycook (1994) advocate, the supplementary description of a variety of macro and micro social, political and economic issues all influential upon language education. This creates adescriptive framework for the interpretation of the varying states of English languageeducation through time, a seemingly inter-connected 'mesh' of events which show howeducational trends and policy decisions have been porous to national and internationalevents.
2. World History in the Great NavigationPeriod
Before giving a detailed description of the history from mid-1800s, I will briefly outlinesome significant incidents in the world before and around that period of time. Urabe et al(1995) term the few centuries from the end of 15th century as the "Great Navigation"Period in Europe. During this time, Europeans explored Africa, America and Asia anddiscovered new passages for global commerce. They also colonized vast areas of theworld, creating economic zones, such as the establishment of East Asian Company inIndia by Britain in 1600, which were primarily of benefit to European producers andconsumers. Nakano (2004) traces the historical relationship between Japan and western countriesaround this period. The Japanese government had banned commerce with other countriesexcept Holland and China for almost 210 years from 1603 to the beginning of 1800. Thegovernment, called Tokugawa Bakufu (1603-1867), ruled Japan for more than 250 years,determining the political and economic stance, that of isolation of the country, towardsthe rest of the world. Due to various reasons, including pressure from the West, itreturned this power to the Emperor, Meiji, in 1868. Although there had been relativedomestic peace and stability in the Tokugawa Bakufu period in Japan, there were fewopportunities to import innovations in science and technology from Europe and theUnited States. In contrast, while Japan was isolated from the world, the IndustrialRevolution occurred in Britain at the end of the 18th century and after Britain started to

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