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Decontexutalised Knowledge

Working in English language education in Japan for the last 8 - 9 years, but not as an ALT, I have often wondered about what goes on in the English classrooms of Japanese high schools and why they are so obsessed with teaching grammar. It is fairly clear that whatever teachers are doing in Japanese schools there is little improvement in learning outcomes despite government pushes to improve English language education as well as extend it by starting it earlier. In some senses if the English language education in schools was adequate there would be little need for the once booming eikaiwa industry that has grown up since the 1970s. Eikaiwa schools are supposed to follow the communicative approach. The very name means conversation school, so the emphasis ought to be on communication, and by and large this is true, eikaiwa’s place more focus on communication, but it is still very much enslaved to a grammar based curriculum and limited by the confines of a usually irrelevant text book. The problem is that in both cases grammar is an easy option, but it highlights the dangers of decontextualised knowledge.

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