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Current Japanese Reforms In English Language Education: The 2003 “Action Plan”


In response to growing criticism that Japanese do not have sufficient communicative skills in English, the Japanese government proposed a five-year “Action Plan to Cultivate Japanese with English Abilities” in 2003. This paper examines the context and content of this plan as well as the initial reactions to it in various educational settings. The Action Plan itself reflects a number of conflicting ideological orientations, including: (1) whether Japan should pursue a policy of multilingualism or one favoring the spread of English; (2) whether Japan should emphasize international understanding or simply English education; and (3) promoting egalitarianism versus allowing for individualized education. Despite the challenges that these conflicting goals present, the Action Plan gives greater autonomy to teachers and local governments and thus may improve English education by enabling them to become active participants in the development of language education policies rather than simply being passive consumers of such policies.

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Ministry of Education, Culture, Science and Technology


Pedagogical Practices in English Language Education


English certificate examination designed by the Society for Testing English Proficiency text, a.k.a. Eiken


Test of English as a Foreign Language


Test of English as an International Language


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Correspondence to Yuko Goto Butler.

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Butler, Y.G., Iino, M. Current Japanese Reforms In English Language Education: The 2003 “Action Plan”. Lang Policy 4, 25–45 (2005).

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  • action plan
  • autonomy
  • egalitarianism
  • English language education reform
  • individualism
  • international understanding
  • Japan, multilingualism
  • the spread of English