London Metropolitan University Research Institutes

Citizenship and language education in Japanese high schools

Author(s) Hosack, I.  
Publisher London: CiCe  
Year 2012  
Editor P. Cunningham & N. Fretwell (eds.) Creating Communities: Local, National and Global  
Age group -  
This paper reports on research carried out in Japan to investigate the contribution of high school English teachers to education for citizenship. It begins with a brief overview of the current state of citizenship education in Japan. A wide range of initiatives have been undertaken in Japanese schools which reflect very different understandings of citizenship and some tension between those wishing to nurture citizens with a strong ‘Japanese’ identity and those emphasising a more global or cosmopolitan citizenship. Theoretical work in the areas of content-based language instruction, intercultural communicative competence and dialogic education suggests that Japanese teachers of English could have an important role to play in shaping young people’s citizen identities in a more cosmopolitan direction. The paper presents findings from a recent empirical study in which Japanese English teachers were asked to assess the opportunities for incorporating citizenship teaching objectives into their language classes. A purposive sample of 46 teachers, each identified as having an interest in teaching about citizenship-related issues, completed a questionnaire in which they reflected on their understandings of ‘good citizenship’ and the extent to which citizenship teaching objectives can be furthered through high school English lessons. Participants agreed strongly that as English teachers they do have a role to play as citizenship educators, particularly in promoting tolerance, respect for human rights, and critical thinking. The main obstacles they face in trying to pursue this role are the continuing preoccupation of Japanese schools with entrance exam preparation and the lack of sympathetic colleagues with whom to collaborate. Keywords: citizenship, language education, Japan

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