the nikku

reflecting on ESL/EFL and its relation to faith

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

My voice and the empty school

I used to joke that the schools here just want me for my voice. But this week is the famous "English Recitation Contest" week, and I'm finding out just how true that is. For the last month students have been memorizing a passage that was given to them.

Unlike some other schools my friends work at, here the first round of narrowing the candidates is done in their homeroom. They listen to and imitate tapes, and have model speakers, the whole works. Many of the students are clearly bored, but they do it anyway.

I've taught a few classes - and visited some homerooms that I don't teach at the request of the homeroom teacher - where all I do is coach pronunciation, and tell students normal speaking advice. Like: look at your audience, speak louder, don't mumble.

Today I recorded a tape for students to imitate. The teacher's office was kind of loud, so I was taken to "the fourth floor". I've never really been up there, and I was surprised to see nearly half the wing empty. No students, no teachers, no personal belongings. The door was locked, and the room had clearly been unused for some time.

Right now Japan is coming back from a recession, and is trying to fight the unbalance of a low birth rate. Nearly 65% of the population is over 60, and in Japan you MUST retire at 60. This is causing a further increase for medical services (as well as general services). And since Japan doesn't really import foreign workers, this is causing an increase in children who enter the work force, and a decrease in children seeking higher education - even high school.

Today being in the empty room, the empty wing, and being able to look across to other empty wings, I realized just how much this change of demographics is turning education on it's head.

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