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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

“Black Ships”—the Management of Change in English Language Education in a Tokyo Elementary School
by Suda, Noriko, Ph.D., International Christian University (Japan), 2010, 227; 3447443
Abstract (Summary)

This study provides an insight into how teachers in one small public elementary school in Tokyo coped with a large-scale innovation mandated by MEXT, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. The implementation of English language education which took place as a part of wider curriculum reform wrought much confusion to teachers who had no experience in teaching English. Under the strong centralized educational system, the mandate is absolute and the change was perceived by a teacher as threat or “the arrival of the Black Ships.” Through an ethnographic study combined with semantic differential techniques, the study reveals why innovation was perceived as the “Black Ships” and how teachers managed change that took place in Hassho, a small public elementary school.

The results show that while teachers had a favorable image towards teaching of English, they rated negatively on MEXT. The Ministry's arbitrary decision regarding policy and lack of clarity in goal were the main reasons for teachers' dissatisfaction. Clarity of goal proved to be one of the most important elements for change in order to obtain a successful outcome.

Interviews with Hassho teachers revealed that the innovation brought four kinds of demands to which teachers had to respond. First, ‘change in role and behavior’ required a shift from the usual modus vivendi of teachers towards a role model for English learners. It was the most demanding for the new role required teachers to teach English in English. The second demand was ‘skill’ which required teachers to attend workshops and training in order to attain substantial knowledge of class content and skills to use materials. Third was ‘intensification of time’ in which teachers were required to spend more time on preparing and discussing English lessons in addition to their usual workload. The fourth demand ‘shared understanding’ served as a key element. A few teachers expressed dissatisfaction and even resentment to teach English to children. Shared understanding among teachers was one of the most needed factors for change to a successful outcome.

Hassho managed well responding to those four demands. However this was possible due to the strong leadership manifested by the Principal who was aware of her new role in change. She was effective and managed well in political and financial terms. The study finds that under the centralized education system in Japan, the outcome of change depends heavily on how a Principal interprets change and puts that into effect. Implications to further research in ELT in elementary school are drawn.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Maher, John C.
School: International Christian University (Japan)
School Location: Japan
Source: DAI-A 72/05, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: English as a Second Language, Education Policy, Elementary education
Keywords: Curriculum change, English, Factors affecting change, Japan, Language teaching, School change, Tokyo
Publication Number: 3447443
ISBN: 978-1-124-51476-5
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