Elementary School English Education to Nurture “Zest for Living” in the 21st Century : From competition for English test scores to authentic learning to foster intercultural communicative competence

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  • 21世紀型の「生きる力」を育む小学校英語教育 : 学力を競う英語学習から異文化間コミュニケーション力を重視する深い学びへ

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This short paper explores Japanese young learners’ willingness to communicate in English and their confidence in communicating with foreigners in English, which are necessary for global citizens in the 21st century. It begins with examination of key words such as global competency or zest for living in the 21st century in the new course of study issued by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology in 2017.Japanese learners of English used to study it for exams and tried to memorize vocabulary and grammar. However, it is now apparent that this learning method is not good for fostering capable English communicators. They have little confidence in communicating with foreigners using English. English education in Japan needs to be changed to meet the demands of the globalized society.English classes for 5th graders and 6th graders in Japanese elementary schools have been conducted twice a week as a compulsory subject since April, 2020. Not only oral communication but also literacy should be taught, and it could increase anxiety among young learners who study the foreign language.The authors of this paper have been committed to English education in an elementary school in Fukushima since 2017. Because it is a UNESCO school, the learning goals of all the classes are targeted according to SDGs, and students are encouraged to express themselves using English for intercultural exchange with foreign countries such as Nepal, Turkey and the United States. They are engaged in projects to exchange video letters with students living overseas.The authors followed a cohort of 21 students who graduated from this school in 2019 after experiencing several projects of intercultural exchange. When they became first-year students at a junior high school, a survey was conducted. This survey made it possible to compare this cohort and another cohort who had no intercultural exchange experiences. The analysis showed that the research participants were more confident in their English communication ability and were more willing to interact with foreigners. It was also shown that the school culture must have affected positively on their view of English communication with foreigners.The conclusion suggests that their willingness to communicate in English should be evaluated as well along with their paper test scores of English as a subject. It should lead to their positiveness and high motivation for learning as global citizens for the rest of their lives.


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