Article EFL and Confucius


Having taught English as a second language for several years in Asia, I have come to see and understand more clearly the learning style prevalent in this part of the world and its implications for learning EFL.

Teaching in Japan is based on the Confucian model of teaching which emphasizes hierarchical relationships. Thus, teachers are the models for students to follow. Therefore, a student models his/her teacher. It is a teacher-centered approach to teaching. Testing and entrance exams play a key role in Japan's educational system and in other Asian countries. So, subjects are taught in order that students can pass them. Discipline, obedience and a good memory are highly regarded. A good student is someone who is focused, obedient and who listens rather than talks. This would explain my first impressions when I walked into a Japanese classroom. The students were seated, quiet and waiting for the Japanese teacher to start the class.

They have an expression in Japanese that the nail that sticks out gets hammered down. So, I have noticed that Japanese students don't like to stick out or be first for that matter. Unlike North Americans who work for their own good, the Japanese work in groups for the good of the whole. Arising out of the ashes of the second world war, it has become the second economic superpower in the world. Thus, Japan can easily be described as a collectivist society. So, Japanese students do not like to be first or be singled out. They like team and group work activities.

Having a clearer sense of the main prevalent learning system, helps in the preparation of more culturally sensitive lesson plans.

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1 Comment

Do you use textbooks written for the Japanese market? If not, how do you adapt general textbooks?

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