Current Japanese reforms in English language education: The 2003 "action plan"

Yuko Goto Butler*, Masakazu Iino

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

126 Citations (Scopus)


In response to growing criticism that Japanese do not have sufficient communicative skills in English, the Japanese government proposed a five-year "Action Plan to Cultivate Japanese with English Abilities" in 2003. This paper examines the context and content of this plan as well as the initial reactions to it in various educational settings. The Action Plan itself reflects a number of conflicting ideological orientations, including: (1) whether Japan should pursue a policy of multilingualism or one favoring the spread of English; (2) whether Japan should emphasize international understanding or simply English education; and (3) promoting egalitarianism versus allowing for individualized education. Despite the challenges that these conflicting goals present, the Action Plan gives greater autonomy to teachers and local governments and thus may improve English education by enabling them to become active participants in the development of language education policies rather than simply being passive consumers of such policies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)25-45
Number of pages21
JournalLanguage Policy
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2005 Mar


  • Action plan
  • Autonomy
  • Egalitarianism
  • English language education reform
  • Individualism
  • International understanding
  • Japan, multilingualism
  • The spread of English

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Linguistics and Language


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