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Japan Update on English Language Education

According to Yano Research Institute, the total market size of the foreign language instruction business in Japan, which includes online learning, software, language testing and study abroad, is about $8.76 billion.  For study abroad, many Japanese choose the U.S.; Japan was the second-largest source market for intensive English programs in the U.S., with enrollment of more than 12,000 students, according to the Institute of International Education (IIE).

Recognizing the importance of English language instruction, the Government of Japan (GOJ) has been trying to persuade universities and colleges throughout Japan to adopt a more holistic testing approach to assess certain skills.  In 2019, the Education Ministry (MEXT) proposed a new testing system for college entrance exams that would have allowed some private sector participation - and incorporated listening and speaking assessment to the traditional reading and writing skills.  These proposed changes were met with strong opposition, however.  Higher test fees, regional disparities, and procedural accuracy were cited as problematic.  Thus, in July 2021, MEXT announced it would drop the idea.

Still, MEXT is continuing to urge private universities to evaluate listening and speaking, as well as reading and writing.  And many universities require a second proficiency test beyond the standardized entrance exam.  Thus, demand remains high for English language instruction and testing.  U.S. universities and other education content providers interested in virtual collaboration will find opportunities to partner with Japanese institutions.

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