小学校の英語 楽しく学べる環境を整えたい

2013-05-31 05:30:46 | 英字新聞

The Yomiuri Shimbun May 30, 2013
Create enjoyable environment for primary schoolers to learn English
小学校の英語 楽しく学べる環境を整えたい(5月29日付・読売社説)

If Japan wants to hone its competitive edge overseas, it is essential to foster broad-minded human resources with superb foreign language skills. To do so, the government should improve the nation’s educational environment.

The Education Rebuilding Implementation Council, an expert panel under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, has compiled a set of proposals that emphasize the necessity of expanding and improving the nation’s English education at all levels, from primary school to university, to foster individuals who can compete globally.

One noteworthy proposal suggests that the government consider making English a regular subject at primary schools.

Since the 2011 academic year, “foreign language activity” has become a required course at primary schools. Now, fifth- and sixth-graders take English classes once a week.

The course is aimed at familiarizing students with the language and places emphasis on nurturing basic conversation and listening skills. Unlike middle school English classes, students do not study grammar.

Hurdles remain

As it is not a regular subject, no textbooks are used. While homeroom teachers are charged with leading foreign language activities, most did not receive sufficient instruction on how to teach English during college-level teacher training courses. As a result, many are concerned about their ability to instruct pupils.

We duly understand the aims of upgrading the course into a regular subject, making an English textbook available at primary schools and improving the quality of classes.

However, many hurdles remain.

If English is made into a regular subject, student performance must be graded. But is it fitting to give exams in a class that is aimed at familiarizing students with English? If grammar lessons are required, it may cause some students to dislike the subject from the primary school level.

Enhancing the English skills of primary school teachers cannot be accomplished overnight. In addition to improved teacher training, it is necessary to establish a system in which classes are taught by teachers who specialize in English, or native English-speaking assistant language teachers work together with Japanese teachers.

In other parts of Asia, such as China, South Korea and Taiwan, students begin learning English when they become third-grade primary school students. Some experts assert that early English education is key to helping students master the language.

On the other hand, many people insist that Japanese, the nation’s mother tongue, should be prioritized over learning English. Whether the government should promote an earlier start to English lessons is likely to become a point of contention in the future.

Universities lagging

The panel’s proposals also refer to university education, saying “their lagging globalization has reached a critical state.”

The number of Japanese studying overseas is on the decline. There are also fewer foreign students studying in Japan than in the United States and European nations. It is crucial, among other things, to increase the number of courses taught in English to train Japanese students and attract foreigners.

The panel also suggested TOEFL, a test that gauges the English proficiency of nonnative speakers, and other outside tests be used for university admission and graduation. We believe this idea merits consideration on the basis of prodding students to acquire practical language skills.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, May 29, 2013)
(2013年5月29日02時07分  読売新聞)


波乱含みの株価 ひるまずアベノミクスを前に

2013-05-30 05:42:26 | 英字新聞

The Yomiuri Shimbun May 29, 2013
Govt should stick with Abenomics despite volatility in stock market
波乱含みの株価 ひるまずアベノミクスを前に(5月28日付・読売社説)

Stock prices have suddenly turned volatile after steadily soaring on the high regard market players have for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s economic policies, which have been dubbed “Abenomics.”

People should not overreact to daily market fluctuations. The government and the Bank of Japan should steadily proceed with Abenomics and expedite measures to realize a full recovery of the nation’s economy, whose prospects have become increasingly rosy.

The key stock average index on the Tokyo market has been stormy since late last week. On Thursday, the index rose to just below 16,000, but then suddenly plunged by more than 1,000 points, triggered by a worsening Chinese economic indicator. On Friday, Tokyo stocks swung wildly.

On Monday, the index again sharply dropped 469 points to close at 14,142.

Locking in profits

In the current state of the market, wary investors are inclined to sell their stocks to lock in profits after experiencing the rapid rise in stock prices that started last autumn.

It is believed that another factor behind the recent accelerating drops in stock prices is a selling offensive launched by speculators overseas in such things as futures to exploit the bearish mindset of investors.

It will be problematic if this unstable market situation continues for a prolonged period and drags down the real economy. The government and the Bank of Japan need to beef up their oversight of market movements.

Rises in long-term interest rates also are a cause of concern. It had previously been expected that the rates would decline as the amount of government bonds purchased by the central bank increased under its quantitative and qualitative monetary easing policy. Instead, they have been rising to levels higher than those before the monetary easing.

A continuation of this trend could dilute the effects of monetary easing, putting a damper on firms’ capital investments as well as housing sales, which would result in a cooling down of the economy. The central bank must make all-out efforts to arrest rises in the interest rates.

Rising stock prices and a correction in the appreciation of the yen since autumn can be attributed to the early expectations for Abenomics. We hope the government will give a boost to the economic recovery with concrete measures to solidify market confidence in economic policies.

Abe’s strategy for economic growth, or the “third arrow” of Abenomics, is particularly important. To enhance the vigor of the private sector and achieve sustainable growth, it is essential to implement reforms to take on vested interests and change regulations that have prevented the entry of newcomers. Policy measures must also be taken to provide support in such areas as research and development.

We consider it important for the government to hammer out a bold policy and swiftly promote it.

Road map needed

Given the poor track record of the growth strategies of previous administrations, the government should draw up a road map to realize its growth strategy by establishing systems that are powerful enough to neutralize the negative effects that have resulted from the vertically segmented administrative structure of ministries and other government bodies.

Meanwhile, private companies--the main drivers of growth--should positively regard the fact that stock prices soared on prospects for recovery in their performance, backed by the yen’s ongoing depreciation.

How can they strengthen their profit-earning capacities by opening up new markets with creative and innovative efforts as well as a can-do spirit? They will be tested for their true abilities concerning aggressive business strategies.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, May 28, 2013)
(2013年5月28日01時19分  読売新聞)


新型ロケット 国際価格競争に勝てる開発を

2013-05-29 05:02:07 | 英字新聞

The Yomiuri Shimbun May 27, 2013
New rocket must be developed to win competition in intl launch market
新型ロケット 国際価格競争に勝てる開発を(5月26日付・読売社説)

This country must not fall behind other nations in the development of new rockets, which has been progressing worldwide.

An expert panel of the Cabinet Office’s Office of National Space Policy, the body tasked with setting the nation’s space development policies, has worked out a plan that calls for the development of a large next-generation rocket to get into full swing in fiscal 2014.

The goal is to develop an easy-to-use domestically produced rocket that can be launched at a low cost.

The current domestically made large rocket, the H-2A, costs about 10 billion yen to launch. This is 20 to 30 percent higher than launch costs for large rockets overseas.

Lagging behind rivals

The result is that Japan has been performing poorly in the international competition for commercial contracts to launch private-sector satellites for such purposes as telecommunications and broadcasting.

Costs to launch satellites, including intelligence-gathering satellites that only Japan can launch because of national security concerns, are inevitably higher than in other countries with rocket-launching capabilities.

Development of a low-cost rocket should be considered an urgent task to help reinvigorate the nation’s space development industries and mitigate the government’s fiscal burden for space programs.

The United States, Europe, Russia and China have already begun developing next-generation rockets. This comes at a time when demand for launching satellites has been expanding in recent years in emerging economies in Asia, Africa and elsewhere.

The H-2A rocket is among the world’s best in terms of performance and boasts a 95.5 percent launch success rate.

The challenge facing Japan’s rocket development program is to cut launch costs while keeping the H-2A’s high performance.

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. have jointly produced a blueprint for the development of a new rocket. The plan reportedly aims to cut current launch costs by half, to about 5 billion yen per launch.

JAXA and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries are working to develop a completely new engine, the most fundamental element of rocket design. To lower launch costs, the plan reportedly calls for studying the advisability of joint manufacture of engines with U.S. companies and others.

Under the space policy council’s plan, the first launch of the envisioned new rocket will take place in 2020, the year the other rocket-manufacturing countries have set to start launching their new rockets. Specifics of the nation’s rocket development program should be crystallized as promptly as possible.

The space policy expert panel has said the new rocket development project should be undertaken mainly by the private sector, and the involvement of JAXA should be minimized. This could considerably reduce the project’s costs in the aggregate, currently an estimated 190 billion yen, according to the panel.

Make best use of JAXA

Given the stringency of government finances, curbing rocket development expenses is vital.

However, rocket development always faces potential unforeseeable obstacles: If the private sector takes the lead in rocket development, it may be unable to solve such problems as unexpectedly high development expenses and harder-than-expected technical challenges.

JAXA has so far played the leading role in the nation’s space development programs, including its first satellite launch in 1970.

In the wake of the November 1999 failure to launch an H-2 rocket, the predecessor of the H-2A, JAXA effectively identified the causes of the failure and improved the rocket’s design, successfully upgrading its performance.

In light of this, a system should be created to address the development of the new rocket by suitably combining private- and public-sector strengths to exploit JAXA’s accumulated technology.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, May 26, 2013)
(2013年5月26日01時38分  読売新聞)


ミャンマー訪問 経済支援で日本の存在感を

2013-05-28 05:21:40 | 英字新聞

The Yomiuri Shimbun May 28, 2013
Boost Japan's presence in Myanmar using leverage of economic aid
ミャンマー訪問 経済支援で日本の存在感を(5月27日付・読売社説)

Japan has come out with a massive assistance package for Myanmar, a Southeast Asian country pushing forward with democratization and economic reforms. This is part of Japan’s strategic arrangements for carving out a new market in Asia.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited Myanmar and held talks Sunday with President Thein Sein in the capital, Naypyidaw.

Abe’s official visit is historic because it is the first to Myanmar by a Japanese prime minister in 36 years. The last prime minister to set foot there was Takeo Fukuda in 1977.

Abe praised the Myanmar president’s reform efforts, and said Japan is willing to “support Myanmar’s nation-building endeavors by extending all possible assistance from both the public and private sectors.”

Specifically, Abe pledged to forgive 300 billion yen of the debts Myanmar owes Japan, and offered 91 billion yen in official development assistance for such purposes as developing an industrial park that will become a hub for Japanese companies in the swiftly emerging country.

Abe as ‘top salesman’

Abe expressed the government’s readiness to work in tandem with the private sector to develop Myanmar’s infrastructure, such as a large electricity generation plant, an electricity supply grid and a high-speed communication network.

Following its transition to a democratic government in March 2011, Myanmar has been drawing attention from all over the world as an attractive investment destination. Competition has been intensifying between many nations, including the United States, seeking to make inroads into Myanmar’s market.

Abe has played the role of “top salesman” to help Japanese firms expand their business to Myanmar.

The Myanmar president was quoted as expressing gratitude for Japan’s generosity, and stressed the importance of investment in Myanmar by Japanese companies.

Blessed with an abundance of natural resources, including natural gas, and a high-quality labor force as well as high market growth potential, Myanmar has often been dubbed Asia’s “last frontier.”

Japan’s cooperation for improving Myanmar’s straggling infrastructure will likely give a major boost to the development of its economy.

Abe told reporters the government hopes “Japan’s infrastructure-related exports to Myanmar, like those to Russia and the Middle East, will lead to growth in Japan’s economy.” Myanmar will certainly figure prominently in the Abe administration’s growth strategy.

Abe also told the president that Japan intends to help Myanmar improve its legal system and enhance its human resources.

To ensure this wide-ranging economic assistance to Myanmar proves truly effective, improving that country’s legal system will be essential for creating an environment that attracts investment and for acquiring know-how about running businesses.

Abe’s commitment to a program under which about 1,000 young people from Myanmar are to be invited to Japan will be effective in this respect.

Both leaders reached an accord on bilateral cooperation for measures to eliminate poverty among Myanmar’s ethnic minorities. We hope the agreement paves the way for resolving human rights problems in Myanmar.

Bolstering security ties

In addition, the two leaders agreed to bolster bilateral security cooperation. The Maritime Self-Defense Force’s “training squadron” is expected to make a port call in Myanmar for the first time, a move that will activate security interchanges between the two countries. This is extremely significant.

Tucked between China and India, Myanmar sits in a geopolitically important area. In 2014, Myanmar will chair meetings of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

Strengthening ties with Myanmar, which has changed course from leaning toward China, is in line with Abe’s diplomatic stance that advocates democracy and freedom.

Pursuing this line should help hold in check a China that has become increasingly assertive both militarily and economically.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, May 27, 2013)
(2013年5月27日01時38分  読売新聞)


共通番号法成立 公正な社会保障へ大きな一歩

2013-05-27 04:56:35 | 英字新聞

The Yomiuri Shimbun May 26, 2013
My Number step toward fair, effective way to manage social security system
共通番号法成立 公正な社会保障へ大きな一歩(5月25日付・読売社説)


The key foundation for the government to fairly and effectively impose taxes and provide social security benefits is finally set to be established.

It is vital to thoroughly inform people of the new system and make it conducive to improving convenience for the public.

At a plenary session Friday, the House of Councillors passed bills for the so-called My Number system, under which people will be given identification numbers. The bills were supported by three major parties--the Liberal Democratic Party, New Komeito and the Democratic Party of Japan--and other parties. With the legislation passed into law, the system will start operating in 2016.

Most developed countries already have similar numbering systems. Japan lagged in taking such a step, but we welcome the fact that a numbering system will be launched in Japan, too.

Public concerns eased

The My Number system is intended to allow administrative bodies to better manage social security and taxation information by issuing a number card with a facial photo and an IC chip to Japanese citizens.

Under the system, personal information about multiple subjects can be obtained simply with the individually assigned numbers. This is expected to improve the efficiency of administrative work.

The system can integrate records of people’s income and benefits they receive and premiums they pay for pension, health care and nursing care.

It is likely to help prevent failure to pay pension benefits and other administrative errors. To provide substantial administrative services, this system is essential.

The benefits are also significant for citizens, as they will not be required to submit documents such as residence and income certificates when applying for pension and other welfare benefits. The system will enable cardholders to check their own records of pension and tax payments on computers.

Previously, the introduction of such a system had met with criticism, with opponents saying personal information might not be secure. They also complained that a national code-number system would allow the uniform management of personal data by the government.

The My Number system bills were enacted in light of the stable operation of the Basic Resident Registration Network, or Juki Net, which was launched in 2002.

Juki Net, which enables the sharing of personal records nationwide by numbering all Japanese citizens, has improved public services for people and the efficiency of administrative work. For the more than 10 years since its introduction, the system has seen no serious information leaks or other trouble. This apparently has eased public concerns over the new system.

The new common number system will be set up based on Juki Net.

The fact that the DPJ, which had opposed the introduction of Juki Net, came to power in 2009 could be a big factor behind the legislation of the common number system. The administration of Yoshihiko Noda compiled bills for the system based on its policy of promoting integrated reform of the social security and tax systems, highlighting a consumption tax hike.

The bills cleared the Diet on Friday after being revised by the LDP, New Komeito and the DPJ. The three parties are responsible for pushing social security reforms together.

The application of the common number system will be limited to social security and tax procedures for the time being. Care must be taken in applying the system while attaching importance to protection of personal information.

Medical care applications

The convenience of the system can be further enhanced if its application is extended to medical care information.

Resident cards and clinical records were lost after local government offices and hospitals were damaged in the Great East Japan Earthquake in March 2011, hampering work to rescue disaster victims. If the common number system is used in such an event, access from anywhere in the country would make it possible to confirm victims’ medical history and provide adequate treatment promptly.

In ordinary times, use of the system would make it possible for patients to avoid duplication of examinations and medication at two or more hospitals. It would also help prevent the risk of prescribing two or more incompatible medicines to the same patient, which could cause dangerous interactions.

The government is studying a plan to introduce a system to cap each household’s expenses for medical treatment, nursing care and child care, thereby curbing their copayments. The common number system is indispensable to achieve this goal.

The new law stipulates that expansion of the range for application will be studied three years after the law is enforced. The government must strive to realize an effective application of the system.

In the United States, where the Social Security number system is in place, a number of scams have occurred in which numbers were stolen to take out loans in identity-theft crimes.

And in South Korea, resident registration numbers were leaked via the Internet, resulting in a number of cases of fraud in which identity thieves bought things using others’ numbers.

In both cases, insufficient effort was made to ensure proper identification to protect against identity theft.

A credible system eyed

Drawing a lesson from these cases, the government must work out countermeasures.

To help prevent identity theft and other crimes, the new law stipulates that individual number cards with ID photos should be presented for over-the-counter identification. The law also stipulates penalties for those who leak information outside.

As a third-party organization with a high degree of independence, a specific personal information protection commission will be established. The planned body will have strong investigative authority and be empowered to issue recommendations and orders if irregularities are discovered.

All possible measures must be taken to ensure adequate management of personal information so that the common numbering system will be trusted by the people.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, May 25, 2013)
(2013年5月25日01時15分  読売新聞)