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Volume 5 Number 1, Spring 2008, Pages 1-157   


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Variables that Influence Elementary School Students' English Performance in Japan

    Yuko Goto Butler and Asako Takeuchi


As English has increasingly become popular as a lingua franca, various Asian countries have introduced educational reforms to enhance English instruction. One such reform has been the introduction of English at the elementary school level. Many of the policy decisions on curricula, instructional approach and assessment, however, have been made on a trial-and-error basis. The present study aims to identify those variables that most strongly influence students' performance in learning English at the elementary school level in Japan. The Junior STEP Silver TEST (a proficiency test that measures basic oral skills among young learners) was administered to 6,541 elementary school students who had received various types of English instruction in Japan. We found that the students' grade levels and frequencies of instruction received outside of their schools turned out to be good predictors among those variables that we examined. Other variables including the total hours of English instruction at school and the frequencies of instruction led by foreign teachers at school had less influence on students' performance. Our study also suggests that the one-hour of English instruction commonly taught at schools may exert a different influence on students' performance between middle grade level and upper grade level students.

Keywords: English at elementary schools, FLES, Japan