Japan Data

English Proficiency Targets Still Not Being Met in Japanese Schools


While still falling short, the averages for junior high and high school target proficiency levels in English are inching closer to the Japanese government’s 50% benchmark.

According to a survey conducted by Japan’s Ministry of Education Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology, only 49.2% of third-year junior high school students had an English proficiency level at least equivalent to CEFR A-1 level (or Grade 3 of the Eiken Test), while just 47.7% of third-year high school students were proficient in English to a level of at least CEFR A-2 (or Grade Pre-2 of the Eiken Test). The proficiency of the junior-high and high school students rose 2.2 and 2.6 points, respectively, compared to the 2021 survey, but neither reached the government’s benchmark of 50%.

The most recent survey, conducted in December 2022, targeted third-year junior-high and high school students nationwide. This included both students who had acquired English proficiency qualifications in external certification exams such as Eiken and students who had been assessed by teachers as having English proficiency equivalent to those levels.

Percentage of Junior High Students at Eiken Grade 3 Level

Percentage of Junior High Students at Eiken Grade Pre-2 Level

A total of 11 prefectures and 13 “designated cities” (with a population exceeding 500,000) cleared the 50% target set by the government for third-year junior high students, with the city of Saitama and Fukui Prefecture ranking the highest, at over 85%. Shimane Prefecture ranked the lowest at 34.1%, a 52.5 percentage point gap behind Saitama.

For third-year high school students, 18 prefectures exceeded the 50% goal for Eiken Grade Pre-2. The Hokuriku region dominated the top ranking, with 60.8% in Fukui, 60.5% in Toyama, and 57.7% in Ishikawa. From this year, the percentage of third-year high school students with an English proficiency level the equivalent of Eiken Grade 2 or above was also calculated, amounting to 21.1% overall.

Top 5 Areas for English Proficiency Among Students

Junior High School Students (prefecture/designated city) High School Students (prefecture)
Saitama, Saitama Prefecture 86.6% Fukui Prefecture 60.8%
Fukui Prefecture 86.4% Toyama Prefecture 60.5%
Yokohama, Kanagawa Prefecture 66.0% Ishikawa Prefecture 57.7%
Tokyo Metropolis 59.5% Tokyo Metropolis 55.9%
Sakai, Osaka Prefecture 59.2% Akita/Kanagawa Prefectures 55.8%

Created by Nippon.com based on data from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology.

(Translated from Japanese. Banner photo © Pixta.)

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