Japan has aimed to place more emphasis on English classes starting academic year 2020 with English language being a graded subject for grade 5 and 6 students.
While I’ve conducted classes for as young as grade 1 students at several elementary schools in Okazaki city, at the moment, most schools across the country hold 35 periods of English classes a year for grade 5 and 6 students only. And English is only gradable from grade 7. From 2020, the 35 periods of English classes will be held for grade 3 and 4 students, while the older grade 5 and 6 students will be attending 70 periods, making it a gradable subject.
MEXT (the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology) has informed schools to begin introducing the program starting this academic year with 15 periods for grades 3 and 4, and 50 periods for grades 5 and 6.
However, five cities have decided to take bring the program forward by introducing the full program as early as this coming academic year (starting April 2018). They are Kitakyushu, Kumamoto, Chiba, Shizuoka, and Niigata. Among them, Kitakyushu has planned to spend approximately 40 million yen to hire 44 more ALTs. Even more zealous is Saitama, which received special approval for their program and has started running since the 2017 academic year. Also, Fukuoka plans to run the full program for eight schools in 2018 and fully run in across the city in 2019.
While it is still a question mark as to how effective the increase in classes can be, this can only bode well for foreigners hoping to get a teaching job in Japan since the increase in lesson hours has brought about an increase in hiring.