What Level of English Proficiency Do Elementary School Teachers Need to Attain to Teach EFL? Case Studies from Korea, Taiwan, and Japan



    1. University of Pennsylvania Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
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    • Yuko Goto Butler teaches at the University of Pennsylvania's Graduate School of Education, where she is an assistant professor of language in education. Her most recent project examines various issues that have arisen in conjunction with the introduction of English language instruction at the elementary school level in select Asian countries.


Responding to the growing need to foster communicative abilities in English, many Asian countries where English is taught as a foreign language have recently introduced English at the elementary school level. However, the majority of elementary school teachers in such countries might not be adequately prepared to teach English; improving their English proficiency and teaching skills has thus become a matter of concern. The present study focuses on teachers' English proficiency, which has been recognized as an important qualification for successful English teaching. Elementary school teachers from Korea, Taiwan, and Japan were asked to self-evaluate their English proficiencies as well as to specify the minimum level of proficiency that they felt was needed to teach English at the elementary school level. The teachers evaluated their proficiencies in productive skills (speaking and writing) as weaker than those in receptive skills (listening and reading). Teachers in each of the three countries perceived substantial gaps between their English proficiency and the minimum level needed to teach. The widest gaps were in productive domains in general and in oral grammar in particular. Some of the implications for teacher education are discussed.