| | Re: What age group do you prefer?
I wouldn't say that Niigata English education is frowned on here in Niigata. I would say the English education level is low here in Niigata. Why? There are multiple reasons that it could be but I think the reason that stands out the most is there is a huge divide between ALTs and the English education. ALTs are not seen as a resource that can be tapped for useful information but rather robot that should sit in the corner of the teacher's room and not respond unless asked a question.
I'll give you an example of the most recent thing. My local BOE is part of the elementary school English implementation program that MEXT is starting to intergrade. They created a committee comprised of one teacher from every elementary and JHS in the city. They are in the process of creating an English curriculum for elem school. The committee is entitled, "<something> ALT committee". The ironic thing is that no ALTs were invited to attend these meetings and when we questioned why, the only response we received was: "Nobody thought of it." While ALTs might not have licenses to teach elem school, they do have the most experience teaching English at that level. That being said, JHS teachers don't have licenses to teach at an elem school level either.
It was a Japanese/English communication thing either because many of us have a strong enough command of the language to somewhat understand what is going on, not to mention we were forced to sit through a 4 hour meeting, all in Japanese, a couple months ago.
This is just one example of how ALTs are viewed. Education is about pulling resources from all around, but until ALTs are seen as resources and tapped into for their knowledge and experience, the education in this prefecture is going to continue to suck. Now I understand ALTs in other prefectures are often treated the same way, but I've even talked to some of the Japanese English teachers in the city and they have told me they don't like meeting with other prefectures because they always have to answer questions about the low level of English in Niigata.
Hue, you mentioned 'slaves to the textbook'. That is another reason Niigata's English education sucks balls. It's like a cross between Hitler and a computer here, at least from what I have seen.