Japan wouldn’t be Japan if it was not exploring the use of robots in education. There are 30 schools in Japan experimenting with robots in English class to improve communication and pronunciation. It is part of the government’s aim to raise the (poor) knowledge of English. It will become a formal subject in elementary school from 2020 onwards. Apparantly the language skills of the elementary school teachers are also poor and the lack of funding to hire English native speakers in schools is ‘solved’ by introducing English-speaking robots as a cheaper and easier option.
Children involved in the pilot projects say it is more comfortable speaking to a robot than to a person. The developers state that robots can supplement teachers as conversation partners. This is one way of looking at the project. The comments on the newspaper article were mostly negative. Readers say that interactive skills of children are already poor (they prefer spending time on computer and games or reading manga) and the skills definitely won’t be enhanced by using robots. It woulf be better to interact with humans or foreigners instead of with a piece of plastic.
So the question rises: is this indeed a step foward or, on the contrary, a step backwards?