With parents and educators across Japan preparing for the introduction of mandatory English classes in primary school from the beginning of the 2020 academic year, which began earlier this month, English language learning has never been more important for the nation’s youth.
Of course, restrictions to reduce the spread of COVID-19 have impacted those plans. All Japanese schools were closed from the beginning of March through the start of spring break. And in the prefectures of Tokyo, Chiba, Saitama, Kanagawa, Osaka, Hyogo and Fukuoka, which have been under a state of emergency, schools have remained shut even as the new school year kicked off in the second week of April.
As a result, educators in those areas are now working hard to provide students with learning materials against a backdrop of limited uptake of online learning tools. To address this glaring need, Rakuten announced it would extend free provision of its recently launched English-learning tool Rakuten ABCmouse to educational institutions in Japan through to the end of May.
Rakuten ABCmouse to help accelerate English language learning for Japanese children
Rakuten ABCmouse, which parents and educators can access through this site, provides an avenue for young children to not just continue their English learning from home but accelerate it.
Rakuten ABCmouse first launched in November last year as a result of a partnership between Rakuten and American educational technology leader Age of Learning. Based on Age of Learning’s ABCmouse English learning curriculum, the software, which has been adapted to the Japan market, guides children aged 3-8 through a step-by-step learning path with more than 5,000 language learning activities in an immersive online English environment. At the time of launch, tens of thousands of children in Japan had already trialed the software.
Rakuten has made the tool available through its existing Rakuten Super English platform, alongside other successful software such as Lingvist. Rakuten Super English first launched in 2017 as a comprehensive English language learning service drawing on years of findings from Rakuten’s renowned “Englishnization” program.
A vital service for home learners
As far as English is concerned, Rakuten ABCmouse, which is tailored specifically to learners of primary school age, has the potential to provide a vital service — and Rakuten’s decision to provide it free for a limited period to schools and other learning institutions potentially makes adoption a lot easier.
Schools and other organizations taking up the offer can make the tool available to their students at no additional cost. The tool is flexible enough to allow students to learn English at their own pace or to be guided by their teachers or parents. And, importantly, it offers highly engaging content for young learners, featuring everything from songs and puzzles to e-books and games. It even includes a wide range of e-books from Disney, featuring characters from hits such as Frozen, The Lion King and Bambi.
The breadth of content on offer is testament to the impressive experience and track record of Rakuten’s partner, Age of Learning. Its flagship product in the U.S., ABCmouse.com® Early Learning Academy, is a comprehensive, research-validated curriculum for preschool through second grade, available on all major digital platforms and used by tens of millions of children to date. Research shows that ABCmouse also significantly improves children’s abilities to understand and speak English as a second language.
English can empower
In this difficult time of COVID-19 restrictions, Rakuten hopes to help Japan’s schools so that the crucial study of English can continue. As Koji Ando, Rakuten Group Managing Executive Officer and Senior Vice President, Investment & Incubation Company, said at the launch of the partnership with Age of Learning, “Rakuten strongly believes in the power that English can bring to a person, an organization, or to society as a whole.”