English for specific purposes (ESP) is suggested here as one possible direction in English education programmes for prospective nursery school teachers. ESP refers to the teaching of English as it relates to a particular field of study as needed by a specific group of students. In Japan, several studies on ESP (e.g., Terauchi, 2005; Hashimoto, 2000; Miyama, 2000; Yamazaki, 2000; Yoshida, 2000; Sasajima, 2000) have been conducted. This paper further contributes to the ESP literature by focusing on the specific English language needs of students studying to become nursery teachers. Because the number of foreign children at Japanese nursery schools is increasing, nursery school teachers are more likely to be placed in situations where they have to communicate with foreign children and their parents using English (Osuka, 2006). Therefore, as part of this study, a needs analysis was carried out in order to develop a curriculum introducing ESP into the study of early-childhood education.
The participants in this study were 52 freshmen majoring in early-childhood education at a private college. The materials used in this study were four questionnaires on preferred English learning styles, based on Kikuchi (2005), desired English skills at college, based on Hayasaka (1995), desired English lessons at college (Carreira, in press), and desired English lessons concerning children (Carreira, in press). Also, open-ended questions were asked.
This paper explored the following research questions:
1. What are the preferred English learning styles of students in early-childhood education? How many clusters can be found?
2. What are the desired English skills of students preparing for a career in early-childhood education? Among the clusters, how different are these desired English skills?
3. What kinds of English lessons do students in early-childhood education programmes want to get? Among the clusters, how different are the English lessons they want to get?
4. What kinds of English lessons concerning the teaching of children do the students in early-childhood education programmes want to get? Among the clusters, how different are these English lessons which students want?
The results revealed that the participants (a) want teachers to use Japanese in English classes, (b) want teachers to correct all their mistakes immediately, (c) want to learn daily conversation in English, (d) want to understand English in movies and television and radio programs and (e) want to get lessons using English movies and English songs for children.
The results can be divided into two groups using cluster analysis; one representing negative attitudes towards English learning and the other representing positive attitudes towards English learning. A t-test was conducted to compare the scores on all the items between the negative attitudes group and the positive attitudes group. The results showed there were significant differences between the two groups. Whereas the negative attitudes group tended to want to learn English using movies and TV programs, the positive attitudes group tended to want to communicate with native English speakers and practice-teach at nursery schools abroad. Therefore, considering students’ needs ESP courses can be introduced in early-childhood education. Suggestions include lessons using movies and TV programs for children and daily English conversation as required subjects, increased communication with native English speakers and practice-teaching at nursery schools abroad as elective subjects. As a future consideration, we should analyze needs for discourse communities and reveal what kinds of English they need in nursery schools after graduation.