A Comparative Study of the Thomasites and the Oyatoi Gaikokujin: Foreign Teachers and Their Language Teaching 2004-09-24
The “Thomasites” were foreign teachers in the Philippines and the “Oyatoi Gaikokujin” were their counterparts in Japan. By comparing their activities, we can gain a clearer image of the foreign language education system in the two nations. Both of the groups were composed of young pioneering teachers who had enthusiasm and a spirit of adventure. They contributed positively to the nation building of the two island nations, although, in a different way. “Thomasities” taught English at a primary education level and spread English to the masses, while the “Oyatoi Gaikokujin” taught at a secondary and tertiary education level and, therefore, the spread of English was restricted to the elites. A study of their activities convinced us how important human factors are not only in the establishment of an education system, but also in nation building.
In the Philippines, at the beginning of American colonization, hundreds of young men and women were sent to the new territory by the American colonial government, in order to help Filipinos establish a modern education system. Those young teachers taught English to Filipino children at primary schools. This pioneering group of American teachers were generically called “Thomasites” named after the U.S. Army Transport “Thomas” which many of them had boarded on.
When we look into the history of Japan, we can find a counterpart to the Thomasites. Japan opened its door to the outside world in the middle of the 19th century, after long years of self-imposed seclusion. Confronted with Western culture, the Japanese people were greatly impressed but, at the same time, felt threatened by the superiority of Western science and technology. They thought that submission to the Western countries could only be avoided if they adopted Western cultures without any delay. With a sense of crisis, the Japanese government made maximum efforts to catch up with the West. As one of these efforts, Japan invited a number of foreign teachers from the U.S.A., Britain, France, Germany and other Western countries. In response to the invitation, hundreds of young men came to Japan. They were generically called “Oyatoi Gaikokujin” (Hired Foreigners). Japan owed a great deal to these people for the modernization of its nation.
The Thomasites and the Oyatoi Gaikokujin (henceforth Oyatoi) had historical and sociolinguistic similarities. From the perspective of a long span of history, almost simultaneously, these two groups visited the nation of their destination in the Orient; the Thomasites visited in the early 20th century and the Oyatoi did so in the late 19th century. These teachers were relatively young and enthusiastic about teaching. In teaching, both of the groups used their mother tongues (English in the Philippines, and English, German and French in Japan), without recourse to local languages. These two groups had similarly greatly contributed to the nation building of each country. Up to now, both of them have been highly respected among local people. Historians in the host countries stated in unison that their achievements were monumental.
But in education, the two groups played their roles quite differently in relation to foreign languages. In the Philippines, foreign language (English) education was successful, while in Japan, foreign language education was only partially successful and, all the more, it was an effective catalyst in transforming Japan into a modern nation.
Though the two groups had intriguing similarities and dissimilarities, to the best of the writer’s knowledge, no researcher has come up with the idea to compare them. But this part of the history deserves being given attention to. The purpose of this paper is to compare these two groups’ activities, to analyze the sociolinguistic situations of the two nations, and to consider the significance of the two groups, especially in the area of language teaching.
1. The Arrival of the Foreign Teachers
1. 1. Before the arrival
The two country’s social condition, until the middle of the 19th century, can be summarized into one word respectively, “colonization” for the Philippines and “seclusion” for Japan. Under Spanish rule (1565-1898), the Philippines had been impeded from developing into a modern nation, remaining a colonial outpost in the Pacific Ocean. But the victory of Commodore George Dewey’s fleet over a Spanish fleet in Manila Bay and the following colonization by Americans triggered a stagnated society to develop into a mobile, dynamic and energetic one.
As for Japan, this nation secluded itself from the outer world immediately following the promulgation of the “Sakokurei”(Seclusion Laws) in 1639. Coulmas (1990:74) summarized its effect as follows, “… 250 years of seclusion severely inhibited the acquisition of Western forms of production and knowledge…” When Commodore M.C. Perry’s fleet sailed into Uraga Bay and forced Japan to open the door to the world, Japan found themselves far behind the Western countries in terms of science and technology. But this event eventually changed Japan into a modern nation.
1.2. The Thomasites
In 1898, in the wake of the Spanish-American War, the sovereignty of the Philippines was transferred from Spain to the U.S.A. Americans tried to establish a modern education system partly because of their missionary enthusiasm and, partly because of the necessity to pacify Filipinos with education. In line with the missionary zeal and the secular necessities, several hundred American teachers were dispatched from the homeland.
A batch of American teachers on board the “Thomas” landed at Manila on August 23, 1901. The following batches came one after another. “Buford”, “Doric”, “Meade”, “Sherman” and “Sheridan” were the names of other ships which carried the American teachers (Alberca 1994:54; May 1984:85). After landing, they were sent all over the islands, some being assigned to urban areas and some being assigned as far away as mountain areas or the deep countryside or faraway islands.
As for their working places, most of them were assigned to primary schools. The colonial government tried to establish a universal education system in which primary education (grade I to grade III, later prolonged to grade IV) was set for the general populace. The colonial authorities also decided that the medium of education should be English. This decision has had a profound impact on the Philippine education system, up to the present.
Although American teachers conducted teaching under unfavorable conditions such as a lack of school buildings, unavailability of teaching materials, few amenities, being surrounded by often-hostile environments, they often did marvelous work, to do them justice. The Thomasites were charged with not only the task of teaching to pupils but also of training Filipino teachers. Also their jobs often included several other obligations such as introducing hygiene and sanitary systems, being consultants concerning municipal affairs, participating in social activities as local celebrities.
1.3. The Oyatoi Gaikokujin
To comply with Commodore M.C. Perry’s demands and to open its door to the outside world was itself a humiliating experience for the Japanese. But this event was a watershed in the history of Japan in its change from a feudal to a modern society. Japan’s modernization was definitely triggered by this American gunboat diplomacy, which was one of the favorite practices of the Western powers. To counter the threat, the Edo government invited dozens of foreigners to Japan and asked them to assist in the modernization of Japan. In 1855, in response to this invitation, Pels Rijcken and other Dutchmen came to Japan to teach navigation, shipbuilding, gunnery and marine surveying (Miyoshi 1986:17-20). They were marked as the first Oyatoi.
Due to the confusion caused by “Kaikoku” (Opening to the Outer World), the Edo government was replaced by the Meiji government. The new government took the same policy as its predecessor did. “Learning from the West” was a buzzword of the day. This slogan was, however, accompanied with another slogan. It was “Wakon Yosai” (To learn Western technology while maintaining Japanese values), warning Japanese not to forget Japanese values and attitudes. Japanese expected the Oyatoi to teach practical rather than spiritual matters. Western values were not welcome in this country in contrast with the case of the Philippines.
2. Language Teaching
2. 1. The Medium of Instruction
Few of the Thomasites and the Oyatoi could understand the native languages. But their ignorance of native languages did not hinder them from teaching because their mother tongues were used as the media of instruction. In the Philippines, English became the sole medium of instruction, and this system has been the framework for the Philippine education up to the present, although this framework was considerably modified by the implementation of the bilingual program in 1974.
President McKinley issued the instructions dated April 7, 1900 to the Second Philippine Commission for the guidance of this commission. Concerning the medium of instruction, the President issued the following directions.
In view of the great number of languages spoken by the different tribes, it is especially important to the prosperity of the Islands that a common medium of communication may be established, and it is obviously desirable that this medium should be the English language. Especial attention should be at once given to affording full opportunity to all the people of the Islands to acquire the use of the English language (Zaide 1990:278).
In line with this suggestion, English was chosen as the sole medium of instruction. At first, Americans concentrated on education at primary schools as Americans thought it more urgent to establish education for the masses than for the elites. For a while, secondary and tertiary education system had been left as it was in terms of the medium of instruction. In most of the higher education institutions, Spanish was used as the medium of instruction as before.
In 1908 the University of the Philippines (UP) where English was used as a medium of instruction was opened. The opening was a trigger to spread English to higher education. The colonial government needed many Filipinos with English ability as public servants to administrate this new colony. Thanks to English ability, the UP graduates could easily land a position as a public servant. Realizing this advantage, the other universities and colleges started to employ English as the medium of instruction. Present day English language predominantly played an important role throughout Philippine education.
As English was entrenched in the Philippines, Philippine English, with a considerable number of words originated from Philippine languages, emerged (Bautista 2000). Philippine English has had its own claim as a symbol of Philippine identity.
In Japan, during the Edo period, Dutch was the most important language for academics because Holland was the only Western country that had diplomatic relations with Japan. But shortly after the opening of the nation, Dutch lost its privileged position. Then in higher education, the three Western languages (English, German and French) were used as the media of instruction, as the majority of the Oyatoi originated from these language-spoken countries. To understand Western technology, the ability to understand foreign languages was absolutely necessary. The language ability of Japanese elites was very high in those days, as Erwin Baelz, a German medical doctor, testified in his diary. One of its excerpts says (dated June 26, 1876), “I am very happy to know that my students’ language ability is high. I do not need an interpreter” (Toku Baelz 1979:43). Dr. Baelz was overjoyed, but this ideal situation did not last long.
While the Oyatoi were being invited to Japan, a number of young brilliant Japanese were sent to the Western countries to learn about Western science and technology. They then studied abroad several years. Some of them had nervous breakdowns because of their psychological unfitness for culturally different environments, but some of them were tenacious enough to finish their term. From the 1880s on, the Japanese studying abroad started to come back to Japan to replace the Oyatoi. At first returnee teachers used English, German and French as the media of instruction in the classroom. But their language abilities were often so poor that their lessons sometimes caused confusion in the classroom. Thus the Ministry of Education forbade Japanese teachers from using foreign languages as the medium of instruction. Ike (1995:5) mentioned, “In 1883 the Ministry of Education chose to use Japanese rather than English as the medium of instruction at Tokyo University.” Thus the Japanese language came to be used as the medium of instruction in higher education. Naturally it brought about a deterioration in the students’ foreign language ability. Baelz lamented in his diary (dated Sept 20, 1900), saying “The students became less and less proficient in German. The teaching did not give me as much excitement as before. If possible, I want to resign from the position of teaching as soon as possible” (Toku Baelz 1979:232). Linguistic independence cynically made Japanese students poorer foreign language speakers.
As for primary education, the Japanese language had been exclusively employed as the medium of instruction. To use a foreign language for primary education was out of the question from the beginning. The Oyatoi were not involved in the development of primary education.
Currently a Japanese can go up from primary education to tertiary education by means of the Japanese language. A Japanese can get a doctor degree by writing a Ph. D. dissertation in Japanese and most of the Ph. D. holders actually have done so.
2. 2. Language Teaching Method.
In language teaching, the Thomasites and the Oyatoi took different ways of teaching. As the Thomasites had no teaching materials at the initial stage, their method was “to make the student acquire some basic vocabulary by introducing to them objects, either actual or in pictures, and giving them names” (Alberca 1994:61). One of the Thomasites remembered a scene, “I utilized the pictures around the canned goods” (Pecson & Racelis 1959:88). In order to compensate for a lack of teaching materials, American teachers relied on the direct method in which a teacher held or pointed at an object and taught children how to pronounce them. This method enhanced the oral communication ability of pupils.
A few years later, English textbooks began to be imported from America. Unfortunately those textbooks did not fit with the realty of the Philippines. According to Bernabe (1987:34), “To begin with, Baldwin primer books prepared for American children were ordered from the United States and distributed by the thousands throughout the archipelago. Because their contents were unfamiliar, the books did not arouse the interest of Filipino children. The situations, names, ideas, and illustrations treated were strange to Filipinos — apples, snow, and fairies among many other terms were meaningless to the children.” It was not until after a long time passed that Filipino writers started to write textbooks in English for the sake of Philippine children.
The main function of Philippine education in those days could be summarized in a phrase, “Learning the language was primary; all other subjects were secondary” (Alberca 1994:71). By far a higher priority was given to English education in the Philippines rather than the teaching of content.
Therefore, “The total immersion of the Filipino student in English was viewed as the proper way to learn the language. … Translation was considered inappropriate in teaching or learning English” (Alberca 1994:62). The teaching method was communication-oriented based on the direct method. This method was successful to turn out a lot of bilingual students.
Although this method had several positive aspects, it could not escape from its negative aspect. R. Constantino (1982:16) was very critical of English education, saying “A foreign tongue as a medium of instruction constitutes an impediment to learning and to thinking because a student first has to master new sounds, new inflections and new sentence constructions.” And he continued, “Creative thinking, analytical thinking, abstract thinking are not fostered because the foreign language makes the student prone to memorization. Because of the mechanical process of learning, he is able to get only a general idea but not a deeper understanding.” He pointed to this negative aspect of foreign language learning, especially at an early age.
Early education of a foreign language will surely lead to the acquirement of BICS (Basic Interpersonal Communication Skill) level of that language, to use the terminology of J. Cummins. However, the acquirement of CALP (Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency) level of a foreign language would be impossible in most cases, even though a considerable amount of time was spent. What is worse, too much input of a foreign language in the early years may hinder the acquirement of the CALP level of the mother tongue. The lack of CALP in neither the first language nor the second language might lead to the serious deficiency in students’ logical thinking.
But the question of whether the second language may develop or hinder the children’s mind is not yet fully answered. We must extensively collect empirical data to answer this question.
In Japan, the situation was the other way around. The main purpose of its education was to understand content. Let’s examine the activities of one of the Oyatoi, W. E. Griffis, who was an American and Presbyterian educator. According to his diary (Yamashita 1995:7), he taught several subjects, such as German and French, organic chemistry, biology etc., at Meishinkan School in Fukui District. Interestingly enough, Griffis did not teach English. He believed that there was no special reason to teach English as an independent subject because English was already the medium of instruction. He taught content rather than the language itself.
As this case symbolized, the main purpose of the language education was not to teach language but to promote the acquirement of knowledge from Western countries. After the Oyatoi left Japan, Japanese were still interested in the acquirement of the latest science and technology. By means of careful reading, Japanese obtained the necessary knowledge from academic books. Subsequently language education was focused on reading ability. Besides, in the Meiji Era, very few Westerners lived in Japan and ordinary Japanese had a slim chance to go abroad. Therefore the English education was naturally diverted from communication-oriented teaching. Both teachers and learners thought that meticulous accuracy in applying grammatical rules was essential in language learning. Since then no substantial reforms or adjustments have been made in language education.
How was the situation of textbooks in Japan? At a primary education level, even from the start, textbooks written in Japanese were used. These suited Japanese pupils more adequately than those written otherwise. But at a secondary and tertiary education level, “At the initial stages, reprints of English textbooks brought from the USA and the UK were used in mathematics, physics, chemistry, world geography, world history, or ethics courses in newly instituted secondary schools” (Honna and Takeshita 2003:183-4). Imported textbooks did not cause much problem to secondary school students as they did to primary school pupils because the content became more abstract and universal in secondary education.
Those imported textbooks were gradually replaced by ones written in Japanese. At present, most of the textbooks in higher education are written in Japanese. Currently most of the Japanese students can finish even secondary and tertiary education without reading a textbook written in English.
2.4. Requirements for Being the Medium of Instruction
Local languages and foreign languages are in rivalry when the medium of instruction is chosen. What conditions are required if a language should be the medium of instruction? There might be several requirements.
Firstly the language should have a wide variety of vocabulary, from biology, chemistry, physics to politics, judiciary and economics to cover all the main subject areas. Dr. Sibayan called this situation “intellectualization” (Sibayan 1999). If a language does not reach this situation, its vocabulary items should be coined and expanded. Unless the “intellectualization” of a language is achieved, the language cannot be the medium of instruction by any means.
At the time of the Thomasites, the coinage or expansion of vocabulary of local languages was not attempted, but after several decades it was attempted. Lope K. Santos showed lexical innovation of grammatical terminology in his Balarila (Grammar) in 1940. Lupon sa Agham (Committee on Science) sponsored by the National Science Development Board issued Talasalitaan (Vocabulary) containing the scientific terms in 1969 (Gonzalez 1980:117). And in the same year, Maugnaying Talasalitaan Pang-Agham Ingles-Pilipino (Maugnayig Scientific Vocabulary English-Pilipino) whose lexical creation principles were the theoretical work of Gonsalo del Rosario was published (Gonzalez 1980:118; Santiago 1979:28-31). Several attempts were also made, but these were not accepted with enthusiasm. At present, these attempts seem to have tapered off.
In Japan, a large number of vocabulary items were coined through the 1870s and the 1880s by individuals who were translators, thinkers or academics. Among them, Nish Amane was distinguished for his efforts to create much of the new terminology such as “tetsugaku” (philosophy), “shukan” (subjectivity), “kyakkan” (objectivity), “gensho” (phenomenon), “kagaku” (science). Newly coined words were quickly accepted among the general public. These words were chiefly created as a translation of Western terminology. Western languages were a catalyst in transforming the Japanese language into an affluent and modern language.
Secondly, a reasonable writing system is another requirement. Unless a language has a writing system, it has no chance of developing into a modern language. Even if a language has a writing system, it should be reasonable and systematic. When the Thomasites came, Tagalog had already adopted an alphabet from the Spaniards. No drastic change was felt necessary of the Spanish-based alphabet system.
In Japan, several people argued that the traditional writing system should be reformed. The Japanese writing system has three kinds of letters: “Kanji”, “Hiragana” and “Katakana” which rendered the Japanese writing system one of the most complicated in the world. This complicatedness was regarded as a hindrance for Japanese to advance smoothly in the area of science and technology. Some argued for a simplification of the writing system like those of Western languages. Some advocated for the abolition of “Kanji” and, instead, adoption of either “Kanji” or “Katakana.” A foreign teacher, James Curtis Hepburn invented an alphabet for the Japanese language. Extremists proposed the total adoption of the Hepburn style alphabet. But none of these propositions were actually adopted in the end.
The third requirement is “standardization.” In the Philippines at the first stage of colonization, there was no attempt to select one of the Philippine dialects and to develop it into a standard one (the national language). It was not until the 1930s that there appeared a discussion as to which language should be the national language for the entire Philippine people. In 1937 the Institute of National Language was established with a view to creating a national language which would truly represent the country of a multilingual and multiracial nation. Present day, Filipino (Tagalog) will gradually become the de facto standard language, while the de jure standard language should be the one which would be created based on all the existing Philippine dialects.
In Japan, the standardization of the national language was done quickly and successfully. At the beginning of the Meiji Era, there were various dialects, and most of the speakers of these dialects were incomprehensible to each other. Instead of using a foreign language as a lingua franca, the Japanese government tried to develop one of the dialects into the new standard language. The Tokyo dialect was designated as the standard language and, thanks to universal education, it spread quickly. Eventually new generations could understand each other by means of the new standard language.
3. The Thomasites and the Oyatoi
3.1. How Many and When Did They Come?
This section is concerned with what the foreign teachers were. At first we will look at the time and the number of foreign teachers.
In the Philippines, the first group of the Thomasites came in 1901. Their number was 926, and peaked at 928 in the next year, and then gradually decreased to 493 in 1916, and 310 in 1925 (Forbes 1928:448). American teachers were transferred to the position of division superintendents, supervisors and intermediate and high school teachers (Alzona 1932:214). While the number of American teachers decreased, in inverse proportion, Filipino teachers became more and more dominant. In 1925, the number of American teachers was 310 and Filipino teachers’ number reached as many as 25,391. This figure indicated that the bulk of education had been shouldered by Filipinos by that time. Eventually all American teachers teaching at primary school were replaced by Filipinos. In the history of Philippine education, the chapter of the Thomasites closed in the 1930s.
In Japan the number the Oyatoi employed by the government reached its peak in the years 1873-1875, with annually more than 500 being hired (Miyoshi 1986:53). Throughout the Meiji Period, the total number employed by the government reached over 3,000. Miyoshi estimated that introduction of Western technology had been completed by 1887. In 1902, Baelz made a speech on medical science at the opening ceremony of the Japan Medical Science Association, saying “the Japanese technology developed so much that it did not need aid from foreign teachers any more” (Toku Baelz 1974:258). The speech symbolized the end of the era when Japanese depended on the Oyatoi. Eventually all foreign teachers were replaced by Japanese. The Oyatoi system was terminated toward the end of the 20th century.
3.2. How Were They Chosen?
In the Philippines, it was the American colonial government that sent for American teachers. Fred W. Atkinson, the general superintendent of Instruction of the Philippines contacted the heads of American normal schools, college presidents and state officials, asking them to recommend bright young people for the position of a teacher (Lardizabal 1991:5-6). Aspirant teachers came from prestigious universities or colleges such as Stanford University, University of California, Trinity College, geographically from all parts of the U.S.A., with N.Y., Massachusetts, Michigan, and California providing the largest contingents (May 1980:85). As Alberca (1994:55) estimated that their ages were between 23-31, most of the Thomasites were relatively less-known young people and were chosen for their potentiality for teaching. We must take notice of the fact that Filipinos could not wield any authority in deciding of who would be chosen.
In Japan, in contrast, it was the Japanese government that decided on who should be chosen and what their nationalities should be. As one of the factors for choosing, the government was concerned with not their potentiality but their actual and recognizable capability. An Oyatoi who would come to Japan should be one who had already proved himself an established man. Another factor for choosing was the power balance. The Japanese government was afraid that too much dependence on one country would lead to the situation of being colonized by that country. They consciously decided to choose foreign teachers not from one country only, but from several competing countries, showing a cunningness by capitalizing on power balances.
Lord Sanjo Sanetomi’s Documents estimated each country’s strong points in term of academics. The guidance stated that the U.S.A. had the highest standard in the area of the study of agriculture, German and Dutch for medical science, Belgium and the USA for business, France for legal matters, Britain for engineering (Miyoshi 1986:77). The government was consistent in a policy that an Oyatoi should be chosen from a country which was distinguished for that academic area.
At the beginning, the Japanese government sometimes hired foreigners simply because they were foreigners and could speak foreign languages. They were chosen among the residents of “Sokai” (Concession; Designated Areas for Foreigners). Some of them, however, did not show capability and integrity as had been expected. Some had formerly been a beer brewer, sailor, butcher, clown at circus or somebody who had no teaching experience at all. Those quickly recruited often proved to be poor teachers. Kaisei Gakkou School where some of them were teaching got a reputation for being a camp for “foreign vagabonds” (Miyoshi 1986:45).
Thus the Japanese government realized they should seek a more reliable screening system for choosing foreigners. Eventually a method to recruit became elaborated for its specific purposes. According to Miyoshi (1986: 286), one method was that the government contacted diplomats, asking them to find an appropriate person inside the country which they were assigned. Another method was that they asked a former or in-service Oyatoi to recommend a suitable teacher.
In sum, the Thomasites system was wholly managed and controlled by Americans, while Oyatoi system was controlled by the Japanese. The authority to choose teachers rested with Americans in the case of the Thomasites, while it rested with Japanese in the case of the Oyatoi. The Japanese government adamantly refused to renew a contact if a Japanese could replace an Oyatoi in that academic area or if an Oyatoi was found to be unfit for teaching.
3.3. What Were People’s Attitudes Toward Them?
This section focuses on people’s attitudes toward English and foreign teachers. In the Philippines, it was recorded that a greater part of population showed enthusiasm for learning English and that English spread everywhere (Philippine Commission Report 1904 quoted in Bernabe 1987:25). The spread of English was verified by statistic figures. According to 1918 Census, 30 % of men and 17% of women were reported to be able to speak English (Gonzalez 1980:27). The 1939 Census reported that 26.6% of the total population claimed that they had the ability to speak English (Gonzalez 1980:26). English became a new lingua franca, as Filipinos wanted to communicate with fellow-Filipinos whose dialects were mutually incomprehensible. English was also regarded as a useful tool to obtain social advancement. It was the language of education, judicial system, law, industry and the mass media.
The Thomasites worked for the masses. Their main function was to teach English. The Thomasites taught at a primary education level, and thus greatly influenced the masses. Sturtevant (1976:44) said, “Thomasites … quickly gained the respect and affections of Filipinos.” Most of the scholars gave favorable ratings to the Thomasites such as Alberca (1994), Lardizabal (1991), Pecson & Racelis (1959), with the exceptions of Constantino (1982).
In Japan, most of the records testified that Japanese students respected foreign teachers. We can find their statues or busts in honor of the Oyatoi throughout Japan, for example, inside Tokyo University Campus or Hokkaido University Campus. We can find hundreds of books which describe them with considerable praise. But their languages did not spread among the general populace. English, German, French were a must for the elites who wanted to read academic books imported from the West. So the elites had the ability of reading, but the ability of oral communication was not needed at that time. As for the public, they did not have the slightest ability of foreign languages, attesting to the fact that there was no practical reason for them to learn.
In comparison to the Philippines, the Oyatoi were intended for secondary or tertiary education. Their main function was to teach content through foreign languages rather than foreign languages themselves. Most of the Oyatoi taught at a higher education level, so they made impact on the elites. Their activities were limited to the upper class of Japanese.
The Thomasites taught English language and American values to children of 6-8 years old at a formative period of their lives. Their influence was wide-spread and lasting. Contrastively, in Japan, most of the students were college or high school students who had already developed critical thinking and received Western ideas through their own filters. Their influence was, although great, basically restricted.
What was the significance of the Thomasites and the Oyatoi? There are several significances in relation to the host country and its people.
First of all, their significance was that they brought foreign languages and were committed to the establishment of a modern education system in an emerging country. Their contributions worked somewhat differently. English education was successful in the Philippines, while English (foreign language) education was partially successful in Japan. Filipinos have developed four skills of English evenly, while Japanese were too greatly oriented towards reading skill.
But the above unevenness needs to change in Japan. Honna and Takeshita (2003:183) said, “in its revised curriculum and course guidelines, the Ministry of Education … calling for heightened emphasis on oral communication in junior and senior high school programmes.” In 2003 the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology proposed an action plan whose goal is to establish a system for cultivating “Japanese with English Abilities.” In Japan, the Philippines is regarded as one of the ideal countries in terms of its English language education system.
Secondly, what was transferred to a new soil should be highlighted. Not only a new language but also new values were transferred to the Philippines. American values, attitudes and behaviors were accepted in the Philippines. The Thomasites enrooted their values into Philippine life through English education. In Japan, Western science and technology were transferred to this nation through foreign languages. But Western values and attitudes were not welcomed.
Thirdly, influence toward local people deserves to be paid attention to. The Thomasites affected the masses, and went so far as to change a considerable part of the national identity. The Oyatoi only affected the top of the Japanese ruling class and did not touch upon the everyday life of the populace. The influence by foreign teachers on Meiji Japan was indirect and partial.
Lastly, most strikingly, the fact that foreign teachers greatly contributed has a great significance. It proved that the factor of human beings was the most important not only in the establishment of education but also in nation building. Examples of the both groups proved that even foreigners can play an important role in nation building.
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