It’s easy to notice this advertisement in front of one of Japan’s leading cram schools, Waseda Prep School.
I may not be able to articulate this perfectly, there is something juvenile about this picture and the message it sends to parents and students of English in Japan.
On the surface this add seems cool, a student receiving a letter from Time magazine. I’ll ignore the fact that print Time is probably near extinction and try to see the rational for this photo getting such a prominent spot in front of Waseda Prep.
On the face of it I will admit that the ad does have a co-branding appeal that probably influences parents. But this is a bit pathetic because the letter is not much of a step above what a child might receive from Time praising them for reading a ”grown up” magazine. For Waseda Prep to elevate a letter like this into the status of almost a royal decree I view as beneath them. The fact that it is apparently not beneath them reveals the still low, almost juvenile standards and evaluations of advanced English and English conversation that still remain in 2013 Japan.
A letter from Time apparently is a major achievement for Waseda Prep School in the form of a billboard in front of the school
Now learning from this, what would be impressive is if Waseda Prep School students were getting articles or editorials published in Time magazine. Publishing or blogging in English needs to be the contemporary standard prep schools like Waseda can strive to, not a “thank you for reading our magazine” letter. That type of English competency requires a more cohesive English education system than what currently exists in Japan.
Beyond the simple marketing strategy of the ad the condescending nature of it insults parents who will write the checks, the English teachers of Waseda Prep and the students themselves. The days of Japanese being impressed at speaking a few words of English are over. 2013 is finally the time for Japan and other nations to work toward Advanced English skills and conversation competencies, not a thank you note.