This article about English language in Russia serves as a great source of contrasts which we can use to evaluate English education in Japan and elsewhere. If what is written here is true, curriculum makers and teachers in Japan could learn alot.
I'd like to copy the whole thing, but that probably wouldn't be wise. Some of the better quotes are:
"The fact that our students start learning language at an early age (6-7 years old) helps a lot, as does the possibility to teach English in small groups of 8-10 students,"
Even university admission demands fluency and understanding. "You should be able to read, understand what you have read, answer the examiner's questions, talk with the examiner, speak on a chosen topic," Ludanik says.
The abiding impression left by Russia is of a place where English is taught as a means to an end rather than as an end in itself.