According to this article from Japan Today, 87% of the respondents to a questionnaire favored a new government policy to make learning English mandatory of 5th and 6th grade students beginning next year.
When responding about why they responded in favor, 55% said that it would help children get jobs.
The Education Ministry themselves list their goals as, "'Foreign Language' will be a required subject at lower and upper secondary schools, and in principle, English will be the one at lower secondary school. In order for students to develop practical communicative competence in the target language..." http://www.mext.go.jp/english/news/1998/07/980712.htm
There is no definition of practical communicative competence or how success will be measured, and it certainly says nothing about jobs.
My question is, jobs where? And if everyone is taking the same classes, doesn't that mean that the pool of workers is going to be generally the same, making it a similar situation to the present?
Of those in favor "corporate managers" were the highest proportion, 95%. My guess is that either they see that there are business opportunities outside of the country, so they want their employees to have foreign language skills, or they see that Japan itself will become more ethnically diverse and wish to have workers that can communicate in a common language.
These results show that in general, people are unable to think objectively about education and ask critical questions about the institution.
Most favor making English study mandatory for 5th, 6th graders: poll › Japan Today: Japan News and Discussion: "- Sent using Google Toolbar"