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Japan Conference for Schools 2013

On 8th March 2013, 65 participants joined the Japan Conference for Schools, held at the Embassy of Japan in London. Co-organised by the Embassy of Japan, the Japan Foundation and the Japan Society, the event was an excellent opportunity for attendees to hear about how the new National Curriculum might affect Japanese language education in the UK, as well as network and share practical ideas about projects for introducing Japanese into their schools or to enhance their existing Japan-related activities.

Participants were welcomed to the Embassy by the cultural attaché, Eiji Watanabe. This was followed by very useful talk by the Director of Languages First at the University of Cambridge, Bernardette Holmes, who spoke about the changes to the new National Curriculum, and how this might affect Japanese language education in the UK. Bernadette spoke of several ideas for how teachers of Japanese might want to respond to the upcoming Department for Education consultation about the new national curriculum. You can find more about the consultation here.

This fantastic key note speech was followed by a panel discussion, where Martin Clayton from Netherthong primary school and Dan Thompson from Tile Hill Wood School joined Bernardette Holmes to speak about continuity between primary and secondary schools, as well as how this might change with the introduction of the new curriculum. One of the attendees, Darren Jones, mentioned that “The keynote speech was highly informative and thought-provoking. The panel discussion served to answer many questions and offered many ideas for Japanese provision in schools.”

After lunch, Heidi Potter, Chief Executive of the Japan Society, gave a short presentation about the Tohoku area two years after the Earthquake and Tsunami. This was followed by two sessions of small panel discussions, where attendees could join groups and learn more on the topic they were most interested in. This year the topics were things such as cross curricular Japanese for Primary schools, how to run an effective exchange without visiting Japan, practical teaching ideas as well as information about support and resources available. Joseph Bull said that “the group discussions were very useful – great to see practical teaching ideas and resources. I’ll be back in school full of ideas!” while Dan Thorn said he had found “excellent information sharing all round, thank you!”

The event was closed with a few words from the Director General of the Japan Foundation London, Tsuyoshi Takahashi. This year the conference had a good mix of both primary and secondary schools, and was also a mix of schools that teach Japanese already, schools that are hoping to start as well as schools that run Japan related activities as clubs or as cross-curricular activities.

Thank you to all the participants, speakers and the other organisers for making the conference such a success. We hope to see you again next year!