I, together with my colleagues, visited the primary school of Horizon Japan International School Sendai located in Sendai City, Miyagi Prefecture, to observe its unique English lessons. This visit is one of the activities of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP)’s working group led by me to review the English proficiency tests for the standardized university entrance examinations.
According to this school’s brochure and other related materials, the Horizon Sendai primary school, aiming at educating global citizens, was founded in April 2016 as a Japanese Article 1 school which provides six-year compulsory elementary education using the same textbooks used in Japanese public elementary schools. All lessons were expected to be taught in either English or Japanese. The status of a ‘Designated Special School’ which implements ‘English immersion education’ was also accredited by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. Prior to the primary school, the Early Learning Center (ELC) mainly for Japanese children from ages 3 through 6 was founded in April 2012.
In the fourth-grade class which we observed today, all the pupils fully understood the teacher’s talk in English and they were comfortably interacting with the teacher. The same atmosphere was seen in mathematics and other classes. While the listening ability is said to be best at the age of 3 to 5, this school helps the pupils enhance their English skills not by learning spelling and grammar but literally by ‘being immersed’ in English conversation. It seems to me that this school’s English teaching method is successfully making up for the weakest point in Japan’s English-teaching method.