Reflecting on the Think Global UK Japan Forum 2015

final outlined text web pngThe first Think Global UK Japan 2015 Forum on International Perspectives in Education took place in Fukushima City, Kyoto and Tokyo from the 23rd – 28th August. This project (started by Rory Gallagher, of The Thomas Hardye School in Dorset, and Dr Toru Okano, of the Rikkyo School in England) aims to facilitate an exchange of ideas between Japanese and British teachers, to encourage a global outlook in the classroom for both students and teachers, embed a global perspective in teacher professional development in Japan and the UK, and promote gender equality in education and in global leadership.

There was approximately 50 participants across the three venues, mostly teachers from Japanese schools, but there were also representatives of higher education institutions, international schools, museums, and the press. At the Tokyo workshop, there were presentations by Japanese high school students, and students from the British School in Tokyo participated in, and facilitated, the discussions. Of the Japanese teachers involved, the vast majority were from senior high schools, with a few teachers from junior high schools or from joint junior/senior high schools. There were many teachers of English, but also teachers of science, technology, history, Japanese literature and other subjects. We exchanged ideas and resources about how to encourage and develop a global ethos among teachers and students. We now aim to develop a programme of forums in the UK and in Japan, and to offer seminars and training for teachers.

All of the participants were very positive about the workshops, and thanked the UK teachers and the organisers for the events. Those who came to the workshops were passionate about education, about international education in particular, and were looking to find ways to implement ideas in their own classrooms. They appreciated the structure of the events, with four separate workshops, and there was a great deal of discussion during the workshops. The Japanese teachers told us that they appreciated the hands-on ideas we were sharing with them, as although similar ideas are being promoted in Japan, there is little training or advice on how to implement these new ideas in the classroom. It was interesting to note that as the workshops progressed, we found more similarities than differences with our Japanese counterparts, especially in terms of the broader picture of our aims and beliefs in education. We also found that the workshops of the four UK teachers echoed each other in their core message – that of the importance of engaging students, and of nurturing a passion in what we do.

Rory Gallagher, teacher of French and Japanese in Dorset, led the first session of the day. Through activities and a short presentation, he explored the ideas that communication is about much more than language, that a high level of ability in language is not always essential to communication, and that communication skills are the most important tool for global education. He used examples from his own classroom to demonstrate these points, and also showed how these activities can give students much-needed confidence in communication and in their studies by allowing them to succeed in difficult challenges involving another language. There was discussion with the Japanese participants around the similarities and differences between UK and Japanese classrooms, and the Japanese teachers expressed their thanks for the sharing of ideas and resources which they could use in their schools. Rory’s workshop also helped Japanese participants to have the confidence to take part in discussions in English and to feel that their contribution was valued during the workshops.

Rory said: “I thoroughly enjoyed working with Japanese teachers, and discussing education and classroom practice. We found that we have a similar philosophy of education, a love of learning, and a desire to improve our own practice through collaboration. I hope to have helped the participants to gain confidence in their own level of English, and hopefully the Japanese teachers can help their students in gaining confidence and in becoming better global communicators. Personally I found that my own practice has been enriched by the experience of reflecting on what works well in my classroom and sharing those ideas with other teachers. I have gained a great deal from the sessions I led and from the workshops of the other UK teachers, learning from both my British colleagues, and from the Japanese participants.”