I went on a short visit to China and Japan last week. This included a quick visit to Tokyo to meet existing and potential partners and find out about planned changes to the Japanese national curriculum and their impact on English language learning.
Further North, 156 dolphins have beached themselves on the Ibaraki coastline. Incidents of mass dolphin beaching had preceded the 2011 earthquake that caused the tsunami and also the big New Zealand earthquake that year which destroyed Christchurch, so there’s much speculation that this might be a sign that the ‘Big One’ was about to hit Tokyo. No sign of this when I arrived on Sunday to be greeted by glorious spring weather, though this was followed by non- stop rain for the remaining two days of my visit, with the frustrating consequence that the view from the 48th floor skyrise restaurant that I was taken to for dinner was obscured by clouds.
Standards of English in Japan remain inadequate, and the Government is therefore introducing reforms to start English language learning earlier in the school curriculum and to increase the focus on communicative skills in general. This will help Japan follow the advice of the Dalai Lama who, when asked on a visit there how Japan could open itself up to the outside world, replied “Learn English.”
This is also timely because the 2020 Olympics are being held in Japan, and English will be needed to make sure the large number of international visitors are made suitably welcome. One of the big bottlenecks is the number of suitably qualified teachers, so we were delighted earlier this year when the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Board of Education used the Teaching Knowledge Test (TKT) from Cambridge English to evaluate the skills of 140 specially selected teachers prior to their departure for training in the US and Australia where they travelled and were able to study for three months in the US at the University of California, Irvine, and in Australia at the University of New South Wales
Onto China, where I attended the formal launch Class Server - a joint venture between Cambridge University Press, College Pre-U Education and ourselves - designed to develop ground-breaking digital schools by enabling them to provide a more dynamic and personalised approach to teaching and learning.
While in the country, I also had the opportunity to take part in one of Cambridge English’s 'Just Imagine' sessions in Beijing, which are designed to capture our people's ideas around immediate and long-term actions which will prepare Cambridge English for even greater growth. It was a good lively session with lots of interesting ideas, although I was exposed to another meteorological phenomenon as we all emerged from it straight into a major sand storm.
Group Chief Executive, Cambridge Assessment