My final international duty...

My final international duty...

Our outgoing CEO Simon Lebus recalls his final international duty, on which he was joined, coincidentally, by his successor Saul Nassé, with the pair sampling the best of Japan's technological classrooms and cuisine.

My final international duty before stepping down as Chief Executive of Cambridge Assessment was to travel to Japan and sign a joint venture agreement with the Kawaijuku Educational Institution. I was joined on this excursion by Saul Nassé and Fran Woodward from Cambridge Assessment English.

Simon Lebus Japan blog 2018 retirement cake imageIt was a pleasure to be able to sign this agreement (after a lot of hard work by our and their legal and commercial staff, with several late nights). The idea was first discussed two and a half years ago and it gives us a presence in Japan that will allow us to step up our promotion and marketing of Cambridge Assessment English qualifications, important at a time when the whole approach to English language learning is being reformed in order to promote communicative skills. We celebrated with a Kaiseki dinner which culminated in a spectacular ‘retirement’ cake (pictured left), presented to me by the Chairman of Kawaijuku.

Simon Japan blog four of team at desks in school 2018 full width image

As well as that, we visited the Junior High School of Kogakuin University, Japan’s first Cambridge English school, where we were also treated to a presentation from students who had to identify the world’s ten most important innovations (we are pictured above receiving the presentation in a mock lesson style). The Internet was a popular choice, as was the internal combustion engine, gunpowder and the printing press, which all made appearances in the student’s lists, alongside television and air transport.

Simon Lebus Japan blog 2018 ramen street staff ladies imageWe also had the pleasure of meeting Kazuya Takahashi, a teacher at Kogakuin school and previous runner-up in the Varkey Foundation’s ‘Global Teacher Prize.’ Kazuya also had a Cambridge connection, having studied medieval history at the University for a while before going on to study in the US for a postgraduate qualification in learning science. Using LEGO-based instruction, he developed a programme to harness students’ creativity and, with help from the Japan Space Elevator Association and JAXA, organised the first space elevator competition for high school students.

Simon Lebus Japan blog 2018 rotating desks imageNext, we returned to central Tokyo where we saw Uchida Yoko Company, who showed us round their impressive teaching centre where we tried out the rotating desks (pictured right) and some other technological classroom kit they have developed and sell to schools. We saw this sensational lecture room (pictured at top of page) where you could bring walls down to expand the space, fitting up to 300 people, but which also acted as screens when they needed to.

Simon Lebus Japan blog 2018 ramen noodles imageAlongside official duties, I sought (as usual) to sample some local cuisine and was recommended the ‘Tongue Ramen’ (pictured right) by these enthusiastic and hospitable ladies (pictured above left) on ‘Ramen Street’ in Tokyo.

Simon Lebus
Group Chief Executive, Cambridge Assessment

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