Website: http://www.lindenhall.ed.jp/english/eindex2.html

6-16-58, Gojo Dazaifu City, Fukuoka, Japan 818-0125

Phone: 092-918-0111 Fax: 092-918-0101 Email: info@lindenhall.ed.jp

The immersion school opened in 2004, its mission according to the school website is to aim “for an education not for passing outmoded university entrance exams, but that enhances and extends individuality, creativity and the ability to communicate, essential skills for a globally active person.”  The school is seeking to establish junior and senior high school divisions so as to operate a unified school. View the school facilities here. The school also runs a boarding school and has a high percentage of returnees. The school has some connections and exchanges with Linden Hall in Pennsylvania, the oldest school in America.

This Daily Yomiuri news article posted below features the Linden Hall Elementary School’s immersion program.

Fukuoka school committed to immersion

By Yoko Mizui

Dazaifu, Fukuoka — “Three owls are sitting  in the tree. Three more owls join them. How many owls all together? British teacher Brendan Miller asked to 21 first-grade students in English at Linden Hall Elementary School, an English-language immersion school in Dazaifu, Fukuoka Prefecture one morning in December.

Many children raised their hads. “Three plus three equals six.” The teacher asked to his classmates “Is it right?” and they said “Yes!” in unison.

More English questions followed: “Two fish are swimming in a river. Three more fish come along. How many fish are swimming in the river now?”

It seemed these questions were too easy for them. The teacher asked children to make up story problems of their own. A boy said:”Ten lizards are laying on a rock. Five lizards hide in the rock. How many lizards are there?” Some children used figures even over 100.

This was not a math class but an English class at the primary school, which the Tsuzuki Integrated Education Institution opened three years ago. The school has studnets up to the third grade now, and the institution plans to expand the immersion education program to the high school level eventually.

In a full immersion program, all courses other than Japanese language are conducted in English. “Our school has adopted a partial immersion. We know full immersion is more effective to acquire a foreign language, but it’s not practical in Japan because Japanese and English are quite different,” said Principal Niko Tsuzuki.

“I think it’s more important to establish human relationships in the early stage of primary school children. We don’t forge them to speak English in their daily conversations,” Tsuzuki.

In English classes, lessons are given mostly in English. In Japanese-language classes, students are taught in Japanese.  The rest of the lessons such as social studies, math, arts and gymnastics are taught in English. The school also uses a dual tutor system. A native English speaker and a Japanese teacher attend each lesson.

“From a mangerial point of view, [it might be said] we cannot afford to do that, but we put more weight on the development of each child. Children of these ages need constant attention from teachers,” Tsuzuki said.

In planning the school building, an open school was the guiding concept. The classrooms are located around an oval-shaped center hall with an open stairwell, and every class is visible from both inside and outside as huge glass windows are used for outer walls.

“We wanted to make classrooms without any blind spots so we decided to make our school glassed-in, Tsuzuki said. The security-sensitive school building was completed in 2004 after the tragedy at Ikeda Primary School in Osaka, where eight students were killed by a knife-wielding intruder in 2001.

This is Japan’s second English-language immersion school, following Katoh Gakuen in Shizuoka Prefecture. Amid the current trend of including English as a subject in primary Linden Hall Elementary School has attracted a lot of attention from early education-conscious parents and other organizations.

“We hold an open campus five times a year. We receive a lot of visitors–about 600-700 people a year, even from the Kanto area. I think they realize the necessity of this kind of school,” Tsuzuki said.

Having started with 26 first -grade students in 2004, the school now has a total enrollment of 103. Now the shcool has five classes (one class for the third grade and two classes each for the second and the first grade) and a staff that includes seven native speakers of English and eight Japanese teachers.

Tsuzuki said the results after three years were even better than she had expected.

“As we wanted to know the English ability of our students, we had them all take the United Nations Associations Test of English for juniors in May. Their scores were excellent,” she said.

Tsuzuki is proud that no students have come to dislike English. It is because the school provides various opportunities so that children can learn English naturally and have fun doing it, according tothe principal.

Vice Principal Sebastian Dakin said: “We also have after-school programs until 6 p.m. Children who are interested can study English, play with British native speakers, play the piano, dance, etc.”

British students who are studying at the nearby Daiichi University of Economics, which is also run by the institution, often read English books to the children, according to Dakin.

For the past seven years, the university has accepted five graduate students from Oxford and five from Cambridge universities on scholarships for a year. These students sometimes come to the primary school and talk with the children.

The school’s curriculum loads more study on children than the guidelines of the Education, Science and Technology Ministry require, according to Dakin.

“Otherwise, we cannot add English lessons without cutting other lessons,” he said. “I don’t without cutting other lessons,” he said. “I don’t think its a burden for chidren as we are presenting lessons that are interesting for them. I think our students are studying without any inhibitions,” he said.

Dakin said children should start learning English between the ages of 4 and 9 to acquire the language naturally. In November, the school finished entrance examinations for students who will enter the school this year. Dakin said that in addition to some returnees who had lived overseas, all children had learned English at least to some degree before they entered the school.

Millder, the British teacher, says that teachers are trying to give children a variety of lessons so that they can study English naturally.

“My teaching style is really like lots of acting lots of playing, lots of games, but they need to learn at the same time,” he said. “In my opinion, it’s most important that they have fun. Because if they don’ t have fun, they don’ want to speak English.”

In the latter part of his lesson, children gathered in a corner of the classroom and they read a picture book aloud with Miller. It was story time. Then Miller read another picture book aloud for children with a lot of action. He inserted simple questions from time to time, such as “Do you know what an X-ray is?” and “Do you know what an ambulance is?”

For the latter question, a child answered, ” Yes,” and then proved it by mimicking a siren: “Pi-po, pi-po.” Children understand the English relatively easily as they have read the same story in Japanese in their Japanese-language class.

While emphasiszing English, the school makes much of its Japanese-language lessons. The education ministry’s curriculum guideline for Japanese-language lessons for first-year students at primary school is 272 hours a year, but the school gives 296 hours. First-year students have 185 hours a year of English lessons. The school’s total class hours over six years are 7,320 hours nearly 2,000 hours more than the ministry’ guideline of 5,367 hours. Although the school uses the ministry’s authorized textbooks, it also uses English textbooks, translated versions of these books, as their original textbooks.

English immersion is also used in their short study hours in the afternoon. Students have classes on information technology and making presentations. Starting first in Japanese, students gradually shift the language to English in using computers and making presentations.

The school also offers cultural enrichment activities, including tea ceremony, kendo, judo, flower arrangement and calligraphy.

As Tsuzuki wanted the students to learn Japnaese culture, the shcool has a pottery studio, a tea house, a water mill lodge, a biotope (a kind of outdoor econology lab) and arice filed on the east school grounds of 17,000 square meters.

“I’d like our students to experience everything they can in our school,” Tsuzuki siad.

Students plant and harvest rice, which is then threshed by the water mill.

“I think rice cultivation is the basis of Japanese culture,” Tsuzuki siad.

Cropped stray is burned and the ash used in making glaze for pottery. Tea leaves are also cultivated in the field and tea whisks and tea spoons are made from bamboo growing on the school gorunds.

“I think to become a truly international person one’s identity as a Japanese is very important. We’d like to bring students with ‘wakon-yosai’ [Japanese spirits with Western talent],” Tsuzuki said.

“We are thinking about the school curriculum over a 12-year span, with a view to having students able to take an International Baccalaureate [certificate] to enter foreign universities,” she said.

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