On February 25, 2014, U.S. Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy visited the Yokohama Science Frontier High School. The school is designated by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology as a “Super Science High School” for the purpose of fostering the next generation of science and technology specialists. In order to nurture human resources that are capable of functioning in a global environment, the school provides opportunities for its students to develop English presentation skills and learn about cutting-edge technologies.
During her visit, Ambassador Kennedy stopped in at several classrooms and asked the students some questions. When she asked the students what they were studying in biology class, some of the students murmured, “Immunity? Immune system?” because they weren’t sure of the right word to use in English. The Ambassador helped ease the tension by saying, “Immunity! That’s an important thing to study. Stay healthy!” Some of the students were a little nervous because they hadn’t been informed of the Ambassador’s visit in advance, but many of them were surprised by her friendly demeanor.
After the classroom visit, the Ambassador participated in a discussion session with teachers and students, during which she enthusiastically asked them about the special features of the school and English education. When she spoke to the students about whether they would like to study abroad, one responded by telling her, “I’m planning to attend college in the United States.” Other students made the honest observation that while many Japanese are interested in studying abroad, it’s hard for them to take the first step because they are concerned about their English ability and uncertain about the differences between educational systems and the financial aspects of studying abroad. Ambassador Kennedy took notes and listened carefully to everything the students said.
While taking photos together after the event, the Ambassador continued to chat with the students and expressed her eagerness to learn more about their school life by asking, “What’s your favorite TV show?” and “How many hours do you study every day?” The tense atmosphere of the discussion session had disappeared and the students were laughing and enjoying interacting with the Ambassador.
During the Ambassador’s visit, three female students gave presentations on their research results. At Science Frontier High School, students conduct independent research on topics they are interested in and then present a wall display in English of their research results for the entire year. Ambassador Kennedy was impressed by the students’ presentations and commented on their use of difficult technical terms at such a young age.
Following her presentation on the effects of pharmaceutical storage methods, Mizuki Higashiyama talked about her impression of Ambassador Kennedy and how thrilled she was to have the opportunity to meet her. “I felt nervous when I gave my presentation, but I was really pleased when the Ambassador nodded with approval many times,” she said. “She asked a lot of questions not only after the science presentation, but also when she came to my Japanese classics lesson, which was less familiar to her. I thought it was wonderful that she was interested in so many different things.” To conclude the event, Ambassador Kennedy spoke about the importance of communication today and her wish to contribute further to the advancement of English education.