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Student wins award for 'innovative' English camps

24 February 2017

Hakunetsu English camp

Koki Shimazu, a current student at the UCL Institute of Education (IOE), has received a Pearson ELT Teacher Award for his Hakunetsu English camps, which help Japanese students to develop their spoken English skills.

Koki established the camps after realising that Japanese pupils have few opportunities to speak English. Held twice a year across Japan, the camps encourage the pupils to think, communicate, and express themselves as they would in their native language. 

The pupils speak in English with university students from across the world, covering subjects from philosophy to LGBT issues. These conversations help to build the pupils' confidence in the four key skill areas: reading, writing, listening and speaking.

"By providing Japanese pupils with the opportunity to spend time with global university students, they can expand their horizons and challenge themselves. The videos they watch on a daily basis expose them to authentic English and helps them appreciate the benefits of learning English in this increasingly interconnected society", Koki explains. 

One student who attended the camp said: "We ended up talking way into the night and I could feel my English brain developing in ways it doesn't usually get to."

Koki's work is a product of his own experience as an exchange student in Australia, where he realised the importance of spoken English when overcoming cultural differences:

"Japanese students have no idea what it is like to go abroad and speak English with foreign people. Most of the kids do not want to go abroad because they lack the confidence, English ability and information, which is why I hold English camps around Japan. The camps create an environment where students learn to expand their horizons by exploring new topics and global issues."

Hakunetsu English camp students

Before the high school pupils attend one of the camps, Koki provides them with a video of students from the IOE, Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) speaking in English about school life and the subjects they are learning. The video includes questions that Koki has added and links to websites that teach English vocabulary. This approach prepares the pupils for their arrival and motivates them to speak more in English.

After teaching for 7 years in Japan, Koki came to the UK to further his understanding of linguistics. Studying Applied Linguistics at the IOE has enriched his knowledge of key concepts and issues relating to applied linguistics and English language education globally. 

As Koki says, "Studying Applied Linguistics helps me to improve the quality and content of the camps. Language is like the backbone of communication, tying together and uniting those from different backgrounds. I had taken it for granted like many others, until I was faced with many struggles in my life."

"I hope that our company, TAKTOPIA, will continue to equip our students with the tools necessary for them to not only pursue their dreams but to make it a reality." 

While working on the English language learning projects with schools in Japan, Koki has been investigating the effect of video usage in language learning, with the prospect of implementing it into the Japanese English educational system.

TAKTOPIA will be holding eight camps around Japan this summer and are looking to recruit students from UCL. All expenses are paid for, which includes food and accommodation. For more information, please contact: ucl.taktopia@gmail.com

The Pearson ELT Teacher Award celebrates dedicated and innovative teachers around the world. The judges thought that Koki's English camps were an innovative way of solving a common problem and showed his determination and enthusiasm for teaching English.

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  • Hakunetsu English camps