Following the success of a visit of the Kings School, Sydney rugby team to Kumon during the Rugby World Cup in Japan in 2019, the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) invited Kumon to join the Australian Olympic Connect ともだち 2020 Pilot Program. The program was set up with a select group of 20 schools in Japan and Australia with a view to expanding and introducing hundreds of other schools during next year’s Olympic run-up.
During this period Kumon has been paired with Darwin High School and St. Bernard’s School in Melbourne. The program is a platform based around the Olympics and promotes the Olympic values of friendship, respect and excellence. For this trial period Kumon English classes have held live Zoom exchanges with Australian students in their Japanese language class. The program hasともだち(Tomodachi) in its title to signify the importance of friendship and relationship building in this connection between the two countries. Both the Kumon and Australian students have thoroughly enjoyed talking in bilingual exchanges and it seems to have come as a relief following months of isolation with few opportunities to travel and make new friends.
In a recent class students from Kumon’s junior high school third grade spent a whole hour talking freely with a group of students from St. Bernard’s School in Melbourne. The conversation moved easily between Japanese and English and the Kumon students were very impressed with the levels of Japanese shown by the students in Australia. By using Zoom breakout rooms the students were able to speak in small, comfortable groups and the talk ranged widely from school life to the current political situations in Japan, Australia and beyond. At the end of the class both sets of students warmly agreed to meet again soon.
Kumon and our students are extremely grateful to the Australian Embassy in Japan, the Japanese Embassy in Australia and the Australian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Japan for their efforts in putting this program together under quite challenging circumstances. Our students look forward to playing a part in developing the program and moving beyond conversation to working on projects and presentations in collaboration with their new Australian classmates.
Kumon is very happy to work in the enterprising spirit of our Australian friends and to take a new idea, give it a good go, and see where it leads.
2018 Kumon Kokusai Gakuen.