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May 24, 2005

Internationalizing Tochigi

Morikawa Michiko, 60, is trying to make Tochigi prefecture into a more international place. For many years the president of an English conversation school and study-abroad service, Morikawa recently launched a program for children as young as 1-5 years old to study English conversation. After testing out educational materials designed for young native speakers of English last year, this spring she started the program in which Japanese and native speaking teachers work in pairs at kindegartens. The schools themselves have been unsure how to go about setting up such programs, though they acknowledge the growing desire of parents nationwide to start their children learning English from an early age.

Morikawa was born into a family that ran a guest house in the popular Tochigi tourist town of Nikko, and from an early age became used to meeting many foreign tourists. She graduated in English Literature at university and opened an English school in the prefectural capital of Utsunomiya, where she felt there was a lack of contact with other cultures. She has since sent over 1,000 junior high school students overseas on study-abroad programs. (from a Mainichi Shimbun story)

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