On June 27, a total of 40 students in the Japanese Language Department at TLI (Tenrikyo Language Institute) visited Nikaido Elementary School in Tenri City, where they participated in an exchange program with the school’s 433 pupils. This exchange program was conducted in connection with the “Period of Integrated Study,” which was instituted this year in Japanese schools in accord with the National Curriculum Standards Reform. The “Period of Integrated Study” was established to encourage schools to develop interdisciplinary and comprehensive studies, which may include activities that promote international understanding, provide exposure to foreign languages, and familiarize pupils with life and culture in other countries.
In anticipation of this new reform in the curriculum, Tenri City’s board of education approached TLI about the possibility of conducting such an exchange program as far back as five years ago. Once TLI accepted the proposal, the board of education began being flooded with requests from kindergartens, elementary schools, and junior high schools throughout the city, asking that they also be included in the proposed program with TLI. Thereafter, the TLI students have been visiting local schools on an average of twice a year.
The exchange at Nikaido Elementary School began with the 40 students from nine countries greeting the pupils in their native languages. The pupils then repeated the phrases after them, filling the gymnasium with their energetic voices. The children then entertained the visitors by performing some traditional Japanese songs on musical instruments, and the TLI students from South Korea and Taiwan performed folk dances in their countries’ traditional costumes. The entire group joined in singing a Japanese children’s song, with each of the participants singing in his or her mother tongue. Next, they all took part in dancing the Macarena, which is a hand and body language dance from Spain.
The participants then split into large groups. Those who stayed in the gymnasium learned to play with traditional Japanese toys, and those who moved to classrooms tried their hand at calligraphy. During the afternoons, the participants split into still smaller groups to afford the children an opportunity to question the TLI students about themselves and their countries. The children showed special interest in what kinds of food are eaten in their countries and what kind of games the overseas students played when they were children.
This exchange program was successful in helping the school to attain the objectives set for the “Period of Integrated Study” and received an extremely favorable response from the children.