• Kyodo

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An English-immersion elementary school opened Wednesday in the Gunma Prefecture city of Ota, which has been authorized to operate foreign language schools under Tokyo’s deregulation initiative.

Gunma Kokusai Academy, a privately run school funded in part by the Ota Municipal Government, admitted a total of 166 pupils in the first and fourth grades. The school plans to open classes for the grades in the next two school years.

The academy also plans to open a junior high school, up to the ninth grade, in three years, and a high school in six years.

In the school’s English immersion program, all subjects, except for Japanese and some social studies courses, will be taught in English.

The students will have been exposed to nearly 10,000 hours of classes in English when they complete their 12 years of education at the academy.

The pupils who started Wednesday had English lessons taught by the academy for three hours a week for one year, according to the vice principal, Haruki Inoue.

“Through learning in English from foreigners, we hope students will grow to acquire an ability to see things from a broad perspective,” he said.

Ota has a population of just over 210,000 and has many manufacturing plants that employ foreign workers, mostly Japanese-Brazilians.

The city has been granted special-zone status for foreign language education under the central government’s policy of promoting structural reform. The status was given to help Ota promote language programs in its efforts to assimilate foreign workers into the community.

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