Learning English through science
29 March 2010
Thirteen Japanese students from Tohoku University have taken part in an innovative program to learn English through Physics and Mathematics lectures and customised tutorials at the University of Sydney in March 2010.
The two and a half week program was organised by Professor Hideo Kozono, from the Mathematical Institute at Tohoku University, and the University of Sydney's Centre for English Teaching, with the School of Physics and School of Mathematics and Statistics.
Having successfully run the program in 2009 for the first time with ten students from Tohoku University, the Centre for English Teaching expanded the program in 2010 to include daily English tuition over a longer period, and Faculty of Science staff ran specially tailored tutorials in maths and physics for the Japanese students.
A series of pre-recorded mathematics and physics lectures by Dr Martin Wechselberger, from the School of Mathematics and Statistics, and Associate Professor Zdenka Kuncic, from the School of Physics, were shown to the students so they could learn the English used in the lectures with the University of Sydney's Centre for English Teaching.
After learning the required English with Geoff Hegarty, from the Centre for English Teaching, the Tohoku University students joined University of Sydney students in the third year mathematics and physics lectures.
Most of the Tohoku University students are at the end of their first year of their Bachelor of Science degrees, with three students at the end of their second year. The thirteen students are part of a special program for gifted science students at Tohoku University which is supported by the Ministry of Education in Japan. The students who travelled to Sydney were selected from the program for their excellence in mathematics and physics.
Dr Martin Wechselberger, from the School of Mathematics and Statistics, who gave the third year Differential Equations and Biomathematics (Advanced) lectures and tailored tutorial, said, "This year the Tohoku students were able to attend more of my lectures - five - and I also ran a tutorial especially for them, which worked really well.
"We covered the existence and uniqueness of solutions of differential equations. The main theorem we covered was the Picard-Lindelof Theorem, and I introduced mathematical tools such as the contraction mapping principle and Gronwall's inequality to master the corresponding proof. The Japanese students did well to follow all this in English!" said Dr Wechselberger.
"It was great to see they asked questions in the lectures and their level of preparedness and dedication to the tutorial exercises was wonderful - our Australian students could learn from them!"
Professor Hideo Kozono was originally inspired to organise the English language experience for his students after a visit from fellow mathematician Professor Gavin Brown while he was Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sydney.
Cristina Leontini, Study Tour Coordinator at the Centre for English Teaching, said: "This year's customised English language program developed for the top-end maths and physics students from Tohoku University has been very successful in meeting the specific academic objectives of the group as well as giving them an excellent overall experience of studying at the University of Sydney.
"A lot more emphasis was put on English speaking and listening activities. Geoff Hegarty, the CET Teacher, was instrumental in encouraging discussion on topics such as: philosophical and ethical aspects of physics, looking at new developments in physics experiments such as the Large Hadron Collider, watching video interviews of prominent scientists on the TED website, and watching ABC science shows," said Cristina.
At the official end-of-course certificate presentation, Mao Ono, one of the Tohoku University students, thanked all the University of Sydney staff involved: "We would like to thank Sydney University for this opportunity. I am personally a fan of Martin and Zdenka - I wish I could attend all their lectures! We will never forget our time here at Sydney University."
Contact: Katynna Gill
Phone: 02 9351 6997