Across the Asia Pacific region, the flow of goods, people and ideas is growing at an increasing rate. Nowhere is this movement more pronounced than in the area of education.
In 2008, the Japanese government under Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda launched the “300,000 Foreign Students Plan” campaign in order to attract more talent from abroad and spur innovation within the country. To date, Japan has about 216,000 and is on track to reaching its target.
Shifting demographics within Japan and increasing technological competition from its neighbors are some of the challenges that Japan is facing. Aware of the need to adapt to a fast changing world, the country’s largest education group sees its schools as a crucial player in raising the country’s living and working attractiveness.
For Tsuzuki Education Group Chancellor Kimiko Tsuzuki, the task of forming 21st century minds is both challenging and exciting: “Japanese society is at a crossroads. We need to ask: How do we welcome new talent? What ideas will propel Japan forward? At the same time, how can Japan’s unique fusion of tradition and innovation impact the world?”
Origin: From tradition
Composed of some 37 schools and campuses offering primary education until graduate level studies across the country, two philanthropic foundations, and supporting education in developing countries such as in Africa, the 60-year-old organization has evolved throughout the years to meet the needs of Japanese society. Today, the Tsuzuki Education Group aims for its universities to be both centers of excellence within the Asia Pacific region, and to contribute to the present and future needs of Japan.
Founded on its philosophy of “Training for Life through Development of Personality,” Tsuzuki Education Group, as it faces new challenges in a fast-changing world, has adopted the principle of Wakon Eisai or “Japanese Spirit and Talented Scholar.”
“It is about striving for constant learning and openness to the world without having to sacrifice what it is to be Japanese,” Vice Chancellor Asuka Tsuzuki explained.
Six of its universities, for example, each specialize in pharmacology, economics, technology, and social and medical welfare. For pharmacology, what they uniquely offer are qualifications on traditional medicine and an education that fuses the best of Western and Eastern medicine. Graduates from the Yokohama, Daiichi, and Japan University of Pharmacology receive certification in western pharmacy and also have competent knowledge with traditional medicines.
“This reflects in a specific field the wider philosophy of the group to retain the best of Japanese traditional culture and combine it with the best practice and knowledge of the wider worlds.”
Kimiko Tsuzuki also said: “We adopted this motto as the group celebrated its 60th year anniversary in 2016. It reflects the idea that globalization is not a one-way affair where Japan accepts simply innovation from the outside. Through Japan’s social and economic advances, we think Japan’s ancient culture can become a stabilizing influence throughout the region.”
The number of the schools’ overseas students reflects the international character of the group. Over 5,000 foreign students from more than 30 countries consider Tsuzuki Education Group’s schools their home in Japan, and they bring back the experiences they gained in Japan that benefit their home countries. “We make sure they receive the best support from our high caliber faculty, state-of-the-art facilities and prestigious international partnerships, such as those with our partners in Cambridge and Oxford universities,” Kimiko Tsuzuki said.
For example, Japan University of Economics (JUE) sends its English language students and researchers to St. Anne’s College in Oxford and Fitzwilliam College in Cambridge to learn English in its country of origin as part of its Research of Original Schools of English Program (ROSE).
Through the Tsuzuki Scholarship Program (TSP), the group has given some Oxford and Cambridge students the opportunity to study Japanese culture and language in Japan for a full year. In the 20 years since the program began, more than 200 students have benefitted from this opportunity, viewed as an effective cultural bridge between Europe and Japan.
In fact, situated in the JUE Campus is the English Garden, a symbol of partnership and friendship between England and Japan, and marked the beginning of the relationship with St. Anne’s College Oxford and Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge. With around 100,000 roses spread across 100,000 square meters, the English Garden is also, in a way, the physical manifestation of the Wakon Eisai spirit through the fusion of Western and Eastern design and approach.
One of Tsuzuki Education Group’s most interesting and innovative projects that embodies “Wakon Eisai” is Linden Hall (LH). The school follows the Japanese curriculum but conducts its classes in English. The combined approach provides students with all the skills, language included, sought by any good IB World school, as well as a substantial foundation in their own language and culture such as Zen Buddihism. Many graduates of LH have been accepted to Ivy League schools in the United States, Russell Group universities in the UK, and top national and private universities in Japan.
Japan’s elites have held on to the bunbu-ry?d? ethic, which values martial and cultural skills and achievement.
“We at Linden teach the various traditional arts with this very much in mind. At the same time, the students hone the language skills to acquire and contribute to knowledge around the world,” she explained.
Promoting a unique civilization
In his bestselling, critically acclaimed book “The Clash of Civilizations,” Harvard professor Samuel Huntington accorded Japanese civilization a status unique from that of neighboring China.
The Tsuzuki Education Group established the Japanese Civilization Institute, whose fields of studies fall into five categories: Ideology, Philosophy and Ethics; Economy and Management; Industrial Art and Technology; Medicine; Politics and Religion. Its goal is to study Japanese civilization and pass it to people in and outside Japan.
By disseminating the conclusions of its studies, the group hopes to be making its own contribution to efforts to promote peace and development in Japan and the outside world.
Destination: To the Future
The 1964 Tokyo Olympics marked the rebirth of Japan as an economic power and technological pioneer as the event coincided with the inauguration of the shinkansen or bullet train, the world’s first high speed train.
“The next Olympics in 2020 will happen at a time Japan sees itself as more comfortable and more confident in its role as a benevolent economic power. Through our Wakon Eisai philosophy, our students learn the value of individuality and independence and become more comfortable in welcoming change while being confident in Japan’s perennial traditions as a force for good,” Kimiko Tsuzuki said.
For Asuka Tsuzuki, the question about Japan’s future is closely tied to how Japan molds the minds of its youth: “What is the future of Japan’s universities? What kind of social space will make the students flourish in their own right? Forming independence has been our teaching principle for 60 years. We will enhance this through cutting edge innovation, new paradigms of learning and a fresh approach to the world.”