世界で活躍するグローバル・リーダーに bimonthly (隔月ごと）にYGCでインタビューしていきます。全て英語でインタビューを行いますので、是非最後まで頑張って読んでいきましょう！
- When you were teaching at Harvard, what key differences did you notice between the U.S. and Japanese Education systems?
There are distinct educational differences among students according to their ages. I taught graduate students at Harvard and I can tell you that there were many differences in postgraduate educations. One of the key differences was that students in the U.S do not take their graduations as granted. Graduating from a university takes much more effort than getting an admission into it. At Harvard, professors are given the authority of giving out credits, as well as granting a degree. Therefore, for us professors to accredit a degree, we were obligated to fairly exercise the authorities while the students were required to supersede the standards we set. It was then inevitable for the professors to keep track of every student carefully in order to evaluate them appropriately and to assist students who were falling behind. On top of that we had accountability as inadequate guidance could lead to litigation.
The title of the course I instructed was, “Exposure Assessment and Analytical Chemistry.” We observed the amount of environmental pollutants people absorbed into their body every day through analytical chemistry and field work. It has been 30 years since I initiated this course and to this day, it is still being taught at Harvard.
- What are some differences in academic skills between students in Japan and students in the U.S.?
During the first year of college, students in Japan are much more mature and have a stronger back bone in academics. However, students in the U.S grow exponentially during their time at college. Students are required to thoroughly dedicate their times to their studies and study at least 60 hours a week to enable for them to graduate. This intensive workload allows students in the U.S to become more mature and have higher levels of academic knowledge by the time they graduate. Furthermore, living on their own gives them strong independence and opportunity to immerse themselves into the flow of society. In my opinion, by the time of their graduations, students in the U.S have out beaten the students in Japan in terms of maturity level.
- What do students in Japan seem to lack?
I believe that Japan has the highest level of secondary education in the world. Yet, this level falls during the 4 years of college life, which is a major problem in the Japanese educational system. This problem originates from the assumption by the students that graduation perceived as something already granted to them at the time they enter universities. In other words, professors are not fully, strictly exercising their authorities to grant degrees and credits, thus creating a gap in the Japanese educational system.
- What were some of the difficulties you have had when teaching abroad?
Spoken language was without doubt the most difficult. In communicating one’s knowledge and intentions, it is ideal to conduct lectures with language fluency and clarity of the theoretical framework. It is therefore important to choose specific words that reflect what you construct in your logic. I guess in some ways, words are the train that carries out the logic. I struggled to teach my lectures in fluent English so I improvised by using presentation slides to visually convey the theoretical frameworks. At times, it is possible to communicate merely through written language without the presence of language fluency, so long as the basic skills of speaking, writing, reading and listening are intact.
- Among many Universities in the U.S., what triggered you to become a professor at Harvard University?
It all started when I worked in the United States, away from home. After I completed my doctoral degree, I conducted surveys using a measuring instrument that I have invented and patented back then. The results, beyond my expectation turned out to be very popular, enabling me to want to continue my research in the field of environmental pollution in Japan. However, this was all during the high economic growth and companies in Japan were not that enthusiastic in funding my research. I then turned to the international committee by publishing a research paper, which in no time the California Institute of Technology and Harvard University showed interests in my paper. I chose to teach at Harvard due to its higher research funding and progress. Just before this, I was actually managing and teaching at a cram school for Kaisei Junior and Senior High School (“Kaisei”) students while undergoing my research!