世界で活躍するグローバル・リーダーを 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が記載されていますので、是非最後まで頑張って読んでいきましょう！
- While women in STEM are still scarce (in Japan), you graduated university with a degree in science and engineering. How did you become interested in the field of math and science during your childhood?
I’ve always loved mathematics and never thought about anything else but math as a child. As for science, however, I actually loved social studies more, so there wasn’t much of a connection between my favorite subject and my career path. If you think about it, mathematics is quite simple in that you derive an answer by thinking logically and following the rules, which I found fascinating. I find mathematics to be a very linguistic discipline. I liked the feeling that there is a “language” unique to mathematics and you come to an answer connected by this language. There is always a logic behind how things work and since I’m a stickler for moving according to the rules, I was also interested in physics and chemistry. As for pursuing a degree in science and engineering as a female, I was never really conscious about it since I went to an all-girls school until high school.
- How do you think your father, the head of Shibuya Kyoiku Gakuen and a famous educator, Dr. Tetsuo Tamura, influenced your education as well as your career?
I’m often asked this question, but the truth is, my father and I have never discussed my education and career paths. My father was rarely home, and during summer vacation he would sometimes be away for a month at a time. Because of this upbringing, I have always thought that this is what having a career is like. My father frequently talked about his work in education, but he never told me what I should do. He did advise me to acquire a teacher’s license but was surprised when I actually became a teacher. I entered the workforce during the bubble economy and right after the Equal Employment Opportunity Law was passed, so job hunting made me extremely excited. In such an environment, I felt my future path had expanded, and I knew I wanted to pursue a career during my university years.
- What kind of English education did you receive before entering university?
Starting from my early years of elementary school, we had English communication lessons with native English teachers. In retrospect, I realize that the school focused on the four English core skills—reading, writing, speaking, listening—and I was able to actively engage in the learning process. Thanks to this experience, I was able to take part in listening and other tests starting from my elementary school years without any reluctance.
I enjoyed learning English using this practical speaking method and using the language as a tool. While I was in tenth grade, I was also able to experience a month in Cleveland, Ohio through a homestay program. This is an experience I still relish today. Even now, I still have opportunities to utilize my English abilities through my interactions with The British School in Tokyo and during a training session in Australia.
- Since becoming a coeducational junior and senior high school in 1996, Shibuya Kyoiku Gakuen has become a top global educational institution within a short period of time, producing graduates who have matriculated to top universities around the world. What education reforms have you implemented to achieve this?
In 1996, about ten years after Shibuya Kyoiku Gakuen Makuhari School (Shibu Maku) was established, Shibuya Kyoiku Gakuen Shibuya Junior High School (Shibu Shibu) opened as an integrated junior and senior high school. Despite instantaneously deciding that the schools would be co-ed and that the focus would be on self-directed learning, we had to carefully consider how to explain the difference between Shibu Maku and Shibu Shibu: Shibu Maku is a suburban school with a very large campus and premises; on the other hand, Shibu Shibu’s strengths lie in its location and accessibility, so we decided to leverage these aspects to further enhance our international education and English programs.
To achieve this, we have introduced two things: The first is our interactions with the neighboring British School in Tokyo. Since we are close neighbors, we thought, is there something interesting we could do together? The second is administering two distinct entrance examinations for returnee students, where one exam is offered completely in English. Students who pass the English test and are admitted to the school receive six years of education using English as their first language. When students return to Japan, many of them have difficulties maintaining their English language skills, so we decided to establish non-ESL classes with the aim of providing an education that would help these students retain their language skills.
The other test format we offer is to write an essay in Japanese. At that time, Shibuya Makuhari Senior High School in Singapore (now, Waseda Shibuya Senior High School in Singapore) had just been established, and we saw many returnee students coming back to Japan from non-English speaking countries. Those students were generally fluent in English, but it was not their first language. There were also students who went to Japanese schools in their host countries, or who had only stayed abroad for a short period of time. We wanted those students to consider their experiences living abroad as positive and valuable to their lives. We wanted them to be proud of the fact that they are returnee students, and hence, we implemented an exam that does not necessarily emphasize English aptitude.
At our school, we guide our students not to deny foreign cultures or where they come from. We tell them not to impose on others the mentality that “the Japanese way is correct, and that (your) country’s is wrong.” In the future, when students deal with business partners from around the world, not being open-minded to other cultures could have a negative impact. Of course, having a Japanese identity is just as important and there is much that can be learned from the Japanese way of thinking, but our goal since the inception of our school has been for our students to be aware that there are many other values that exist in the world.
This of course came with some challenges in the initial stages. Some returnee students were unfamiliar with the custom of cleaning duty at school. They often asked why we needed to clean our own school. Apart from it being a tradition, it is a component of Buddhism. In Mahayana Buddhism, there is a belief that everything in daily life is a form of ascetic practice. I would say that this is similar to the Christian belief of “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” where rather than forcing someone else to do the hard work, it is considered very important to create and take care of one’s own place. Thus, we teach our students that it is necessary to clean their own classroom for their personal use as well as for the benefit of others. On the other hand, students at The British School in Tokyo do not clean their classrooms. Instead, the staff members oversee cleaning and it is considered part of their job. These are merely cultural differences, but it would be rather surprising if we didn’t know the historical context behind it.
- What initiatives do you think are necessary to further facilitate global education in Japan, by both schools and the government?
What this country needs is to establish a clear vision for the foreseeable future. Currently in Japan, issues such as the declining birth rate, aging population, and carbon neutrality are actively being discussed. The reality is, though efforts are being promoted within companies or organizations, the government has merely taken on the role of bystander to these efforts. Schools are influenced by society to a certain extent, and we expect students to thrive in society in the future. Thus, it is essential to set up a vision for them that they will want to pursue. It would be ideal to come up with a clear roadmap for them to follow and to have a clear vision of what kind of country Japan could become. For example, at present we do not yet know what sort of inconveniences we may face in our daily lives should we aim to reduce carbon emissions to zero, and what we may gain in exchange.
The young generation sees these issues as their own. Policies for the future will affect them, so they do respond positively when we raise those issues. At the recent “SOLA 2022” (Shibuya Olympiad in Liberal Arts 2022) event, we carried out a variety of SDG-themed projects in which many of our junior high school students actively participated. We see that these issues are of high concern to today’s younger generation.
Global education is often regarded as something separate from other types of education, but my vision is for students to fully understand it and use it in the future once they’re out in the real world. It is not something that should be treated as a mere subject in school. For example, I think the issues often discussed in Japanese language classes affect not only Japan but the whole world. And in social studies class, students learn world history as well as world geography. I regard this global perspective as a more balanced method of learning.
On that note, I recognize that there are many opinions about the Japanese education system, but it is not so bad as you may think. The main issue is that each subject is presented as an independent subject, rather than being interdisciplinary. When reading English or Japanese language textbooks, wouldn’t it be easier for students to understand if they have preexisting geography or history knowledge? Conversely, the ability to utilize the Japanese language should not be limited only to Japanese classes. I feel that our approach to this issue is rather weak.
In addition, what schools should focus on now is shifting the balance between output and input. The current trend is to increase output, whereas in the past there was a great deal of input. However, without sufficient input, you really can’t expect great output. Even in English, you can’t speak it without hearing it, or writing it without reading it. Moreover, output takes a lot of time, while that time could be spent on input. I believe that teachers are struggling to balance between the two.
- As an educator, what do you value when teaching and interacting with your students?
I place particular importance on the fact that students should be responsible for their own life and that it is their own. It is not something that someone else can decide for them. It all comes down to how they design their own life, hence, our school’s doctrine of “Actively Search and Proactively Think (Jicho Jiko).”
Our educators, including myself, tend to focus on talking more than listening, so we consciously try to listen more to our students. In other words, we strive to attentively listen and to only try to offer advice. Ideally, the students themselves (should) have the answers, so as listeners, it is our job to strategically extract it out from them. And really, the students are heavily experienced in listening, so they already know what they are being told by their teachers. Through speaking, students are able to organize their own thoughts, so it is important to provide the stage for them to speak their minds.
- There are many issues that need to be solved in this world. What do you think the younger generation should be aware of in the future in order to solve them? How do you think we should be educating our next generation?
I would say that students need to learn to tolerate uncomfortable situations or environments. In other words, to deal with a world where the Internet has become exceedingly pervasive in our society. On the Internet, it is easy to be immersed in an environment where one can collect only comfortable information. It is easy to be misled on the Internet, where information is provided for free before one can even search for it; this creates the false impression that all the world’s questions have been settled. If people are exposed to such an environment from such an early age, it will be difficult for them to interact with those that have different values in the future.
Yes, there are advantages to the Internet, which allows us to connect with people from all over the world, and I hope people make good use of this aspect of the Internet. I, of course, do not condemn interactions through the Internet—it’s a reality that we can’t live without—but my hope is for people not to be averse to having conversations and interactions in different ways as well.
We really can’t say whether the Internet of the future will become a magical tool for connecting people or something that will breed divisions, so it is vital to have the ability to think critically. In my opinion, critical thinking essentially means having multiple perspectives on things. It is the ability to think critically of one’s own opinions after repeatedly examining whether there are other perspectives.
Furthermore, while it is essential to nurture the next generation, I believe we need to change our current generation as well. We should not have to rely on the next generation to change things, and there are many things that need to start with us. We must not allow ourselves to become a society that turns our back on our future generations. The 70 years since the end of World War II have been a unique yet changeless period. This is actually quite a rare case when compared with other nations, and we really need to shift our mindset to keep up with the rapid changes we have had to deal with in the 21st century. For example, when COVID comes to an end, we need to anticipate other infectious diseases that may spread in the future. Instead of focusing on reverting back to pre-COVID days, we need to build a society that will not be complacent and will be able to respond to change.
- Who do you respect as a global leader?
I do respect my father very much, who as the head of our school made it what it is today by always looking into the future.
I also respect the U.K.’s ambassador to Japan, Ms. Julia Longbottom, who is the most fascinating person I have ever spoken with. Ambassador Longbottom is the first female British ambassador to Japan and has a strong interest in the field of education, serving on the board of directors at Shibuya Kyoiku Gakuen during her tenure as the Deputy Head of Mission at the British Embassy. She has contributed greatly to our counterpart school, The British School in Tokyo, where we had the opportunity to really get acquainted. Ambassador Longbottom is also extremely fluent in Japanese, has deep interest in our culture, and possesses an extremely broad perspective, especially on issues of gender equality, often enlightening me of the gap between the global standard and Japan.
- A message to the young generation who aspire to become future global leaders:
Children today are very earnest. That is why we can have high expectations for their future, but I worry that they may push themselves too far because of their earnestness.
It is difficult for us humans to live on our own, but when we come together as a group, we’re interesting beings that can exhibit tremendous strength. Contrarily, we become weak if we’re not in a group. I think it is natural for young people to isolate themselves a bit and worry about their own problems, but I would like to remind them that ultimately we depend on each other and every individual is irreplaceable. It is comforting to see our students working so hard to achieve their goals, but that does not mean that the worth of your life is measured by your skillset. Everyone’s life is inherently valuable.
Just remember not to utilize your strength just for yourself. Chances are, you will hit a wall—try and use that for the benefit of others. Taking care of others and taking care of yourself are two sides of the same coin, and thus should not be in opposition to one another. By valuing both, I believe that our people and society will become stronger than ever!