Mainichi Shimbun interview

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An interview article was posted in the Oct 4th morning edition of a major Japanese newspaper, Mainichi Shimbun (Article link here). English translation is below.

Better Education Environment for Children

Project established on Ogijima. Parents explore improvements

Ogijima, an island in the Setouchi Sea. The parents of the only elementary and secondary school on the island, have established the ‘Ogijima, Future Education Project’ and begun to look at providing quality education environment for children. It is a challenge which involves finding both the challenges and improvements of the current public eduction system (from the parent’s perspective), and working with the school.

Familes moving to Ogijima established the project

Due to a decrease of students, the elementary school on the island closed in 2008 and the secondary school closed in 2011. However, because of an increase in families living on Ogijima, it reopened in April 2014. Currently there are 7 students (6 elementary school and 1 secondary school) at the school, all have moved to Ogijima in the last few years.

The ‘Ogijima, Future Education Project’ was established by Shinichi and Mariko Nishikawa, and Elizabeth Schroder. The Nishikawa family moved three years ago from Thailand, and the Schroder family from California this February.

Movie was the trigger

One of the reasons the project began was a showing of the film, Most Likely To Succeed, which was shown in the U.S. in 2015. It is an education documentary based on a story of a school in the U.S. that introduced an evolutionary education program looking ahead to the age of A.I. In Japan film is only shown by individuals who have purchased the license, and has been resonating with it’s audience. The Nishikawas planned the film showing in June on Ogijima, which parents from the island and the headmaster of the school attended. It was followed by an exciting discussion as parents shared their comments on the film and talked about education in Japan.

There are options

The high school introduced in the film has no textbooks or tests. What is taught in the classroom is up to the individual teacher, and the class works to create a drama or other project. It aims to cultivate ‘Critical thinking skills’ and ‘communication’, a completely different learning experience from current education.

One of the planners, Ms. Schroder, who has experience working with children with disabilities and teaching in special education, stated “I want to create an awareness that there are different options for education.”

The current education in Japan is structured by a curriculum based on Courses of Study, and a simultaneous class. The film is one example of U.S education, but the aim was to let people know that there are various possibilities in education. In fact, it has lead to a continuous activity among the parents, who wanted to ‘do something new’.

How to use the morning time

Currently, the usage of morning time in school is one of the issues considered by the members of the project. The teachers of the school in Ogijima arrive by ferry from Takamatsu city and therefore the class begins at 8:50, slightly later than other schools in area. However, the students are expected to arrive at school by 8:00 and work on worksheets, or reading.

Mariko says “We are thinking of doing some other things in this morning time”. Members are now talking to school about using time to work on project based learning rather than subject learning.

School welcomes ideas

Mr. Mizobuchi, the headmaster of the school, welcomes the proposals from parents. “It is a good thing that there are people with different thoughts. The school should understand parents’ thoughts.” The school’s position is to explore improving education together by being open and listening, even though it may be difficult to change the current education immediately.
Mariko states ”We are working to find a landing point where we can both agree over time.” A big challenge on a small island, but it is moving forward step by step.