“Let’s start with the things we CAN change”: Discussing the impact of COVID-19 on the Education Industry in Japan and imagining what the future holds
Our lives have been affected in so many ways by this coronavirus pandemic, but how has the education industry in particular changed and how can we support the next generation in this new reality?
On Sunday, August 16, 2020, four speakers came together to discuss the impact of COVID-19 on the educational industry in Japan. We heard from these four speakers at the TOMODACHI Generation Summit in September 2019, before the pandemic outbreak began, where they discussed the education industry in Japan from local, federal, entrepreneurial, and technological perspectives. We brought them back together once again for a virtual conversation on the new and current challenges and opportunities that COVID-19 has presented, with a total of 109 attendees joining the webinar.
The discussion touched upon the resilience of the educational sector, but also highlighted that this is the perfect time to really push the envelope and change the archaic way things have been done in this industry in Japan. “We need to act as if the rules of the game have changed” said Yasutomo Sanui of Life Is Tech! and “Our circumstances bring light to new knowledge and skills” said Noriko Kadonome of DO-IT Japan (University of Tokyo) who runs a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting people with disabilities.
Sarah Arao, Regional Mentor of Okinawa Region under the TOMODACHI RISE Leadership Program, who teaches at an elementary school in Okinawa, moderated the panel and raised some excellent points on how educators need to adapt and be educated, and how we need to take care of not just the physical health but the emotional wellbeing of students AND educators alike.
During the panel discussion, Noriko Kadonome mentioned how doing things virtually lowers the bar for some people with disabilities and actually becomes an equalizer. There will be other disparities and other disabilities that may arise with doing things in a different medium than before, but according to her what’s important now is being able to acknowledge the good parts of our current situation.
Tomoko Nishikawa, PR Leader of TOBITATE Japan supported by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, said that this COVID situation has helped create more transparency, especially with what the Ministry has been doing. Her team has been encouraging schools and districts to be more proactive and creative in their approach to find ways to improve the system and educational initiatives for their students by starting with the things they CAN change.
To kick off the event, the President and CEO of the U.S.-Japan Council, Suzanne Basalla, made Welcome Remarks, and Education and Exchanges Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo, Grace Choi, made Opening Remarks and spoke about the resilience of the education industry in both the U.S. and Japan and to the importance of study abroad and the personal connections and enormous individual contributions that international students make to their communities abroad and at home upon return.
From the post-program survey, 72.7% of attendees answered that they were satisfied or very satisfied, and 68.2% said their understanding of the current situation had changed due to the webinar. One of the participants commented “It was a great opportunity for me to hear from professionals on the front lines, and I learned a lot.” Another participant commented, “My parent is also a junior high school teacher and she was struggling with taking classes online. By participating in the webinar today, I was able to get some hints and ideas on how to better manage this situation.”