A truly global education: Minoru Kasuya visits Prague College
by Alex Went, on 31 May 2017 12:23:52 CEST
Minoru Kasuya, a member of Prague College's Independent Advisory Board, has been involved in higher education for many years. Having studied law at the University of Tokyo, he was seconded to the Auckland office of the Japan External Trade Organisation (JETRO) from where he became involved in a project to found International Pacific College in Palmerston North, New Zealand.
After acting as CEO of the college for twenty years (and receiving the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to education along the way), Minoru is now Chairman and CEO of the Japan-based Educational Research Foundation. We are always delighted to see him when he travels to Europe, and especially when he visits Prague College.
Minoru, what have you been doing this week?
I've been attending a conference run by the British Council in London called 'Going Global', which this year took as its theme universities and cities - and how each can contribute to the other. Last November, oddly enough, I was in Budapest at a very similar event run by ACA (Academic Cooperation Association) called 'UniverCities' . Both were fascinating, although the Budapest event was attended by representatives of the cities as well as the universities, which better captured the idea of community engagement!
What are universities for?
Back in the 1980s, before the decline in the student-age population, there were over 2 million potential students in Japan, and therefore more of an incentive to study abroad. We set up International Pacific College in 1990 to meet that demand, and it was very successful. The Japanese students had the experience of studying in another country, and the local New Zealanders were able to meet and be taught about Japanese culture. Today, more than 30 nationalities attend the college.
This is an example of what I think universities should be about: I believe that university education should be holistic. It's not just to do with going to college to study a subject, but much more than that - it's to do with engagement and learning from each other. The most important people in a university are the students and staff, and as long as they are happy, the university will do well.
And what about online courses?
If you mean MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses), I'm certainly not against them. I think they have their own audience - they offer particular opportunities to many people and create a great international community in their own right. People subscribe to MOOCs to gain new knowledge. But skills - I mean practical skills - these can only really be developed in the classroom. I don't think we have seen the end of traditional universities by any means.
What are your immediate plans for the Educational Research Foundation?
We're running a number of seminars this year. In October the theme is Education and International Development, and we will be inviting a senior lecturer from the UCL Institute of Education (whose alumni in Japan I represent). We also run education fairs to give junior high school students information on senior high schools every July. Every year about six thousand students and parents attend the fair.
Minoru, thanks for talking to us, and enjoy the rest of your visit to Prague!