On August 16, four panelists came together for a virtual discussion on the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the education industry in Japan. The event welcomed 88 participants, who together explored the resilience of the education sector and how the disruption caused by COVID-19 may offer an opportunity for the education industry to break away from antiquated systems and venture into new ways of engaging students.
Featured panelists included Noriko Kadonome (Program Manager, DO-IT Japan, University of Tokyo), Yasutomo Sanui (Director, Life Is Tech, Inc.) and Tomoko Nishikawa (PR Leader, TOBITATE Study Abroad Initiative, MEXT). Sarah Arao, TOMODACHI Okinawa Regional Mentor, moderated the discussion.
The panelists emphasized their belief in the necessity for change, and their optimism for the future. “We need to act as if the rules of the game have changed,” said Mr. Sanui. Recognizing a silver lining in the current pandemic, Ms. Kadonome similarly remarked, “Our circumstances bring light to new knowledge and skills.” Ms. Arao, who teaches elementary school kids in Okinawa, remarked that educators need to also adapt and be educated, and the importance of caring for not only the physical but also the emotional health of students and educators alike.
The discussion explored how virtual education can also act as an equalizer for some people with disabilities. While virtual education can lead to other disparities, it is necessary to examine some of the advantages it offers in reaching and engaging students in new ways. Additionally, Ms. Nishikawa said that the pandemic has helped create more transparency within the education industry, especially in regard to the work of the Ministry of Education. They have been encouraging schools and districts to be more proactive and creative in their approach to finding ways to improve the system and educational initiatives for their students by starting with the things they have the ability to change.
USJC President & CEO Suzanne Basalla and Grace Choi (Education and Exchanges Officer, Public Affairs Section, U.S. Embassy Tokyo) also offered remarks. Ms. Choi spoke about the strength of the education industry in both the United States and Japan, as well as the importance of study abroad and how much international students contribute to their communities abroad and at home.
This webinar is available to watch online here.