Boarding school in Japan seeks to produce tomorrow’s global leaders

Kyodo

A new international boarding school aims to foster the next generation of global leaders in a unique setting.

The International School of Asia, Karuizawa opened its three-year boarding program on Sunday, on a campus in the resort town of Karuizawa, Nagano Prefecture.

Of the inaugural group of 49 first-year students starting classes on Monday, 18 are from Japan and the rest hail from 14 countries around the world. This diverse student body and the fully residential nature of the school make it unique in Japan, ISAK’s founder and board Chairman Lin Kobayashi said at the opening ceremony Sunday.

The students will be well prepared to attend top universities anywhere in the world, as well as in Japan, Kobayashi said.

Culturally competent young people are in demand in Japan, with the creation of “global human resources” dominating recent discussion of how to revitalize the economy and prevent the country from being left behind in an ever-globalizing world.

Education minister Hakubun Shimomura, attending the opening ceremony, said the school is the perfect place to foster the government’s goals of globalizing the education on offer in Japan. “I hope this school can go down in history as a place that nurtures those people who change the world and contribute to humanity,” Shimomura said. The Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry, which aims to increase the number of exchange students studying in Japan, has earmarked support for “Super Global High Schools” and “Super Global Universities” around the country which have global outlooks and special programs.

“This school serves as an ideal symbol of what we are trying to do,” Shimomura said.

ISAK’s classes are all in English, while Japanese language is a mandatory subject. In addition to a conventional education towards the International Baccalaureate Diploma, students will also receive training in leadership skills, design innovation and cultural competency.

The school focuses on leadership as a skill to be learned, rather than an inherent trait, Kobayashi said.

“Through our program of ‘Leadership by Design’, we can foster leaders who will add new value to society,” she said.

Fully residential high schools, a fixture of elite education in the United States and Britain, are extremely rare in Japan.

These benefits come at a price — annual tuition costs ¥3.5 million, of which ¥1 million is the cost of accommodation. But with support from a range of donors, the school offers scholarships to roughly half of its students, with 56 percent of this year’s students receiving full or partial scholarships.

“Through living together with people who differ not only in nationality, but also in social and economic backgrounds, we can foster students who both welcome diversity and make the best of it,” Kobayashi said.

The idea for the school came from the success of a 10-day summer school program which has been running in Karuizawa since 2010. About a third of the new students are alumni of the summer school, while some learned about the school on Facebook.

As with the summer school, ISAK’s boarding students will sleep two or four to a room, eat each meal together, and participate in extra-curricular activities in Nagano Prefecture and elsewhere in Japan.

Nagano Gov. Shuichi Abe said at the opening ceremony his prefecture will continue to support the school.

“I’m honored that the leaders of the world in 10 or 20 years’ time will be able to call Karuizawa their second home,” Abe said.

ISAK will take on a new class of around 50 first-year students each year, to have all three years of the curriculum running by 2016.

Online applications for 2015′s intake start in October.