Hachioji teacher closes in on global education award

Staff Report

An English teacher from Hachioji in western Tokyo is edging closer to becoming the first Japanese to win the annual Global Teacher Prize after the shortlist was narrowed down to ten finalists.

The award, dubbed the “Nobel Prize for education,” honors teachers who make major contributions to their profession and society with a $1 million reward.

When Kazuya Takahashi, 35, of Kogakuin University Junior and Senior High School found out he had made the list last fall, it was 50 names long. Now he’s in the top 10.

“In a society where many students are channeled into a pre-determined career, Kazuya Takahshi’s pupils often take a different path,” the award committee said in its citation. “His innovative teaching methods are designed to develop creativity and independent thinking.”

The first-ever nominee from Japan was selected from 8,000 candidates representing 148 countries.

Takahashi has translated English educational software into Japanese to improve communication with students, their parents and other teachers. He also encourages children to think independently, engaging them in fieldwork on social issues in other countries, such as Indonesia.

The winner will be announced at the Global Education and Skills Forum in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on March 13. The prize was created by — and is sponsored by — the nonprofit Varkey Foundation, which is trying to raise the status of teachers.

If he wins, Takahashi says he would use the prize money to establish a foundation for students in Tohoku struggling with the legacy of the 2011 quake and tsunami. He also hopes to establish his own school someday.

The revised list was disclosed Wednesday. Other finalists include teachers dedicated to female education or promoting peace in conflict zones.