Globalizing Universities

Frontline of global education

Accepting diverse values is essential for being global human resources

Q: Ms. Fujisawa, you were nominated to the Young Global Leaders in 2007 by the World Economic Forum and are involved in many activities. What kind of people do you think are global human resources?

A: Briefly, global human resources are people who recognize that diverse values exist. They accept the fact that society is full of different ideas, put together a team of people with different ideas and lead that team to realize the change or goal they want, instead of insisting that their own ideas are the only ones.

Leading does not always mean having the charisma to lead others. Recently, the term “servant leadership” has become more common. I feel the people needed are those who care about their team members and can motivate them to work without having to order them.

Although such leaders do not want to be rich or famous, they have a strong desire to solve social problems, allowing them to attract many supporters.

Q: We can say they are the people who can introduce universal value when people with different values work together. Meanwhile, in the ever diversifying society, “personality,” or “being yourself,” can also be important. Do you agree?

Kumi Fujisawa, Think tank Sophiabank co-founder
Kumi Fujisawa, Think tank Sophiabank co-founder

Having worked for Japanese and non-Japanese asset management companies, Fujisawa established a company to assess mutual funds in 1996, the first company of its kind in Japan. In 1999, she sold the company to Standard & Poors. In 2000, she cofounded Sophiabank think tank, of which she became the representative director of in 2013. She was nominated to the Young Global Leaders in 2007 and to the Global Agenda Council in 2008 by the World Economic Forum (Davos Conference).

She has also held many public positions, having been a member of the Information and Communication Council, the Panel on Infrastructure Development and other committees in the Financial Services Agency; the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry; the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications; and the Cabinet Office. Last year, she joined the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology to work on the establishment of a platform to promote studying abroad through the collaboration of the public and private sectors.

A: Exactly. Nothing new is born out of something homogeneous. Those who accept diverse values think their own values are equally important. It’s important for those who grew up in Japan to understand value of Japanese history and culture.

I was often the only Japanese person at Young Global Leaders meetings and I was often asked my views on religion. We were asked to give our own opinions, rather than just repeating a socially acceptable answer.

Also, I often realize strengths of Japan when I am out of Japan. For example, Japan has more than 20,000 companies that were established more than 100 years ago. No other country is like this. We should be proud of Japan’s long history and deep culture.

English is merely a tool, but the skill to use it is necessary

Q: English is one of the conditions required to be a global human resource. However, some say English is merely a tool. What is your view?

A: While it is true that English is just a tool for communication, the ability to use that tool is necessary.

I often go to developing countries in Africa and the Middle East. They have a very strong focus on English education. For example, Rwanda has added English as a mandatory language to learn, along with French and its own language.

The country’s poor educational infrastructure is the reason behind the move. As there are a limited number of teachers, the thinking is that if students understand English, Rwanda can invite teachers from overseas and offer Internet classes taught by foreign teachers.

While visiting a school there, the children spoke to us in broken English. They told us their homes had no electricity or water, but at school, there are PCs and smartphones they can use to access top universities. I look forward to seeing what kind of adults they will be when they grow up.

At one Saudi Arabian women’s university, the entrance exam doesn’t have many English questions, but students with low English ability must take one year of English before beginning freshman classes. Thus, all teachers and students in the university can speak English. The school invites Nobel Prize winners and presidents of famous companies as lecturers. The lectures are presented without an interpreter and students participate in Q&A sessions. I hope Japan will have something similar one day.

If you go abroad, do things you can’t do at home

Q: It’s thought to be valuable to live abroad while young. An increasing number of Japanese universities are starting to offer study-abroad programs. What do you think the point of studying abroad is?

A: I think the most important thing is to experience something real. I’m not saying short-term language training programs are no good, but it will not be beneficial if the class is full of Japanese and the main reason for studying abroad becomes pleasure rather than study.

In that sense, internships, research and other programs that let students have first-hand experiences are effective. It is essential to plan what you do abroad and use your experience after returning to Japan.

I have been helping the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology to establish a system to support studying abroad since November. The project is named “Tobitate! Ryugaku Japan” (Go abroad! Study Overseas, Japan). Many companies support the project financially as well as in other ways such as assessing scholarship applications for students who want to study abroad, planning programs and providing training for students before and after studying abroad. This is an unprecedented project.

The first batch of students go abroad in August. I hope we can provide many students with the chance to live abroad.

Q: What do you expect universities to do to create global human resources?

A: I want Japanese universities to promote not only student exchanges, but also teacher exchanges with institutions abroad. Universities should invite professors from top universities overseas and send their professors overseas to give lectures. I want to see more of that happening.

There is a global trend of universities streaming their lectures for free online, a practice called MOOCs, or Massive Open Online Courses. To increase the number of foreign students who want to study in Japan, Japanese universities should do better PR and solidly establish themselves in the world.

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