Students dealt real-life problems to broaden outlook

Chunichi Shimbun

The School of Foreign Studies at Aichi Prefectural University in the city of Nagakute invited Tatsuo Hirase, the head of the business promotion office at the Chubu branch of Mitsui & Co., to hold a special two-day marketing session in June.

This latest business-academia collaboration was organized as part of an effort to nurture students to be more global-minded. A total of 34 freshmen and sophomores took part, learning about real business cases handled by a trading company, such as coming up with marketing strategies for automobiles and smartphones.

“Imagine you’re on the sales team at Toyota Motor Corp. and you’re trying to sell Lexus cars in Thailand. How would you market the product?” Hirase asked the class on the first day.

Hirase, 49, has experience marketing automobiles in the Philippines and the Netherlands.

He also asked other questions, such as “If you are working for a parts manufacturing company, how would you try to break into the North American market?” and “What strategies can you devise to popularize Japanese smartphones and applications around the world?” These are all real-life problems faced by large companies in Japan.

Hirase was worried that the topics he came up with might be “too difficult” for the students, but he was surprised by the original ideas the students came up with when they gave their presentations on the second day of the class, held one week later.

For the Lexus problem, they suggested “increasing the color variety to include yellow, a color favored by Thai people.”

As for breaking into the North American market, some of the students recommended “adding manga cafes and Japanese restaurants in the automobile maintenance factory,” while others came up with the idea of “collaborating with the Japanese textile industry to sell seat covers with Japanese-style patterns.”

Most of the ideas from the young students reflected their familiarity with “Cool Japan” cultural products that they grew up with.

“The strength of Japanese companies lies in our rich culture. I hope you’ll be able to promote your own country to foreigners when you start working,” Hirase told the students.

University reform to keep up with globalization is part of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s growth strategy.

Hirase’s session was conducted with the cooperation of the Chubu Economic Federation, which was approached by the university for support. It was sponsored by the education ministry as a part of its Project for Promotion of Global Human Resource Development.

“Language proficiency is necessary, but I also want to train students to be able to think and express their own ideas,” said Tadayoshi Takashima, president of Aichi Prefectural University.

This section, appearing Saturdays, features topics and issues from the Chubu region covered by the Chunichi Shimbun. The original article was published July 4.

  • kyushuphil

    Wonderful, this.

    Youth here will respond to life-like challenges. They’ll respond as if they have their own lives to live, and as if life is worth living, indeed, too, internationally.

    Textbooks — especially in English ed — could reflect these challenges. They could present many more real issues youth face in Japan and similarly around the world. And they could encourage Japanese youth to draw from their own culture — old and new — as if many abroad will respond to that, as indeed millions do, eager for the perspectives from Japanese culture.

    School at all levels could be so much more for group problem-solving, and for individual essaying skills to connect to the larger contexts.

    The youth are ready. Only Q is, what about all those at the ministry of ed still stuck so in their cram-cram-cram regimentation?

    • There can be a danger in that because what qualifies as a “real-life challenge”? This would have to be carefully defined because to socially-minded people, “real-life challenges” often mean manufactured social justice-type issues to which students are supposed to “solve” — which really means indoctrination.

      • kyushuphil

        Let students write essays. They can identify their own challenges.

        Or, if instructors pose the challenge, let students range widely for other perspectives. Let them use personal anecdote. Welcome digressions for cultural examples.

        So much may happen when students start exercising their own voices, and reach to include the many more voices that allow growth for all of us.