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[Columns]Next Generation Global Leaders Will Develop In Kyoto

 Recently, active discussions have focused on Japan’s diplomacy and international politics. These discussions have grown more heated especially after the Chinese fishing boat collision incident near the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture. Even in everyday conversations many people question the capability of the Japanese government to take effective measures on this matter. Also, many lament Japan’s lack of individuals who can represent a strong Japan to the rest of the world, pointing out the pressing need to nurture future leaders. Under such discouraging circumstances, however, I have found a hopeful example of next generation education, which I would like to introduce here.
 Since there are still few foreign teachers or researchers at universities in Japan, it is clear that Japan’s education system has not yet been successfully internationalized. However, Ritsumeikan Uji Junior and Senior High School (the institution known as Rits Uji) in Kyoto Prefecture has attracted much attention both inside and outside Japan, due to its success in achieving its objective of nurturing global leaders.
 At the beginning of November this year, I visited Rits Uji. Strolling though a corridor on campus, I was surprised to overhear a fluent English conversation going on in a nearby room. During their lunchtime recess, more than a dozen students were engaged in discussion with several native English teachers. During this 15-minute interaction, nobody spoke in Japanese. They were discussing the International Student Forum to be held in February next year at the school. The school plans to invite high school students from its affiliated schools in more than a dozen countries for the one-week forum, conducted under the theme of “Peace and International Understanding.” The students are key players in preparing for the forum.
 The school Principal, Mr. Sumio Shiozaki, says that the Forum is an excellent opportunity for the students to deepen their understanding of peace issues beyond the boundaries of language and national viewpoints through discussions using English as a shared language. He also points out that the students will become truly global-minded individuals through such interchanges. Clearly, he has a keen sense of crisis concerning the fact that Japan is lagging behind in internationalizing its education system.
 Taking over Uji High School, Ritsumeikan Uji Senior High School was founded in 1994, based on the concept of creating a school responsive to the needs of the global age. From the very beginning, the school applied this principle by providing classes conducted in English, instead of ordinary classes simply teaching English. Subsequently, the school opened an International Baccalaureate (IB) program this April, becoming the first IB school in the Kansai region.
 IB education comprises standardized programs worldwide. Students in an IB course become qualified to apply for or enter any of 2,000 universities in 100 countries, including Harvard and Oxford, on meeting specific requirements. In the IB course, all classes except Japanese are conducted in English.
 Although many students are enrolled in a different course other than the IB program, they also receive high-level English education at Rits Uji. In addition, for junior and senior students, French, German and Chinese are also offered as second language options. Among the 1,600 students in the Junior and Senior High School, about 300 have experienced living overseas (in 32 countries), and more than 100 study abroad every year. According to the school, during their six years of enrollment the students acquire communication skills that enable them to live abroad alone.
 The strong point of Ritsumeikan Uji Junior and Senior High School is its comprehensive education embracing intellect, morality and physical strength. Especially, more than 90% of their students belong to sporting and cultural activities. Many are strong teams contending for national championships, including Girls Track & Field, American Football, Soccer, and Baseball. Mr. Takayuki Mizuguchi, a foreign language teacher, won a high school championship in wrestling during his school days at Rits Uji. He says that he learned the importance of controlling himself and having a strong sense of purpose through actively participating in the sport as a student at the school. He now believes that he could even pass the national bar exam if he seriously decided to become a lawyer. Principal Shiozaki is adamant that students who attempt to become world-class athletes naturally achieve a fine human quality and a sense of leadership that is highly respected and welcomed worldwide. He also says that fostering the spirit to excel in both academics and sports is the essence of nurturing globally-minded personnel. Although the school’s unique educational efforts have just begun, they could become a progressive model capable of overcoming the present sense of stagnation in Japanese society. (T.S.)