The Future of World-Class Science and Engineering Higher Education Systems

Tokyo Tech International Symposium on Education Reform

Tokyo Tech is currently formulating a new education system to be launched in the 2016 academic year, which will also mark the 135th anniversary of the Institute's founding. As a part of Tokyo Tech's education reform efforts, the Tokyo Tech International Symposium on Education Reform was held on March 14, 2014 in the 70th Anniversary Auditorium at the Ookayama Campus.

In the symposium, keynote talks were given by Professor W. Eric L. Grimson, Chancellor for Academic Advancement at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and by Professor Ronald Gronsky, Special Faculty Assistant to the Chancellor for International Relations at the University California Berkeley (UCB). They spoke about education systems and philosophies at each university. Then-President Mishima introduced Tokyo Tech's education reforms.

Professor Yoshinao Mishima, then-President, Tokyo Tech

Professor Yoshinao Mishima, then-President, Tokyo Tech

Keynote talks were followed by a lively panel discussion on the topic of the Future of World-Class Science and Engineering Higher Education Systems. The three aforementioned keynote speakers answered questions during the first part. The latter half of the discussion included three additional panelists: Mr. Kakutaro Kitashiro, Executive Advisor of IBM Japan and Chair of the Board of Trustees at ICU; Professor Kellina Craig-Henderson, Director of the National Science Foundation's Tokyo Regional Office; and, Mr. Etsuhiko Shoyama, President of the Tokyo Tech Alumni Association and Chairman Emeritus of Hitachi.

The Essentials of Education Reform

Grimson  Tokyo Tech, MIT and UCB are facing common issues in education reform. These issues include establishing competency-based assessment and fostering globally competitive students.

Gronsky  It is important to introduce systems utilizing online tools so that students can assess faculty members quickly.

Then-President Mishima  I was encouraged to know that both Professor Grimson and Professor Gronsky share a similar awareness of the issues involved in education reform. In creating a new educational environment, I will make a vigorous commitment to implementing active learning and online distance learning.

Grimson  In order to foster global human resources, it is necessary to encourage study abroad and internships.

Gronsky  In Silicon Valley companies recruit many outstanding engineers. However, a shift has taken place over the past two years, in which companies now actively seek to hire students with international experiences. In our global society, the importance of study abroad is increasing.

Professor W. Eric L. Grimson, MIT

Professor W. Eric L. Grimson, MIT

Professor Ronald Gronsky, UCB

Professor Ronald Gronsky, UCB

Japanese Universities Will Take Part in the Worldwide Competition

Kitashiro  Up until now, I think Japanese universities have been preoccupied with domestic competition. Taking part in this symposium has made me realize that we have entered a time when universities also have to compete in the “Olympics” rather than just national tournaments. In order to do this, new systems and a new educational environment, including online education, need to be put in place.

Mr. Kakutaro Kitashiro, Executive Advisor, IBM Japan

Mr. Kakutaro Kitashiro,
Executive Advisor, IBM Japan

Dr. Kellina Craig-Henderson, NSF

Dr. Kellina Craig-Henderson, NSF

Mr. Etsuhiko Shoyama, President, Tokyo Tech Alumni Association

Mr. Etsuhiko Shoyama, President,
Tokyo Tech Alumni Association

In particular, to attract more international students, Japanese universities need to increase the number of classes conducted in English and provide dormitories. Additionally, faculty members need to rethink their approach, from teaching what they can, to teaching what they should.

These are not easy things to do. At present, reforms in university governance are also on the table in the Subdivision on University of the Central Council for Education, Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. I hope Tokyo Tech will lead Japan in the “Olympics” of universities by participating and winning medals.

Craig-Henderson  The National Science Foundation (NSF) was established in 1950 as a federal agency for supporting basic research outside the biomedical fields. Today the NSF is focusing on international cooperation, and many of the funded programs include global partnerships for research. Some programs support research facilities while funds are also provided for faculty exchange programs. The NSF implements programs in which researchers, universities and students engage in international cooperation.

Shoyama  Globalization is not an issue solely for educational institutions. Japanese industry is also confronting globalization. The requirements of customers are becoming more diversified than ever before and innovation is imperative. I feel that the key to responding to these changes is to foster innovative people with sensitivity, knowledge and communication skills in addition to expertise. The strengths of Japan's industry are the trust it has built with people in the past and the reliability of its products. Industry continues to place value on high-quality manufacturing, integrity, and teamwork.

Fostering Excellent Students is the Duty of Tokyo Tech

Grimson  No country and no university can thrive without fostering the next generation of leaders. Educational facilities need to foster leaders with high communication skills. I am impressed with Then-President Mishima's efforts to bring about education reform. MIT faces the same issues as Tokyo Tech regarding the training of the next generation and what teaching methods we use. I look forward to the outcome of Tokyo Tech's initiative in two years' time.

Gronsky  Then-President Mishima is a man of vision. And we know that precipitating change is difficult, particularly in an institution that has such a long and rich tradition as Tokyo Tech. Therefore, what I would like to say to Then-President Mishima is that a balance between tradition and innovation is the key to achieving his vision. Innovation needs to become an integral part of tradition, and now is the best time to ensure that integration. Let's reach out to each other across the Pacific Ocean. I'm sure that we can all benefit from our collaboration, and I'm also sure that Tokyo Tech will indeed succeed in its education reform.

Panel discussion

Then-President Mishima  Undoubtedly, Tokyo Tech's education reform will be accompanied by many difficulties. However, I have a strong feeling that we must start reform now. The current students at Tokyo Tech are outstanding, and it is Tokyo Tech's duty to foster them for this reason. It is our responsibility to establish the best environment possible for our students so that they can focus on their studies and aspire to higher things. Tokyo Tech students would like “to change the world” or “change society for the better,” just like MIT and UCB students. I would like to promote reform without compromising our strengths.

The panel discussion closed with Then-President Mishima's strong determination to carry out education reform.

Symposium Videos


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Published: April 2014



Public Relations Division, Tokyo Institute of Technology