The Kake Group controls a number of Kake Educational Institutions, which consist of private universities, high schools, elementary schools and vocational schools, throughout Japan. The Worldfolio speaks to Mamoru Kake and Isao Kiso about the internationalization of education in Japan and how Kake is supporting the endeavour.
Chiba Institute of Science was established 14 years ago, under the umbrella of the Kake Educational Institution. Can you take us through the history of the Kake Group and its major milestones?
Mamoru Kake: My grandfather, our founder, established the “Kake Educational Institution” in 1961. This was right after World War II and the Japanese economy was devastated. My grandfather was from Hiroshima, so he was able to see the devastation of Hiroshima shortly after the bombing. He believed that in order for Japan to escape misery, education was the key to success. That is why he established schools and institutions, to help rebuild Japanese society.
Along with education, it was crucial for Japan to internationalize itself, and open its mindset. The easiest way to do so was to create international partnerships with other schools, to connect countries and learn about other cultures. He believed that was the best way to achieve peace, and he managed to found seven institutions, and including four universities. Today, we have about 100 partnerships with schools from all around the world: from South America, to Australia, Europe and Asia. Two years ago, we began to offer the IB as one of our programs. This helps to create internationally-minded students.
How would you explain the philosophy of the Kake Group?
Mamoru Kake: Our philosophy here at Kake very much resembles the one of the IB, and that is the main reason why we paired up with them. At the Hiroshima Kake Educational Institution, we started an English Immersion program at the elementary school 11 years ago. These students are currently in the IB course and are scheduled to graduate next year. We started the program because we have a sister school in Virginia, that started a Japanese immersion course, in which half of the day their classes are taught in Japanese, and the other half in English. Both of our schools send delegations of students to each other who stay for about a week. We feel this gives our students the opportunity to broaden their minds on a global level.
Japan has a reputation of being quite isolated. I personally believe it is caused by the language barrier. The Japanese have a difficult time learning English; however, we believe it is essential for our students to become fluent in English. With the English language, we give our students the tools to communicate, but the IB gives them the critical thinking and the logical reasoning necessary to utilize these skills. Through our IB courses at the high school of Hiroshima Kake Educational Institution, we then expanded to offer an IB teaching program in one of our universities, in order to give faculty to the skills to effectively teach according to the IB curriculum. It's a full circle.
One of the philosophies of our Institution is that we want to bring out the highest potential of each student. I want to customize education to meet the needs of every student, because each student learns differently.
Isao Kiso: And this is the same at our University. For us, “Each Individual Student” is the most important philosophy we have. We take care of everyone. Some students require more help, more guidance or more classes. We need to customize our education to match their needs and encourage each student to perform to the top of his ability. Critical thinking is also very important at the Chiba Institute of Science.
The ratio of Faculty members to students is very low. The barrier – or distance – between students and faculty is very short, and this goes back to our founder who loved to have students at his house to talk, debate and interact. We are here to help them; we are on their side. In order to customize education, you need to know your students.
Mamoru Kake: As you know, Japan is facing issues with its decreasing demographics, and we will have to internationalise ourselves in the future. One of the easiest ways to do so is to invite students from all around the world to come study in Japan. However, today, there are many Japanese students who are not able to study abroad, whether it be because of time, the language barrier or simply because they want to stay in Japan. Nevertheless, what we can do is to invite students to come to Japan, which will allow our students to have that “international experience” while staying at home.
Despite 2016’s encouraging numbers, Japan is still far away from its regional potential. For ASEAN, Japan as a destination for international students is systematically surpassed by leading nations – UK, USA, etc. What must be done to attract more international students?
Mamoru Kake: The language barrier is of course a major problem. In other countries, most universities offer courses in other languages, but when you come to Japan, almost all institutions offer classes exclusively in Japanese.
Proud of its 24 Nobel Prizes, Japan constantly ranks amongst the 7 most represented nations in the yearly Times Higher Education World University Ranking (1st in Asia). However, the country’s universities underscore in factors connected to “international outlook.” What are the strengths of Japan’s higher education today, and what are the strengths of your institution?
Isao Kiso: I would say that the diversity of the classes we offer is a clear added value. If we take one of our Universities, the Chiba Institute of Science, we offer Risk & Crisis Management courses, something unique in Japan and in the Asia-Pacific region. There are only a handful of universities that offer this course. We also offer nursing and pharmaceutical degrees, but the fact that we offer such unique classes will be our strength in the future.
The inspiration for this course originally came from one of our sister universities in the USA, which has a Risk Management Center, and Chairman, who was on the board of trustees of that university, thought that Japan absolutely needed something similar. That is the reason we implemented this faculty at the Chiba Institute of Science. I want our students to be professionals and to be recognised, not only domestically, but around the world.
However, Chiba Institute of Science is still a young university, as it was founded in 2004. We are in the process of internationalising our organization, but one of the main issues is still the English language. We need to offer courses in English to attract more and more international students. It is very difficult for international students to learn Japanese before coming to Japan, and it scares them to come to a country where they don’t speak the language. Of course, we offer Japanese language classes here in the university, but we need to start persuading our teachers to teach in English.
Japan is one of the countries in the world which has the least amount of start ups, with company loyalty being a huge factor to this trend. How do you, at the Kake Educational Institution, promote an entrepreneurial and innovative spirit?
Mamoru Kake: In Japan, the fear of failure is a trait that is embedded in the minds of our citizens. In that sense, all Japanese put much emphasis on stability. What we try to promote here, through IB, is the challenge mentality. We want all our students to challenge themselves, and we really believe that the whole of Japan needs this. Japanese have many qualities, such as empathy and communication, but we believe that the unwillingness to face a challenge is a problem, and this is because of what failure represents. In order to change that, we cannot wait for students to reach university years, we need to instil it as early as elementary school. One of the strengths of our Kake Group is that we have elementary schools, pharmaceutical schools, junior high schools, high schools, five different universities and even nursing homes!
The Kake Group has a very complex structure: the Kake Group refers to all 7 institutions – with the largest institution being the Kake Educational Institution, which is composed of 3 universities, and high school
s, a junior high school and 2 vocational schools. The 2nd largest institution is the Junsei Educational Institution which is composed of 2 universities and one vocational school followed by the Hiroshima Kake Educational Institution and others. Most of our institutions work separately, however many of our partner universities have signed with the various Kake institutions, which allows all of our universities to have international exposure.
Japanese universities have very good facilities and top-class equipment. Japanese education puts a high emphasis on ethics and morals, which comes down from “bushido” – the “Samurai way”. Even if we can notice that recently Japanese education is losing this spirit, I want to bring it back and restore these traditions which have made us the country we are today. I would like for foreign students to be exposed to these traditions so they can bring them back to their home country. These ethics and morality are essential to world peace.
Your university boasts one of the highest employment rates throughout Japan. What means do you utilize to make your students employable?
Isao Kiso: We encourage practical work, and we urge our students to apply our courses directly. In order to do so, we have many partnerships with companies, such as security companies. We are very close to these corporations and have developed a mutual understanding. We are also proud to have many of our faculty members that aren’t strictly academics, but successful in business. They also have contacts with the private sector, which help us place good students in successful companies. In addition, we have a career centre which assists students in finding the most adequate job for their future. This service is not limited to Japanese nationals, as our international students also benefit from our career centre. Our overseas liaison officers help them to find a job in their home country, so they are completely prepared when they graduate from our universities.
How would you convince an international student to come study in Japan and in Kake Group? (campus life/classes taught)
Mamoru Kake: We have a staff that includes native in English, Chinese and Korean. We also have many non-Japanese faculty members, which helps with the integration process. In addition, our head office in Okayama helps to introduce our universities and schools with the help of our 13 overseas liaison officers throughout Asia and Australia.
What are the factors that allow you to have a customized education today, and what developments do you want to see in order to customize it even more?
Mamoru Kake: In our high schools, we are developing a very exciting innovation, which is quite similar to a medical record. What we are putting in place is an educational record where we keep track of all results, where the student needs help, what are his strengths and weaknesses. This will definitely allow us to customize the education of each student drastically. The real problem today is that even if a student stays in the same school for 10 years, his teachers will change. The real issue here is that the next teacher cannot keep track of the student’s development, so with our educational records, he will be able to analyse what worked and what didn't, and he will be enabled to take the appropriate steps to ensure the student’s success.
What concrete steps are you taking to ensure the internationalisation of your students?
Mamoru Kake: We have 21 foreign faculty at the Hiroshima Kake Educational Institution, which, of course, helps to internationalise our alumni. We have staff from China, Congo, the United States, The Philippines and other countries. We want our students to experience different types of teaching, to hear different opinions and to broaden their perspective. Out of 50 faculty members, 21 are non-Japanese. We are very proud of this. That’s what the IB is all about!
How important are Asian students for the Kake group? Are you putting a particular emphasis on Asian Students?
Mamoru Kake: The future of our educational institution rests on innovation. In order to achieve this change, I believe that we need to initiate this transformation and bring in new ideas. We need to expose ourselves to creativity and get out of our comfort zone. Of course, Asian students are very important for us, but we welcome everyone here at Kake. I personally believe Singapore has a very high standard of education, and we as an institution need to have a high standard of innovation. I see many similarities between Singapore and Japan, and this is why I believe we have many things to learn from Singapore, and I hope to open an office there soon.
In ten years’ time, where would you like to see your educational group, and what are the strategic objectives you hope to achieve in that period of time?
Mamoru Kake: My dream is for our universities is to be ranked in the top 200 universities in the world. After that, I hope to develop our universities and high schools. My objective is for Kake to become a reference worldwide.