Private sector reacts to scholastic pitfalls The Yomiuri Shimbun
Following is an excerpt from The Yomiuri Shimbun’s Gakuryoku-ko series, which examines experimental measures to improve scholastic abilities. This installment–the last of four parts–looks at corporate involvement in public education.
Along Mikawa Bay in Gamagori, Aichi Prefecture, sits Kaiyo Academy, a private boys boarding school that covers both middle and high school and is the product of significant corporate-sector involvement.
Shortly before 8 p.m. one Tuesday night, 14-year-old Daichi Kawabe–a second-year-student at the school–changes out of his uniform and heads over to a classroom for a supplementary mathematics class.
The class’ enthusiastic teacher, Tetsuharu Nakamura, also lives on the massive campus, in the teachers’ housing.
Elsewhere, in another dormitory, a group of about 60 fourth- and fifth-year students (equivalent to first- and second-year high school students) are conducting a study hall.
The school was established in 2006 by about 80 companies, mainly Toyota Motor Corp., Central Japan Railway Co. (JR Tokai) and Chubu Electric Power Co., who contributed a combined 20 billion yen to the project.
The companies opened the school, modeled after Britain’s “public schools”–prestigious private schools associated with the social elite–in the hope of fostering Japan’s next generation of leaders.
The boys at Kaiyo Academy spend about twice as much time on English and mathematics than they would at typical public schools. In fact, the students finish the nationally prescribed curriculum two years ahead of time, leaving them to study more advanced material during the final two years of school.
There are currently 503 first- through fifth-year students attending the private institution. They live in a typical group setting and receive their instruction from teachers who include people sent from private firms.
By establishing the school, the participating companies are hoping to create a new type of education. The unprecedented initiative came as a reaction to the government’s stated goal of a stress-free education under which study time was significantly reduced and the five-day school week was introduced. The policy has since been revised.
JR Tokai Chairman Yoshiyuki Kasai, who was involved in the creation of the academy, said: “Public education has neglected basic scholastic skills. We, as the private sector, wanted to create a model of what a good school could be.”
Hidenari Takemoto, 13, says, “I want to be able to study what I’m interested in studying at university.”
A young worker living at the school dormitory gave the second-year student a book on organic chemistry. He has since read it and conducted a number of related experiments in the after-school science club.
For 13-year-old Kosuke Aida from Tokyo, one of the most attractive aspects of the school was its program to enable students to study at British public schools for short periods of time.
“In China, South Korea, India…it’s normal for kids to study abroad. But Japanese students tend to not care about the outside world; I really want them to spend some time in other countries and polish themselves up as people,” says Kenji Kondo, who is in charge of the foreign study program.
The school’s first graduates are due in the spring of 2012.
Tuition for the school costs about 2.8 million yen a year, with the price including room and board. This year, however, saw enrollment down as the recession took its toll.
“This school is at a crucial point,” says Principal Naomasa Nakajima. “While I’m concerned about how many students can enter University of Tokyo and other prestigious schools, I am more concerned with what they do after university and how that will distinguish this school.”
Supporting the disadvantaged
Back in October, representatives from five organizations, including a nonprofit that provides free tutoring for in-need students, gathered at the Tokyo Council of Social Welfare building in Tokyo’s Iidabashi.
Among those in attendance was Kashuku Hirao, from Goldman Sachs.
Goldman Sachs has contributed 340 million yen for a council project that helps impoverished students advance to higher education.
So far, the group has decided to use the money to cover the costs of cram schools for high school students and tuition and room and board for university students.
“There are matters that we can help with, using the know-how and ability to mobilize that we have gained through our years in business,” Hirao says.
BrainHumanity, an NPO based in Nishinomiya, Hyogo Prefecture, this year began a project to provide up to 500,000 yen in prep school vouchers to children in households on public assistance.
Says Yusuke Nojima, head of the NPO: “A lot of times, the reason for gaps in scholastic ability between children comes down to whether they received extra education outside of school. We want to put a stop to this vicious circle, in which poverty lowers a child’s academic capability, thereby producing further poverty.”
(Dec. 2, 2010 Daily Yomiuri)

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