Blog Article: Meaning of Education: Enhancement of Capabilities or Help Catching Up

Shun Kishioka
Foreword by Editor: In the last issue we quoted an article from the mail magazine of Dr. Shigenori Matsushita. In this issue, we have asked Mr. Shunichiro Kishioka to publish his very interesting article on education and learning from his blog “Survival Age (in Japanese)”
Mr. Kishioka serves on the Advisory Committee of FUTI and is Honorable Chairman of the Chicago Akamon-kai. His profile can be found by clicking

Difference between Japan and the U.S. about “learning”

We cannot survive in this world, if we are just one of many others. Why it is so difficult is because of education. It seems that some differences exist between Japan and the U.S. as to how we identify an individual ‘s capabilities. I, for one, was educated with the philosophy “People are all the same. You should not make any excuse other than inadequacy of your effort when your scores are not perfect. You must work hard,” which I believed in for a long time. Japan’s compulsory education system requires us to attain at least above-average scores: otherwise, we would suffer in the future, and become a burden to society, as well. Knowledge was supposed to be granted to us only by teachers.
In the U.S., such an idea does not seem accepted except for infant or preschool education (
If the child fails, it is because his/her capacity is limited, not because he/she has not made a sufficient effort (Please visit my blog 61 “Survival Age” if you read Japanese Even if a child is left alone and gets exposed to the world’s indifference, he/she will acquire what is required in life, and will eventually be able to become independent.

Educators look for children who excel in climbing up their favorite mountains

In the U.S ., except for education for an infant or a child of preschool age when parents are held responsible to stimulate and interact with the child as much as possible, it is considered the responsibility of educators who make efforts in the process of raising the levels of all pupils, to identify which child has an innate talent or potential ability in which field, and what the child wants to achieve.
Prof. Susumu Tonegawa, a Nobel laureate, says, “In case of MIT, the applicant’s SAT scores, his/her performance at high school, and above all, essays and personal interviews are important. The interviewers are selected from those alumni who are active in their fields. …… In order to maintain the unique character of the University, they attach greater importance to subjective viewpoints. Academically strong students with high scores may not necessarily be suited to such work as research that requires creativity. Such characteristics may sometimes become even a negative factor (Nikkei Newspaper, Oct.31, 2013. Underscoring of some sentences is by the author) .”
A university generally evaluates students using three gauges: basic academic tests, athletic or artistic skills, and essays. They look for where the student excels among, for instance, theatrical arts, music, athletics or in academic learning. In the case of vocal music, they evaluate whether the student possesses sufficient volume and quality of voice needed for a professional singer. As for a student who likes musical instruments, the student is given the opportunity to learn various instruments such as violin, guitar, and wind instruments to find out which instrument he/she is good at. Needless to say, they will take into account the student’s preference, the ability to endure the required training, encouragement and support from the student’s parents. The teacher tries to find out the student’s ability as early as possible, and to judge whether the student can reach the level required to make a professional career out of the chosen field.

Online learning helps one reach one’s goal faster

Chikirin (a Japanese book critic and blogger; ) makes a good summary in this specific subject matter. I will skip a large part of the blog article, so please visit above link for details. “This story goes back almost 10 years when Mr. Mochio Umeda heard from Mr. Yoshiharu Habu, the Triple Crown Master of Shogi (a Japanese Chess): Simply put , because of the advent of online learning over the Internet, a beginner can reach high level quickly (i.e., one can reach a certain point quickly by driving on highways, so to speak). Because many people become good at Shogi quickly, the competition among advanced Shogi players is getting fiercer, and it is extremely difficult to get out of this crowd and move one step ahead of the rest (namely, traffic beyond the highway is jammed).

The above story was about Shogi, but a similar trend is found among professional poker players. The young players today are getting overwhelmingly stronger than their predecessors. The reason is that they can practice and play matches online. An online match is much more efficient than playing live at a casino, because:
・there is no need to spend time to deal cards or move chips, so one can obtain three times as many game experiences (i.e., learning) in a given practicing time;
・there is no need to spend time and money to travel to a casino; ……..
・one can download one’s play data and analyze them. Thus, one can analyze the winning probability, correct bad habits, and can do research in steps such as “Analysis”–> “Hypothesis formation” – > “Verification.” These capabilities increase the learning speed.
To sum up, the competition or standing of “offline learning environments” versus “online learning environments” will dramatically change from now on. …… We are now entering the period in which a “learner with online study alone” can reach faster a high level than a “learner with offline study alone.” I can’t help thinking that the same thing will begin to happen even in general study (learning at school), skill learning, and any other professional training, as well.”
The above seems a persuasive argument, but games like chess, go, fighting games, casino games are all under certain rules, and are accompanied by referees who judges those who violate any rule.
The real issue is then what to do, if one cannot become a professional unless he/she is equipped with skills necessary to get out and go beyond a certain level after he/she has reached that level fast, by driving highways of “online learning.” The same thing can be said about the examination hell. The question is to find a way to establish a lead in the competition in the market.

How far can online education help our pursuit?

It seems that education in the research field has become theatrical, as in the case of TED Talks ( , which I believe is effective in enhancing curiosity. Such need will be heightened when one seeks funds from the general public through PR efforts for an investment in a certain field of research and/or education. Therefore, it may be effective to place the value (for continuation) of each department (of a university) as an investment target in a competitive market.
For online leaning in humanities and social sciences, “gamification” of education materials will be difficult. As an extreme example, however, I wonder whether we can make online games based on the Naoki Hanzawa drama (a recent popular TV program in Japan: ) by keeping the conditions for a loan in his bank and his relationship with his boss as a fixed story, while allowing alteration elements as variable options. If we make for instance three online games for each of the criminal , civil and mercantile laws, where such options as fraud, forgery, and planned bankruptcy (as defined by the criminal and/or civil law) can be selected, and use such a game as teaching material , I would think that students will better understand the law, and reach a considerable level pretty fast. (It would be necessary to set the apprehension rate high enough, lest the game should become a textbook for criminals).
Depending on the risk vs. reward one may take, one’s sense of values –justice, ethics, utilitarianism, public good –(which may differ depending on his upbringing environment), one’s endurance, mental strength, physical capability, strength/weakness of one’s character, the priorities of options will change in each step of the game, so there is no question that it will become a considerably complex game. How about applying the critical path method used in business, and making an animated video? Any mistakes or oversights in the game script can be fixed when we upgrade the version of the game . I hope to hear opinions from people associated with the law department.
Acknowledgments: The author would like to thank Professor Hisashi Kobayashi and Professor Brian L. Mark for their editorial assistance in preparing this English version.

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