Kumamoto Education Week, held during the last week of January 2022
KSTN students, as part of the "Our Dreams Create the Future - KSTN x Kumamoto EduAction" event, participated in the Kumamoto Education Week organized by the Kumamoto City Board of Education on January 31, 2022. They engaged in a discussion session on education with high school students from Kumamoto City.
The KSTN student members present were Haruna Takeuchi (university student from Hiroshima Prefecture), Shiori Yamamoto (university student from Tokyo), Momoka Kojima (high school student from Fukui Prefecture), Mahiro Umehara (high school student from Tokyo), Miki Nanashima (junior high school student from Fukushima Prefecture), and Nathan Wang, who is also a member of the Kumamoto regional ecosystem unit. The high school students from Kumamoto City included Kokoro Ogawa, Natsuki Nakagawa, Miharu Matsumura, Tomoya Takemoto, Toshiki Li, and Takato Hamaguchi.
After introducing themselves and providing an overview of KSTN, the students initiated a series of "Why?" questions regarding various aspects of school that they found puzzling. They highlighted the importance of asking critical questions and dispelling the notion that such inquiries are unwelcome or inappropriate. This session aimed to promote the understanding that questioning is not only acceptable but also a right under the Convention on the Rights of a Child.
The first set of questions revolved around high school regulations and expectations, specifically focusing on clothing and uniforms. Students raised concerns about the cost of uniforms, the types of clothing expected of them, the burden of preventing molestation through dress, and the inadequacy of prescribed uniform sweaters during cold weather.
The second set of questions pertained to school rules, particularly the restriction on using mobile phones. Students questioned the confiscation of phones as a punishment and the lack of student participation in deciding school rules. They discussed examples from schools in Tokyo where students were involved in changing rules and implementing free uniforms. This led to speculation about the factors that prevent similar changes in other schools, such as a sense of resignation and fear among students that speaking up may impact their grades.
The third set of questions focused on the duration of lunch breaks, comparing them to the longer breaks in other countries like China. Students also expressed concerns about the limited time for rest due to excessive homework and assignments. Additionally, they questioned the shorter duration of summer vacation compared to other countries and universities.
During the discussion, students also touched upon study-related topics. They addressed challenges with morning study sessions, the frequency of exams, and the heavy emphasis on entrance exams during the third year of high school. These discussions prompted reflections on the purpose and impact of extensive testing and the potential drawbacks of a system that prioritizes exam preparation over other activities.
The session then transitioned to three videos from the OECD Future of Education and Skills 2030 project. The videos featured Miho Taguma, a senior policy analyst from the OECD, Risa Minamihonoki (a university student and KSTN member from Tokyo), and Maxime Zwartjes (a college student from Lyon, France).
Miho Taguma introduced the OECD Learning Compass, emphasizing the importance of individual well-being and its connection to the well-being of society as a whole. She highlighted the interrelation between cognitive, socio-emotional, physical, and mental development, underscoring the significance of acknowledging each individual's unique characteristics and fostering agency.
Risa shared her personal experiences with bullying and chronic illness, emphasizing the need to address invisible health issues and provide support to those who may not have someone to confide in. Maxime shared his journey with dyspraxia and advocated for empathy within the education system, encouraging teachers to understand different learning abilities and nurture creativity.
Following the videos, Kumamoto City students and KSTN students expressed their thoughts and reflections. They highlighted the importance of open discussions with friends and teachers, the need for empathy and well-being to be valued and prioritized, and the recognition of invisible health issues. The students emphasized the collective effort required to create a supportive environment and improve education for all.