After undergoing tremendous upgrades, the educational sector has now moved from practicing traditional methodologies to propagating the latest aspects. In the current times, educational leaders across the world must understand the possible elements that can be included in the curriculums. Moreover, it is also important to understand the aspects of technology and include them in the educational policies in a way which could prove beneficial in the long run.
Understanding the core essentialities of educational systems and philosophy, Toshiki Sumitani (President of Graduate School of Information Technology, KIC) has been nurturing the essence of knowledge by leveraging his agile leadership as an educator. With profuse experience and profound expertise, he has been modernizing educational systems and steering impactful changes in the educational domain.
As a child, Toshiki was fascinated by Einstein’s general relativity theory and aspired to become a theoretical physicist and earn a Nobel Prize in the future. Fast forward to 20 years while writing his first paper in the Graduate School of Tokyo University, Toshiki realized that he required a broader perspective and experience to become a world-class researcher. Although he applied for several top universities in the USA, his application was rejected.
Toshiki started his own professional career as a management consultant at McKinsey and Company. With minimal knowledge about management consulting within Japan, people disregarded his profession. However, utilizing his experience in problem-solving in the business field, Toshiki propelled himself in his field. During his late 30s, he was offered the opportunity of working in Denmark and other Scandinavian countries for 2 years by McKinsey. Impressed by Denmark’s strategy of problem-solving, Toshiki realized that the educational system and philosophy, which respects everyone’s differences, independence, and creativity, leads to people’s happiness.
Influenced by his experience in Denmark, Toshiki instituted his own private school ‘LearnNet Global School’—different from traditional Japanese schools—upon returning back to Japan. The school conducted no examinations and taught no textbooks with no teachers, but navigators. It focused on fostering children’s curiosity and creativity and avoided things which distanced children from learning. Eventually, the students became active learners and pursued their careers independently and successfully. This grabbed tremendous attention and the school started receiving more attention and applications.
In 2010, Toshiki was approached by KIC University for the position of the president of graduate school. He was designated to apply educational know-how and method developed by him in LearnNet Global School to the “Graduate school of Information Technology, KIC” (hereinafter KIC).
A Central Medium of Knowledge
KIC was established in 2005 as a professional graduate school. As the Japanese government encourages more life-long professional education than traditional academic education, most of KIC’s graduates would work in industries and public organizations. Its main body—College of Computing, Kobe Institute of Computing— was established 63 years ago by Mr. Tomio Fukuoka, who foresaw the advent of computers in the near future.
KIC offers education on various aspects of technology, such as programming, network management, big data, and AI. However, its notable educational method is the ‘Tankyu Method’ which has earned several acclamations from national as well international premises.
Another notable feature of KIC is its international presence. The university is home to more foreign students than the Japanese ones and is exclusive to technical forefronts. At KIC, the collaboration of students and teachers hailing from diverse backgrounds in terms of culture, religion, language, and others, provides them a stimulus environment leading to the conception of new and innovative ideas. Students are active while representing their ideas in various opportunities, such as academic conferences, hackathons, and start-app pitch events.
Enriched with the above features, KIC was ranked #1 as the ‘most sustainable private university’ in Japan. The university has also been awarded the ‘JICA President Award’ in appreciation of its contribution to education for developing countries.
The ‘Tankyu Practice’
The Tankyu Method is simple yet very effective to identify issues, provide solution ideas, and verify and improve those ideas with various researches. Using the unique method, students learn how to apply technologies to solve issues in real society. Although several ICT projects fail due to the lack of communication between technicians and users, students of KIC are aware of implementing ICT projects successfully.
The initial challenge for KIC was to attract foreign students. With the ICT industry being global, the ICT School needed to be global as well. Although the proprietors visited various Asian countries, it was difficult to attract students as the school was little known. It gained its breakthrough when the school’s unique educational method—Tankyu Practice—grabbed the attention of the Japan International Organization Agency (JICA). JICA proposed to apply ICT to solve issues, since it is very much applicable to developing countries, especially for African countries.
KIC conducted its first short-term program—Tankyu for Africa— for African public officers, which was so well appreciated that JICA offered KIC various governmental scholarship opportunities. KIC established a two years graduate program as ICT Innovator course fully conducted in English in 2013. Since then, the school has accepted students from around 80 countries.
Phenomenal Leader at the Helm
Defining himself as the ‘Chief Learning Officer’, Toshiki provides the basic platform and method (OS) for learning. Being at the helm of the university, Toshiki ensures that every student learns the best of KIC’s curriculum. He also ensures providing a good basis for their future success, which means contributing to their society with technology.
Toshiki possesses a keen fondness for online racing and enjoys the sport. He states that he competes in FIA authorized races with racers from the APAC region, and believes he is one of the ‘most senior drivers in the game’. Toshiki has also interviewed the 21-year world champion of the race, who he believes is a competitive Japanese driver, and learned how to develop strategies and compete in online racing from him.
Leveraging Strengths amidst Crisis
The COVID-19 induced pandemic eventuated a tremendous shift in the educational sector. Teaching transitioned from classroom to virtual platforms. In 2020, KIC decided to shift every class to online premises, including interactive group discussions. Although there were difficulties in network connection or engagement of students, the university pivoted through all challenges. The faculty members reflected no hesitation to shift to the online environment.
Using KIC’s Tankyu Method philosophy—which encourages open mind to adapt to new environment students—students were quick to shift to the online environment. Moreover, their performance in implementing ideas with developing prototype systems has increased than before.
During such challenging times, Toshiki encouraged every faculty and student to experiment with trial and error along with new technologies. He believes that the experience provided the university with rather great experiences to try new technologies in order to tackle issues.
Adhering to Changes in Educational Sector
The educational sector has undergone dynamic changes with time. From the adoption of traditional printed textbooks to the implementation of virtuality in classroom teachings, the shafts of the sector have been ever-changing. Amidst the changing educational sector, Toshiki highlights that KIC University has undergone various huge changes. KIC grew from being domestic to a global university, and academic to professional with collaboration between academic and professional.
The university shifted from a closed world to open education, with the transition from building-based to online-based or hybrid educational systems. According to Toshiki, although AI is no longer a special field in the current times, it is ‘something which everyone can utilize’. “We need to be aware of these changes and quickly adapt ourselves so that students prepare themselves for these changes,” concludes Toshiki.
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