Table Speech

“The Entrance and Exit of Education”

January 14, 2009

Mr. Takeo Shiina,
Vice President of Rotary Club of Tokyo,
Advisor of IBM Japan, Ltd.

 When I was younger, I worked hard as a businessman. However, I paid no attention to the education of my 3 children who were in elementary and junior high school.
 Once, my youngest child, an elementary school student, said to me “This Sunday, there is a general meeting of the PTA. We are the only family whose father has not attended the meeting even once”, so I attended the PTA meeting for the first time. While I was listening to the principal speak, I felt strongly that “parents have a responsibility for their children’s education”. However, my work continued to be the focus of my daily life.
 16 years ago when I retired from my job as president of my company, I took the opportunity to begin helping out in Junior Achievement, the world’s largest NPO for economic education. This organization was created in the United States some 90 years ago, and now provides support to 6 million children in more than 90 countries.
 Since becoming involved in this work, I came to understand that in reality parents and families have the heavy responsibility of opening the entrance to education for their children even before sending them off to school. At the same time, public institutions and private companies also bear the heavy responsibility of serving as the exit for children, by taking them in once they complete their education.
 Traditionally, it was thought that education gained from school was actually not very useful in daily life and the job of nurturing a good business person was assigned to a person’s seniors in society.
 I came to realize from my experience with Junior Achievement that this type of thinking is very irresponsible. I think that we, as family members and as members of the corporate world, should have a deep involvement in school education. Furthermore, we have the responsibility to be so involved, and have plentiful opportunities to fulfill that responsibility.
 I would like to briefly share with you two of the programs that Junior Achievement is currently carrying out.

(1) Student Company Program
 With money from the sale of stocks at \100 per share to 100 people (actually the money is provided by the parents), students created a joint stock company and began the endeavor of manufacturing candles. There were 19 employees, spread over production, sales, accounting, and personnel. Under the program, candles were manufactured and sold, and the company made profits. The results of the endeavor were reported at the company’s general meeting of shareholders.
 The teacher who guided the process expressed his thoughts by saying “this was a leading-edge program because it fostered learning from experience, rather than just studying purely for academic accumulation”.
 Students who participated in the program also said that the exercise was very useful when it came time to make a decision on the course of their future, whether to go on in school or to pursue a career.

(2) Job Shadow Program
 This is a program in which senior high school students shadow business persons to learn what type of work those people do, and to learn the difficulties and the hardships of work.
 One senior high school student shadowed a 19-year veteran banker that worked at the head office of a bank and was in charge of the overall operations management of that bank’s overseas branches. He spent 3 hours observing how the banker worked. Both the observer and the observed enjoyed a precious experience. The observed felt that this was an opportunity to take a fresh look at his/her job. The presence of an enthusiastic young student appears to be a good stimulus for business people. The observer also felt that this was an invaluable experience in thinking about his future career. The observer learned things that are not contained in books, and appears to have gained an understanding of work through hands on experience in an actual workplace.
 I only briefly touched on the Student Company and Job Shadow programs, but other programs are also provided by “Junior Achievement”. In a program that uses PCs, students are able to develop decision making skills. On the other hand, the Student City Program uses open classrooms or school facilities that are no longer in use, and sets up retail stores in order to have the students experience managing a business, while the Finance Park program gives the students the skills to manage their household budgets on their own.
 In education, there are roles to be played by families as the entrance to education, and for companies as the exit. I think that it is important that business people and families alike support teachers in educating children on what is happening in society.