By Sydney Ganon, Master’s Student in Public Policy
As a public policy student focused specifically on U.S. educational systems, sometimes my perspective on education can be too insular when thinking through solutions. Traveling to Japan and being immersed in the schools and systems helped change that. I began to think of more and different alternatives as I returned to the U.S., eager to renew my efforts in improving public education.
In Japan I learned that many of our educational problems are not unique to the U.S., but at the same time Japan’s system is still very different. As someone who worked in education before going to graduate school, I found the experience of meeting with Japanese teachers and administrators, city education officials, university students, and national education leaders extremely valuable. Not only was everyone we met generous with their time and knowledge, they were very patient and happy to answer all of our questions about the differences and similarities between our systems.
And our meetings didn’t shy away from the hard questions- like what type of systemic changes could be implemented to fix issues around student creativity or declining populations- ensuring that each day was deeply valuable for future U.S. policy makers and change agents. All of this was on top of an incredible cultural experience that made me ready to return to Kyoto, Tokyo, and eager to explore more of Japan.
It was an educational experience I couldn’t get anywhere else. I’m extremely grateful for my trip organizers, Eri Suzuki and Hiroto Iwaoka, as well as the Luskin School and Terasaki Foundation for making this experience possible for us.