Crucial Skills Schools in Asia Don’t Teach

A coffee shop at Harvard Square in Cambridge MA functions almost as a co-working space.

Which skills did you want to know at early stage of your life? For me, these are leadership and goal-setting. These are crucial for us to perform in today’s real world in the era of uncertainty, and yet very rare to be taught at schools, especially in Asia.

My educational background is a mixture. At the age of 4, I started my early childhood education at a Catholic private kindergarten, just because that was close to our home in Tokyo. Luckily, they taught English, or at least the kids sang some songs in English and it was fun. It was a simple joy learning something foreign.

At the age of 6, I went to a Japanese public elementary school, that was secular and used national curriculum. Everything was taught in Japanese, and no English instruction. Very rigid and collective. 33 students with 1 teacher. Although I appreciated intelligent and passionate teachers there, the setting did not allow them to fully perform. When there was one boy running in the classroom, the teacher had to chase him and the whole class had to stop.

“Books are your friends for life-time”, my teacher from 2nd grade said to us in the class. And I found that was true.

My mom found that with my grades and studious character I should attend a better junior high school. I studied at 5th and 6th grade for 2 years going to a cram school 3 or 4 times a week after school (about one third of my classmates lived a similar life-style), which sometimes required me to stay there until 8 pm to finish the assigned work there. Very intensive memorizing and drilling. No room for creativity. I disliked it but knew that I needed to go through it in order to get better education.

And, I got into the oldest Christian missionary girls’ junior high & high school in Japan. It was built by American missionaries in the 19th century. They were celebrating their 123rd year anniversary. They valued “freedom”, “responsibility” and “self-governance” for the girls. Can you imagine how innovative these ideas were in the 19th century Japan? They also emphasized that “mental independence cannot be achieved without financial independence”. I am thankful for learning there because it set my fundamental attitude to engage in the society, e.g. I am free, I should be responsible, and I should be independent.

After that I went back to Japanese public university, with a junior year abroad to U-Penn and a master’s program from Harvard Ed School.

Books are great resources, especially when combined with right instruction

In this course of my own educational background, especially from K to 12th grade, I came to see good features of both American and Asian educational values. If we can combine them, we can produce very interesting results. Not just academically but more as a whole to develop one’s human capacity.


How can you train students to have leadership and goal-setting? Here is an interesting matrix that I happened to find in a book (whose title I cannot recall) in 2008, during my master’s year at Cambridge, MA, in the US. Let’s take a look.

5 Elements for Success & Happiness

Quite interesting that the success is defined in 5 different domains. Not just career, not just health. Interesting to note that “Meaningful Work” and “Financial Stability” are two different things. Many of us in pursuit of career, either employed or self-employed, we tend to want both financial income and fulfillment from the same work. It does not have to be one particular work.

Trisakti University invited me to speak for Keynote at Graduation Ceremony in Jakarta, Indonesia, December 2015

After getting out of school, all of a sudden you find yourself alone and there is nobody telling you what to do. You need to define your next goal, you need to evaluate yourself, and find happiness.

In this world there are many tools that help you to find your way. The above one with 5 dimension is one of the countless tools that can help us. You just need to find which tools are beneficial for you, learn it, and use it. Just plan your trip and go. When there is a right tool, your probability of getting to a right goal/destination becomes the highest.


So, the purpose of this article was to introduce myself and to show my own educational background, as it is the foundation of myself, who I am and what I want to create & produce. Now my passion is to provide leadership training opportunities for Indonesian and Southeast Asian middle class youth for them to become stronger agent for change. How? That is the topic I will be writing in my next coming postings. So… stay tuned!

Professors at private universities in Indonesia are very much interested in new program contents, such as design thinking, problem-solving, etc.

April 10, 2016

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