The Hiroshima Global Academy, a Japanese school full of promise.

This interview is part of a project named Stories of Inspiring Teachers that aims to share innovative practices around the world and explore the benefits of teaching life skills (communication, collaboration, creativity, self awareness, critical thinking) at school.


I’ve heard about Fumi during a discussion with Ota Tamaki about the amazing OECD-Tohoku School project that was launched following the catastrophe in Japan in March 2011, and the Innovative Schools Network 2030 project as a successor project of the OECD Tohoku School with broader participants including Hiroshima. In a few words, OECD Tohoku School is a two and a half year project, in which 100 junior high and high school students from disaster areas came together for workshops. Through this project-based learning, the students organized an event in Paris in summer 2014 to appeal the wonders of Tohoku region to the world.

Fumi is a former English teacher, « not an innovative one », she adds very modestly, but the project she is designing definitely is. She is currently working on the curriculum design of a new school opening in 2019 in Hiroshima. The Hiroshima Global Academy will be an international public school with the mission to develop a « sense of pride, {so that the students} will be able to cooperate with people from all over the world and develop new ideas. » Hiroshima was already part of an educational shift. As one of the leading projects of their educational shift, they started a project “Hiroshima Innovation School” where about 80 high school students in Hiroshima engaged in problem solving of Hiroshima and took action against regional revitalization, and finally 30 students from overseas joined this and hold “Students innovation Festival” in Hiroshima and culminate their project and make a “Joint declaration for the better world “. The Hiroshima team also participated in The International Student Innovation Forum 2017 organized in Tokyo in summer 2017 with over 400 participants from 9 countries, who were the participating teams of the Innovative Schools Network 2030 project. The Hiroshima Global Academy is taking benefits from these experiences and outcomes to build their curriculum on active learning and collaboration connected to real life.

In Japan, reshaping the educational system becomes vital. « Slowly, attitudes and official instructions had been changing towards competency-based learning and project-based learning, explains Fumi, but students are still very passive and waiting for the one good answer. » In the midst of globalization and declining population, Japanese challenge is to turn a possible crisis into an opportunity. Society is changing very rapidly, education needs to adapt, and students to acquire the 21st-century skills defined in the P21 framework. « As a teacher, I felt I wasn’t inspiring enough, and I found myself useless, notes Fumi with a lot of humility. That’s why we are reflecting on how to connect learning to society and help students find their role. »

« The Academy is rooted in its island environment and through integrated programmes, which are inquiry led, interdisciplinary and research-based, encourages young people to find solutions to real-world problems in the local area and beyond. »

The new curriculum will focus on a « project-based learning » which invites the student to solve real-life problems in their community. This innovative method gives more autonomy to students who become actors of their learning. Fumi is full of praises: « it encourages collaboration, autonomy, self-regulation. It encourages interdisciplinarity and strengthens the link with real life. Our goal is for our students to reach ‘Ikigai,’ a Japanese concept that means ‘reason for being.’ » Project-based learning provides with meaningful and authentic learning, increasing motivation for students. It also fosters SEL (social and emotional learning) as failure is tone down by the work group and resilience is boosted. « Our key issue is our students’ wellbeing, so some mindfulness and self-regulation lessons will be offered to help them improve their social and emotional skills, concludes Fumi. »

Collaboration, central in the Hiroshima Global Academy, is developed in many ways: between students, between teachers and with collaborators overseas. The school’s unique design will provide for three different type of classrooms: closed, semi-closed, and open space, « so that students and teachers can choose whatever fits their learning, explains Fumi, the structure encourages group work and discussion between peers in a multi-age classroom. » School year will start with a camp, essential for students to learn how to work together. « Collaboration between teachers is crucial as well, but it is sometimes difficult to have a shared vision. That is why it’s critical to have time to exchange. Japanese teachers are hard working, but we want to make sure that some space is left empty for discussions, assures Fumi. » Collaboration between teacher is essential but also a significant challenge. The reflection on worldwide collaboration started with the Hiroshima Innovation Forum and the International Student Innovation Forum 2017 will carry on with cross-cultural cooperation activities such as global camps, exchanges, promoting overseas studying to encourage a global mindset. As well, this school is intended to become a hub of innovation and serve as a role model for other schools worldwide as it will welcome into its midst a center of training, encouraging collaboration overseas and sharing practices.