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Top>Education>Producing a borderless classroom


Toshiaki Hasegawa

Toshiaki Hasegawa [profile]

Producing a borderless classroom

Toshiaki Hasegawa
Professor of International Economic Policy and
Interindustry based Macro Econometric Modelling, Chuo University

Learning in an overseas international economic seminar

Professor Wang Dashu, the economic institutes of Peking University, and students of Hasegawa's seminar

When the end of the year approaches, I take my seminar students on an overseas training trip. Until last year, the economic institutes of Peking University (Beijing) and Fudan University (Shanghai), as our partners, have hosted student research forums, the main project of the trip, on alternate years. On the trip, our students also visit Japanese businesses as part of those activities.

The partner professors from each university, with whom I have built up close relationships, conform to the significance of having their students interact with foreign students, and produce a program where students cooperate with each other in preparing an essay in English, give presentations and hold a debate together. This year's overseas training trip was conducted with the Faculty of Economics, Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok Thailand. Chulalongkorn University's Faculty of Economics, as one of its faculty events, hosted an academic symposium for students of both the universities.

Traveling at the Great Wall of China

In my seminar I focus on industrial structures in a globalizing international society and changes in competitiveness, with a theme of learning about international economic theory and policies related to market mechanisms and frameworks. International economic theory and positive analysis learnt at Tama Campus, for students with a lack of real experience in social activity, in the end, are nothing more than classroom knowledge.

Here, the theme of how we can achieve sudden global human resources development has finally become a social and national issue, and from a cross-border viewpoint, with the idea of having students experience what is occurring in economic activities and the world that is the subject of their learning, getting them to know what perception university students in other countries study under is the educational aim for students in my seminar.

Learning experienced from joint symposium with overseas students

Over the past few years, the themes of the joint symposiums that the students have been involved in are as follows.

"Asian Market Integration and Business Global Fragmentation" (Fudan University 2010)
"Systematic Framework Construction and Mutual Cooperation for East Asian Economic Development" (Peking University 2011)
"Cross-Border Industry Interdependence in the East Asia Region" (Chulalongkorn University 2012)

Commemorative photo at the time of visit of Yamaha Motors in Thailand

Under these themes, students from each university prepare and present two essays. For the students I teach every year, preparing, presenting and discussing an essay in English are a first for all the students. On top of that, they are students where everything is a first, such as how they see international economic issues, economic analysis methods, how to write academic essays, how to control and arrange statistical data, and verifying methods using leading academic research. They also have almost no experience in developing joint projects and producing results. There are some students, who place priority on part time work and circle activities in their university life, who refuse guidance at this stage. They seem to think that only being taught in the classroom is sufficient for university education. There are times when I let out a sigh of despair when I think this is current situation of university education in Japan.

One year, the State Council chief paid me a visit at my hotel in Beijing. When he saw one of my students go into the lobby to eat breakfast wearing pajamas and room slippers, he showed sympathy to my plight by saying, "I see you are baby-sitting this year, too." I explain to the students how I must deal with problems that occur when students come in connect with the outside world, such as a student wearing autumn clothing in the middle of winter and hospitalized with a high fever, and students breaking hotel property, and that running the trip is an important part of learning.

Scene of the symposium with Chulalongkorn University students

At Chinese universities, campus dormitory life is the foundation for students. When I was a visiting professor at Peking University and Tsinghua University, I was coming in contact with students on a daily basis. From early morning throughout the campus students are devote themselves to reading aloud in English, and just as you think they are having dinner in the food hall (a restaurant) with their professors, they then head to the library to study until 11 o'clock. This is the lifestyle pattern that can be seen year-long. I had expected them to be living a lifestyle that was far removed from actual society, but there is also a side where they are rigorously involved in the real world to the extent that students explained to me, "60-70% of students are trading stock on the internet."

This year, I escorted 20 students on a trip to Bangkok. Students from both universities presented the essays they have worked hard on to put together, and held a debate using the limits of their vocabulary. At the dinner held at the conclusion of the debate, the look of satisfaction on the students' faces is the moment of greatest pleasure for an instructor who has berated them for so long. The study trip breeds a feeling of satisfaction where students from the same generation go through the process of solving the same problems on the same theme, and share their valuable experiences at the same time in the same place.

Visiting businesses before and after the debate is a moment where the students can get a real feeling of dealings in a harsh society. The students' eyes light up on receiving a talk from the president of a Japanese factory with more than 8000 workers, having workers respond to the students' questions and seeing the development of cross-border business. I tell them that producing this kind of scene is one of the jobs expected of me.

What do the students learn from field trips to companies?

Commemorative photo with president and CEO Hiroshi Ishii at the time of visit of Canon (Suzhou) Inc

Students of Hasegawa's seminar given explanation of the city development in Shanghai at the Mori Building, the Shanghai World Financial Center (SWFC)

Viewing the financial district of Pudong from the Shanghai World Financial Center

Commemorative photo by the participants in the student's exchange meeting held at the economic institutes of Fudan University (Shanghai)

As part of the Shanghai trip, we visit the financial district of Pudong, which has continued to develop as an international financial and commercial centre, and visiting Mori Building's developed and managed Shanghai World Financial Center, (SWFC), the tallest in the Orient, has become a regular event. Also, a little further inland from Shanghai, Suzhou in Jiangsu Province is attractive as a historical city that prospered in ancient times, and in the technological development district that has been systematically developed, there is a concentration of state-of-the art IT technology businesses from around the world, giving it the lively appeal of a new city.

Having being involved in human resource training business for 5 years in not only coastal China, but also inland, I have visited technological development districts and universities in many cities. In the regions closest to the technological development districts, it could be said that almost all prominent universities have set up new campuses, responding to the employment needs that have resulted in those regions.

Canon (Suzhou) Inc president and CEO Hiroshi Ishii explained that in a company that employs 8000 staff, employing science personnel in those regions, under those circumstances, is not that difficult, gaining agreement from most students. This is the perspective of wanting to have students hold an interest in not just the efforts of a single company, but how much the supply system of a region which houses manufacturing and sales bases has developed. Even in this year's visit to the Yamaha Motors factory not far from central Bangkok, the students learnt that many supply chains in Thailand are growing. They also learnt that among the employed locals who support the company's activities, there is a growing number of talented leaders. The high morale of Chulalongkorn University graduate and Yamaha Motors director-general of corporate planning, Chaidej Navy-Vichit, and the staff also impressed the students. Looking at the reports of the students who participated in the trip, not only having the students be impressed with this kind of expansion in activities by an international Japanese company, but having them come in contact with the responsible speech and behaviour of the working locals of that country and understand the meaning of global business development in the real world is an aim of this overseas training trip.

I believe that from this overseas training trip, the original goals of the trip have been achieved by having the participating students visit businesses which have become successful overseas and enter the economic centers of the cities that host those businesses, as well as coming into contact with society of a different country, seeing students and businesspersons living their lives in that different culture, and having our students experience and compare those differences from Japanese society. This kind of education technique coming to a conclusion when the students leave university after a few years shows a lack of responsibility as an educational institution. I strongly believe that, from a viewpoint of global human resource training, students who continue to learn should learn the importance of cross-cultural arenas that bring people together, and we teachers need to take responsibility to support them as a system. In order to realize that, we must build up a network of teachers at an international level, as well as foster relationships of trust.

This essay has been greatly revised from that which appeared in Kusa no Midori (The Green of the Grass) No. 262.

Toshiaki Hasegawa
Professor of International Economic Policy and
Interindustry based Macro Econometric Modelling, Chuo University
Professor Hasegawa was born in Hokkaido in 1948 and graduated from the doctoral course of International Economics at the Graduate School in Keio University.
Professor Hasegawa has been an associate professor with Takushoku University; a visiting scholar for the Department of Economics and the Center for International Affairs at Harvard University and Brandeis University; a visiting professor for People's Republic of China Shaanxi College of Finance and Economics, Peking University, and Tsinghua University; an instructor for the Customs Training Institute and the Finance Institute at the Ministry of Finance; and a part-time lecturer at International Christian University and Yokohama National University. Currently he is a professor for the Faculty of Economics, Chuo University.
The Japan Society of International Economics, the American Committee on Asian Economic Studies
Pan Pacific Association of Input-Output Studies (PAPAIOS), the Interindustry Forecasting Project at the University of Maryland (INFORUM)
The International Input-Output Association
[Recent major publications]
International Economics [Kokusai Keizaigaku] (co-authored), Toyo Keizai, 1997.
APEC Regionalism and the World Economy [APEC Chiiki-Shugi to Sekai Keizai] (co-edited), Chuo University Press, May 2001.
Clopper Almon, The Craft of Economic Modeling [Keizai Moderu no Gihou] (co-translated and co-authored), Nippon Hyoronsha Co., Ltd., April 2002.
The Future of the Asian Economy [Ajia Keizai no Yukue] (co-authored), Chuo University Press, July 2005.
"Frameworks for Cutting Greenhouse Gas Emission in the Global Society [Guroobaru Shakai no Onshitsu Kouka Gasu Haishutsu Sakugen no Wakugumi]," Structural Change in the Japanese Economy and CO2 Emission [Wagakuni Keizai no Kouzou Henka to CO2 Haishutsu] Ch. 1, Institute for International Trade and Investment, March 2010.