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Part.3 - Symposium

Will university students grow through social contribution?

A symposium was held by WAVOC on January 29th. Students who are active in WAVOC activities gave a presentation regarding what the felt and how they had changed as a result of participating in the activities. A panel discussion was also held. This section introduces a digest of a panel discussion held regarding the theme of "Will university students grow through social contribution?" Intellectuals from the media, corporations, university government, and different university positions were invited to participate in the discussion.

WAVOC develops not only students but also the university itself

From the left
Mr. Koji Igarashi
Director of Journalism School; Asahi Shimbun

Mr. Fujio Cho
Advisor揃Former Executive Director; Mitsubishi Motors

Mr. Yoshitake Imaizumi
Director; Office for the Promotion of University Reform, University Stimulation Section, Bureau of Higher Education, Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT)

Mr. Kenji Horiguchi
Professor at Waseda University Faculty of Political Science and Economics; University Vice-President; WAVOC Vice-Director

Mr. Igarashi: When I saw the presentations of the students, I felt a possibility different from conventional learning that consists of spending all day in the library reading books. Today, I would like to discuss how a university should develop its students, and, as part of that process, how the social contribution activities of students can return benefits to society. To begin with, please tell me your impression of the presentation made by students.

Mr. Cho: The presentations conveyed with a great sense of urgency the will of students to inform others regarding what they felt and how they changed as a result of participating in the various activities. Also, I felt that the project was skillfully developed, particularly the way in which instructors provide direction and create an appropriate environment while still respecting the autonomy of students.

Mr. Imaizumi: I listened to the student presentations against the background of society's debate regarding the kind of education that universities should provide to students. The presentations left me with the feeling that extremely close-knit student support is being performed. I hope that students who participated in activities use what they learned at WAVOC not as transient knowledge, but rather as experience that can be continuously applied to everyday life.

Mr. Horiguchi: WAVOC was founded in the position of adding the new field of social contribution to the educational and research functions which comprise a university. As a result, I feel that students are growing and that the university is growing at the same time, in terms of reforming the educational methods of the university.

Mr. Igarashi: From the perspective of university government, how do you regard changes that are occurring in the university through activities such as WAVOC?

Mr. Imaizumi: I also feel that not only students but also the university itself is growing. In December of last year, the Central Education Council submitted a report entitled "Constructing Education for Degree Programs". The ability which should be acquired at universities was defined as "degree ability", and four items of this ability were raised. These four items were 1) knowledge and understanding, 2) versatile skills, 3) attitude and orientation, and 4) comprehensive learning experience and creative thinking ability. A philosophy has been set in which each university must conduct education and research by fulfilling these kinds of items. I believe that the objectives of WAVOC are in extremely close alignment with the direction of this philosophy.

It is important what students have acquired, not what university they graduated from

Mr. Igarashi: How do corporations evaluate students who have participated in these kinds of social contribution activities?

Mr. Cho: In the future, I hope that corporate evaluation of students includes not only areas of study, but also the humanity acquired from social contribution activities and other activities. However, in the current stage of evaluation, students are only able to utilize experience in these kinds of activities for self-promotion to corporations. Evaluation will be easier for corporations if activities are organized like they are at WAVOC and if the activities can be viewed as a curriculum.

Mr. Igarashi: Will society today accept students whose search for work starts later than normal due to long-term social contribution activities? What is your opinion from a government perspective?

Mr. Imaizumi: In the future, I believe that the direction of university reform will lead to evaluation according to what students have acquired, not what university they have graduated from. Even if a student's graduation is delayed by foreign study or other activities, I expect that corporations will interpret this not as a delay but as added value of that student, and will thus start to employ such students.

Volunteer activities create awareness towards society

Mr. Igarashi: At WAVOC, a great number of students are involved in activities throughout the world, and I imagine that organizational management is quite difficult. How do you deal with issues such as the procurement of financial resources?

Mr. Horiguchi: In the current situation, students work part-time jobs to pay for their travel expenses, and I don't think that the situation will change in the future. However, there is still insufficient support from the university in areas such as space for activities, support of faculty and staff, and budgets. Since there is a lack of staff, experienced students serve as mentors for students who are new to the activities. In the long-term, there is also debate regarding the positioning of WAVOC activities as university curriculum, and regarding approval as required courses or academic minors. If these goals can be realized, it will be possible to receive new support.

Mr. Igarashi: As an individual taxpayer, I think it would be best to allocate taxes not only to national and public universities, but also to these kinds of activities at private universities.

Mr. Imaizumi: I agree. Universities will reform education and provide high-quality education to students. Students who receive such education will enter society, perform, and contribute to society. If, in the way I just described, education leads to public benefit, then I think there is meaning in the injection of taxes.

Mr. Igarashi: I believe that a major fork in the road is whether students will be able to return benefits to society using what the have acquired through activities, and whether these benefits will enable a change in society. What can corporate society due to help, including financial resources for the support of student activities?

Mr. Cho: I believe that the social contribution activities of corporations instill employees with a sense of awareness. Our company performs tree-planting activities. Many employees participate in these activities and the consciousness that "corporations perform social contribution activities" gradually begins to take root. I consider volunteer activities as essential because corporations cannot be realized without co-existence with nature and co-existence with society. It would be great if WAVOC activities spread throughout society and more students who possess consciousness towards volunteer activities entered society.

Mr. Igarashi: Even if newspaper firms cannot supply funds, we can support social contribution activities by conveying news to society through knowledge, personnel and the provision of article space on the pages of newspapers. I think that it is wonderful that university students are becoming aware of various social issues through WAVOC activities. It will be a huge positive for society when people who possess this kind of sense enter society.

Mr. Horiguchi: Today, I reconfirmed my perception of educational methods. Students not only study theory, but have reached the point where they reach out to have an effect on society. This kind of learning must be treated with great importance in an educational environment.

Mr. Imaizumi: I believe that a person will recognize the meaning of their own existence by possessing the consciousness to be of some benefit for another person. Through WAVOC activities, students study the meaning of their own lives, as well as how people make a living for themselves.

An exhibition of project reports by students was also displayed at the symposium venue.

Mr. Cho: Discussion and relationship building exist in the essence of volunteer activities. I hope that this relationship building will become the creation of large social networks. If you speak with passion, the other person will certainly show understanding for your ideas, and matters will move in a direction that satisfies you both. I hope that volunteer activities provide an opportunity for more people to gain this type of awareness.

Mr. Igarashi: Exactly. I hope that the social contribution activities of students can return benefits to society and lead to the reform of society.