Cultural exchange between VR Schools and Kyoto Gakuen in Kyoto, Japan
17 september, 2018
In early September, VR Schools’ Executive Director, Kristy Lundström, visited Kyoto Gakuen, Japan for cultural exchange and continued cooperation discussions.
During a five day visit, I had the opportunity to visit Kyoto Gakuen High School and many historical and cultural sites in Kyoto. We were welcomed and hosted in a fantastic way. Our Japanese friends welcomed us with a large assembly which included student speeches and the Swedish national anthem. The week included many cultural and historical visits as well as school visits to help us understand the context of this school within Kyoto culture.
During my school visits, I observed classes, met with school leaders to discuss possible cooperation and toured the facilities. I was excited to find the similarities between our two schools: eager students; structure and discipline to ensure a productive learning environment; sports, handicraft and arts present and visible; dedicated teachers and ambitious school leaders thinking and talking about the next step. I was inspired to think about the differences I observed: flexible scheduling – teachers assessing, reevaluating learning paths and updating schedules weekly, classes of sometimes 12 and sometimes 40 depending on need, team teaching when needed; excited, lively debate in a mathematics classroom about a challenging problem and a competitive (jolly) attitude clearly indicating confidence and joy; open school hours between 7.30 – 19.30, including a robust after-school program. Students and teachers, and especially school leaders, were very proud of their school and were happy to share “successes”. Realistically, we also shared “challenges” … student stress regarding college admissions and grades, how to support all students when and where they need it, how to create innovative learning environments where students feel safe enough to take risks, fail fast and then quickly move into next phase.
The cooperation between our schools which has already included school leader exchange and teacher exchange will now explore the possibility of real student exchange when teachers and school leaders visit VRSV and VRSD later this month.
Being challenged to think of our work from different perspectives and meeting Japanese students, teachers and leaders facing the same realities made this study visit very interesting and inspiring. Real exchange of ideas happens between real people in face-to-face meetings. It definitely takes time (and lots of planning), yet the effort is so very worth it.
Kristy Lundström, Executive Director
Read more about Kyoto Gakuen here>>