|| As a cultural anthropologist, I discovered the affinity between my teaching philosophy and IB education that values reflexivity. Educating students to become reflective critical thinkers is also the shared goal of the liberal arts colleges I had taught at for over a decade in the United States.
I decided to come back to Japan from the United States in 2015 when I was given an opportunity to pursue such education in a more affordable way at a Japanese national university. Due to the nature of labor-intensive and quality education, both liberal arts colleges and IB schools often ask high tuitions. Compare to the expensive private liberal arts colleges in the United States, the tuition of a Japanese national university is more affordable.
As the first Japanese national university, which started the special entrance examination for students with IB Diploma, Okayama University started the new English-medium college-degree program called Discovery Program for Global Learners (Hereafter, Discovery Program) in 2017. The program pursues diversity and social innovation for global sustainability while offering affordable higher education in English (and in Japanese for those with Japanese proficiency).
In this paper, I compare and contrast U.S. higher education (liberal arts college in particular) and the Discovery Program at Okayama University while paying attention to IB Learner Profile Attributes : Inquirers, Knowledgeable, Thinkers, Communicators, Principles, Open-Minded, Caring, Risk-Takers, Balanced, and Reflective. Some (if not all) elements of the profile are shared with many U.S. liberal arts colleges’ mission statements. As one of the founding members of the Discovery Program and the first faculty member hired for this program, I have been trying to incorporate many of the above elements into the Discovery Program.
In order to encourage students to become knowledgeable, open-minded, caring, balanced, and reflective inquirers, thinkers, communicators, principled, and risk-takers, institutional environment is crucial. No matter how much students are taught to become the above type of person, if faculty, staff, and administrators behave otherwise, students get confused, lose trust in them, or both. Even if the faculty, staff, and administrators try to meet the expectations, if the institution does not support such efforts, the outcome is compromised. I hope that educational institutions as well as teaching and administrative staff make efforts to embody the persons of principles who are knowledgeable, open-minded, caring, balanced, and reflective inquirers, thinkers, communicators, and risk-takers.