Support the research activities of middle and high school students all over the world!

Support the research activities of middle and high school students all over the world!

The number of students going on to higher education abroad has plummeted, and Japan’s presence is becoming less significant in the face of China’s overwhelming population growth and economic growth.

In such a Japanese educational scene, there is a person who is seeking a new way of learning with the aim of becoming a source of internationally competitive science personnel.

His name is Takeshi Kinugawa.

The editorial team interviewed Mr. Kinugawa about his past efforts, the MANAI Foundation’s activities, and his future outlook.

Photos by Takeshi Kinugawa

He participated in the establishment of MANAI, an organization that supports the research activ

ities of middle and high school students around the world, and is the co-founder of MANAI.

He has organized and run seven science camps for middle and high school students until 2019, attracting more than 1,000 applicants from more than 20 countries and regions around the world. Many of the participants have gone on to the IVY League and other overseas universities after graduation, and have formed a community.

Takeshi Kinugawa

From ISSJ to MANAI! Toward a New International Science High School

We started the ISSJ (International School of Science Japan) project, the predecessor of MANAI, at the end of 2014. While observing the launch of ISAK (now UWC-ISAK), the first international school in Japan, a few years earlier, we became aware of the need for the intelligence required by future global citizens and the rise of STEAM education in the world and Japan’s lagging behind, and we envisioned the establishment of a new international science high school to serve as a source of internationally competitive science talent. With this in mind, we conceived the idea of establishing a new international science high school that would serve as a source of internationally competitive science talent.

At the time, the number of students going on to higher education overseas in Japan was plummeting, and our presence was becoming less significant in the face of China’s overwhelming population growth and economic growth.

To give shape to our vision, we have held a short-term residential seasonal program as a pilot model since 2015. Since the first year, the program has received a lot of media coverage by providing a stimulating venue for high school students not only from Japan but also from Asia to engage in friendly competition and present their research results. (The program has been held seven times, with approximately 200 students from 18 countries and regions participating, many of whom have gone on to study at universities abroad.)

 As you know, English is an essential skill for reading papers and conducting collaborative research, especially in science research. Learning English, rather than just learning English, is a very effective way to cultivate not only language skills but also knowledge skills.

 We also believe that through the practice of conversation and communication in order to discuss daily research with researchers, students will be able to grow as true global citizens who can recognize differences with others and adopt new values.

Breaking away from the concept of school and the physicality of school buildings

While providing the above program for five years, we accumulated know-how and built a network of academia. While listening to the opinions of the researchers, professors, and supporters who collaborated with us, we sought a new way of education and schooling, and decided that rather than focusing on the concept of a school or a physical school building, we would rather focus on the bond with mentors and designing research support that is optimized for the individual, which we believe will lead to more effective learning. Based on this hypothesis, we opened the MANAI Institute, a permanent scientific research institute, in September 2019 at a rented location in Ichigaya, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo.

At first, we operated the institute as a joint-stock company, but since it would be a tuition-free operation, we thought it would be more appropriate to operate it as a non-profit foundation, so we decided to operate it under the Manai Foundation policy. The first term had 20 students, and although the number of students increased or decreased during the course of the program due to school transfers and school circumstances, the students completed their research results and gave presentations during the six-month period. 

Since then, we have continued to accept students as needed, provide mentoring, and guide students who make poster presentations at conferences. Due to the COVID-19 disaster, we could no longer physically conduct face-to-face or group activities, so we switched to online mentoring, but it became difficult to pursue physical research themes that required a laboratory, and we temporarily terminated the institute in this form at the end of 2021.

What is the Manai Foundation? Main Activities of the Foundation

The MANAI Foundation is a non-profit organization that operates the MANAI Institute, established in 2019. The purpose of the MANAI Foundation is to promote science and technology, to develop human resources, and to provide grants to support the research of young people (junior and senior high school students) who are conducting scientific research not only in Tokyo and Japan, but also in a wide range of fields. The 2020 COVID-19 Disaster has made it difficult to contact the outside world, and this has begun to affect the students who are conducting research.

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