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.

The MANAI Grant program was launched to provide research funding to junior and senior high school students who are conducting excellent research but are in need of human resources, equipment, and funding. We asked junior and senior high school student researchers from Japan and abroad to give presentations on their research, which were then reviewed by academic supporters in the field of each research theme, and only those with high evaluations were awarded grants. (Past two grants have been awarded)

The grant recipients’ research was diverse. The first grant was to a junior high school student on the evolution of crab gills, which won the Hiroshima Prefecture Science Prize. The second grant was to a Tokyo high school student for an analysis of the social behavior of bees, which also won the J Tokyo Prize for Excellence.

The university professor praised the students’ efforts, saying that they were able to take the time necessary to tackle a new field that had not been studied before, and that they had done a good job of repeating the basics of research through hypothesis testing and verification.

We are looking for ways to continue to support researchers in various ways, but for the time being we plan to focus on support activities in Japan, as scholarships for overseas research students are difficult to obtain.

Manai Foundation Achievements and Future Prospects

We have launched the “MIRAI Project” as a new project of the MANAI Foundation for 2022. As the first such event, the “MIRAI Science Camp” will be held in March in partnership with Osaka University.

This is an overnight program for junior and senior high school students from all over Japan, where they can learn about research being conducted in actual laboratories, talk with researchers who are active there, and be stimulated by the students who gather from all over the country. We believe that we were able to create an opportunity for students who were forced to study online due to the impact of COVID-19 to think about their visions for the future and their career paths through this valuable experience.

On the other hand, we also hold “MIRAI Career Talk” where a slightly older generation (undergraduates and graduate students) talk about their career choices, life at university, and current research topics. We hold online events on an irregular basis where students can listen to the stories of older students who have gone on to university and ask questions directly to them.

Our goal is to nurture many young people who will pioneer the future by moving from online to real places, where they can think and act on their own based on a variety of information, and then decide on a theme to work on by themselves and conduct in-depth research activities.

The Manai Foundation

Address:2F Ichigaya Science and Technology Innovation Center Building, 3-8 Ichigayatamachi, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo

Laurus International School of Science

Photo by: Laurus International School of Science 7F-11F, 4-1-30 Shiba, Minato-ku, Tokyo 108-0014, Japan

Laurus International School of Science Secondary is currently holding an information session on the opening of our middle school for parents of children who will be 11 years old or older in September 2022!

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