6 August 2020

Seventy-five years ago, on 6 August 1945, the world's first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, and the city was scorched in an instant. The bomb destroyed the city and killed many precious lives. Along with those lives, the bomb erased the history, culture and family memories of the region over time.

The "Hiroshima Peace Memorial City Construction Law", which supported post-war reconstruction, was promulgated in 1949 (Showa 24). After the bombing, it was said that no plants would grow in Hiroshima for 75 years. But Hiroshima was revived as a peaceful city, thanks to the efforts of its people. Today, walking around Hiroshima after visiting the its Peace Memorial Museum, many people are surprised to see the residents living in a city full of flowers and greenery. Seventy-five years after the atomic bombing, the people of Hiroshima, including the survivors of the bomb and based on their experience, have been appealing to the world for the abolition of nuclear weapons, with the determination that the tragedy of nuclear war should never be repeated. Today, education is a strong, key engine for promoting “peace education”. I would like to share ideas on how we can work together to promote peace in higher education through the global learning commons approach.

Practising disarmament is a litmus test for humanity. Society expects future-oriented leadership and strategic thinking from the world of higher education. Learning commons—a hot topic these days—is a next-generation, high-performance learning space, but a “global learning commons” is expected to be a part of twenty-first century human resources, with institutions of higher education collaborating with each other in a world where coexistence and cooperation are required. It is a strategic idea for sharing assessments in such areas as knowledge and technology education, as well as testing and evaluation in a global context.

In this strategic concept, we will build a global academic platform by using futuristic technologies, such as massive open online courses (MOOCs) and innovative learning strategies, such as creative learning. It is important to have a basic design of how to share and achieve unique versions of “higher learning”. Who owns higher education? It must, of course, be something that is available to all societies and people.

In recent years, the development of general-purpose skills has often been discussed in higher education, but non-cultural generality is merely a copy. Higher education, especially a bachelor's degree education, is an international culture, and higher order thinking skills (HOTS) are supported by philanthropy and social contribution.

By strategically achieving diversification and globalization, universities can continue to maintain and develop their position as intellectual leaders in society.

The acquisition of HOTS is essential. In addition, versatility in higher education in the future is, of course, the key to its support, but the versatility of domains (in a broadly specialized area) is also significant. The power to shape peace and sustainability, and to create a sustainable society, are twenty-first century skills; they are the kind of general-purpose skills that higher education should develop.

By strategically achieving diversification and globalization, universities can continue to maintain and develop their position as intellectual leaders in society. There is a tendency to argue about how to deal with diversification and globalization, which are phenomena that occur all over the world, but this is the result of major misunderstanding. Diversification and globalization are excellent engines for realizing the sustainable development of our global society; for colleges and universities, they must function as an excellent strategy for developing human resources that will open up the future of an uncertain world.

United Nations Academic Impact (UNAI), officially launched by the United Nations in November 2010, works with the world's higher education institutions towards the realization of a sustainable global society. Youth are sponsored in cooperation with the International Association of University Presidents (IAUP), of which executives of J.F. Oberlin University are vigourously active members.

By eliminating political and ideological influences, IAUP improves the quality of higher education in the international community, and promotes peace and international understanding through higher education. Amid the globalization that is affecting higher education in the twenty-first century, which is supposed to have a definite future, we are working towards discussing international issues based on mutual cultural understanding and finding clues to higher intellectual solutions. Its main purpose is to promote the international mission of educational institutions, and improve the quality of education offered by member institutions and the ability to respond to international consciousness and global society through education in a world that is increasingly interconnected. Under this mission, we carry out various activities, including work aimed at building a worldwide vision for higher education; strengthening the international exchange activities of higher education institutions around the world; and promoting the exchange of students and teachers as well as joint research projects. We also promote the opinions and activities of the leaders of Japan within the international community; encourage the development of a sustainable society with international competitiveness through the network and joint projects of higher education leaders; and advance peace and an international understanding of higher education.

Yoshiro Tanaka, Provost and Executive Vice President, J.F. Oberlin University, Tokyo, Japan. Photo provided by author.

It is important not only to assert that the future is a right, but to do what is necessary to be ready for the future. It is important that we face these challenges seriously.

The work of UNAI and its student organization, Action by Students to Promote Innovation and Reform through Education (ASPIRE), is a collaborative effort. When innovation is at its heart and such efforts become conviction, the world can move on to a new stage. These initiatives have come to fruition not only due to the work of international organizations but also because individual leaders share a similar awareness of problems. This is nothing more than the recognition that diversification and globalization are goals that must be achieved in order to realize human coexistence. The realization and maturity of diversity and globalization will enable humanity to seek further development in a sustainable manner. Higher education is a powerful engine for that purpose, and it must be the hope of all societies and people. Although diversification and globalization pose their own sets of challenges, they are important elements of further development and must be achieved. This is a new step that must be taken.

Reforming institutions is not easy, but more difficult is changing the mindset of people.

The Bologna Process was established in 1999 to increase the international competitiveness of European universities. After 20 years, the world has changed dramatically, and the future is increasingly difficult to predict. Today, we have the opportunity to gather the knowledge of the world’s higher education leaders, and to advance the development of global society. We can share discussions about how education can contribute. A heated debate on the creation of a prosperous future through higher education is expected.

But we must remember that we were not perfect. Reforming institutions is not easy, but more difficult is changing the mindset of people. Human beings tend to resist change if possible. But we know what needs to change. If you don't have the option, you cannot hedge the risk.

Many young people have a difficult time choosing to sacrifice short-term pleasure for their long-term benefits. Self-training programs are important in achieving academic success. And the opportunity to go to university is a good opportunity to encounter countless unpredictable values, so attitudes towards university education are extremely important. Thinking and practicing peace education as core curricula in college and university is a most meaningful and valuable theme to enrich self-training programmes. Through higher education, we believe that individuals will move towards their ideals with determination and preparedness.

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