Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Visit to WMU (1) – 27th Meeting of the Board of Governors, the new President and Sasakawa Fellows

I left Narita airport on 24 May 2009 to attend the 27th Meeting of the Board of Governors of the World Maritime University (WMU).

Established by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in 1983, WMU was originally aimed at promoting capacity-building in maritime affairs for developing States. It has developed greatly in the past 26 years. Now, the university is recognized as a unique maritime educational forum that seeks to engage in education, research and human resource development on a global scale.

Human resource development is also one of the top priorities for the Nippon Foundation. The WMU Sasakawa Fellowships Programme is considered one of the most successful human resource development programmes. I was in charge of this programme at the Nippon Foundation and, thereafter, closely observed the development of the Programme as a Board member of WMU. I am pleased to see the huge success of the capacity-building programme over a mid- to long-term range.

The students studying in WMU’s Master programme (2 years) come from countries all over the world and specialize in maritime law and policy, safety and the environment, education and training, shipping management, port management, and the marine environment. One noteworthy characteristic of WMU is the diverse background of its students: generally, they have worked with governmental authorities in the maritime sector, companies and other private entities in that sector, and maritime or ocean-related universities. They study at WMU to acquire advanced, expert knowledge and, after graduation, remain involved in related fields in their own countries.

The Sasakawa Fellowships Programme annually offers scholarships to around 25 students for the 2-year period. Over the past 21 years, 424 graduates from 53 countries have benefited from the Programme and they are working in the maritime sector in various countries as well as in inter-governmental organizations such as the IMO. This year, 27 Sasakawa Fellows in the Class of 2010 began their studies.

In the evening, I was surprised to see new President Bjorn Kjerfve when we arrived at the students’ accommodation, the Henrik Smith Hostel. Despite his busy schedule, he took time to join us, together with Nippon Foundation Chair professors Nakazawa, Linden and Schroeder and Vice President Bruce Brown (in charge of student registration). We took group photos with the Fellows in the front garden of the Hostel.

Apart from the President’s surprise visit, which we greatly appreciated, we felt that the conversation session planned by the Sasakawa Fellows was well organized. All in all, I renewed my belief that the students from all over the world studying together at WMU and establishing personal networks will significantly contribute to the development of maritime activities around the globe.

Friday, 12 June 2009

Marine Education and a path of hope

Perhaps because I spent my childhood surrounded by mountains, I developed a longing for the ocean from early in life. This could also be the influence of my uncle, who was a ship’s captain and occasionally brought my family cheese and bananas, which were still rare in those lean days right after the war. Surely, I was also moved by adventure stories like Robinson Crusoe. But I think the ocean I saw in my mind’s eye was something more than that: it felt like a path of hope projecting into the future.

To return to more recent days, on June 2nd, we visited Mr Kanamori, Director-General, Elementary and Secondary Education Bureau, at the Ministry of Education,Science and Culture to deliver a policy proposal on the promotion of Marine Education in primary education. We provided him with the ‘21st Century Grand-Design for Marine Education in Primary Education’, the fruit of OPRF’s working group on Japanese Marine Education. .

This policy proposal is part of our activities promoting marine education, which we have been carrying out in fulfillment of Article 28 of the Japanese Basic Act on Ocean Policy. In fact, the first study group on marine education got under way in 2007, and set out to realize what Article 28 stipulates regarding marine education. In 2008, we provided the same Ministry with our initial policy proposal on the promotion of Marine Education. The Grand-Design that we presented this week was a sequel to this previous effort.

The main part of the Grand-Design is a curriculum on Marine Education (which I hope the readers of this blog will take interest in). It is created in line with the current National Guideline for Primary Education. The content of the Grand-Design also provides a road map for developing external associations leading to collaborative educational programs. Hence, the Grand-design was created to be useful for both schools and outside organizations who are interested in supporting primary marine education.

Director-General, Mr Kanamori listened to our policy proposal in a positive manner and gave us promising comments on the future promotion of marine education in primary schools, which was very encouraging.

It has been more than 50 years since I dreamt of the ocean in my boyhood days. Japan now is a prosperous place and children need no longer nurture their dreams with only their imaginations and knowledge they can gain from limited experiences. For these children, I believe we should provide first-hand opportunities to learn about the blessings the ocean provides. I sincerely hope that our study on Marine Education will help develop inspiring experiences in primary education and enhance future generations’ appreciation of the sea.