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University of Guelph-Humber and Soka University of Japan announce new exchange program

Soka University of Japan campus
Soka University of Japan campus in Tokyo.

University of Guelph-Humber students will now have the opportunity to study in Japan and learn first-hand about Soka (value-creating) education, as UofGH and Soka University of Japan have struck a new exchange agreement that will open up exciting opportunities to study abroad for students of both institutions. 

The new arrangement will give three UofGH students annually the opportunity to spend one or two semesters studying at Soka’s beautiful campus in Tokyo, while Soka University will likewise send students to UofGH campus in Toronto to pursue their studies here. 

Students from all of UofGH’s programs will be eligible to apply for the exchange, which will run for at least five years. 

For University of Guelph-Humber students, the opportunity to study at Soka University brings benefits that are not merely limited to education or exploration. 

“It’s a great opportunity because of the culture at Soka University,” said Dr. Paul Sherman, Program Head of Family & Community Social Services, whose research has looked in part at the relationship between Soka education and global citizenship identity. 

“The ethos at Soka University is to cultivate and promote global citizenship. The students there are so friendly, caring, and broad-minded. It’s an opportunity for our students to be introduced to and immersed in that prosocial culture.” 

Soka education is an educational philosophy originally created by Japanese educator Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, whose protégé and fellow educator Josei Toda published the first volume of Makiguchi’s educational theory in 1930. 

The philosophy suggests that the happiness of students should be the priority of education. It is a pedagogy that that does not focus on rigid top-down educational approaches, but instead advocates a more humanistic teaching style that empowers students and develops their character, wisdom and critical thinking. 

Today, the Soka Education school system encompasses kindergartens, elementary and high schools in Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea and Brazil, along with two universities in Tokyo and California. 

Earlier this year, Soka Gakkai International (SGI) and UofGH also announced the Soka Education Research Initiative on Global Citizenship (SERI-GC), a five-year research project that allows University of Guelph-Humber students and faculty to study the philosophy and practices of Soka education and its connection to global citizenship. 

Dr. Sherman has been taking UofGH students to Soka University’s Tokyo campus for years as part of the UofGH Study Abroad program. This year, memorable moments of the contingent’s trip included a profoundly moving talk from a 90-year-old atomic bomb survivor hosted by SGI, as well as a hike up Mount Misen in Hiroshima and a visit to Soka High School in Osaka.  

On trips like that one, Dr. Sherman sees first-hand the profound way in which study abroad changes the perspectives of his students. He believes that this exchange program will bring an even greater opportunity for personal growth and discovery to the students who participate. 

“Short-term study abroad is clearly a transformational experience for students. I have personally witnessed this over and over again through the trips I have run. Studying abroad for an entire semester or two will be even more meaningful for them,” he said. 

“At Soka University they will be among faculty and students whose single-minded goal is to contribute to world peace and make the world a better place for future generations. You can’t be in an environment like that without a spirit of global citizenship rubbing off on you.”

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