by Jack (Runqi) Li, third year, Knowledge Integration
During reading week, 28 students from Canada and Japan (representing 10 Canadian Universities and 14 Japanese universities) gathered in UBC to participate in the 2017 Japan Canada Academic Consortium.
This year's JACAC theme was “Immigration Policies and National Borders: Integration and Exclusion.” We were divided into groups of four, with two Canadian students and two Japanese students in each group.
Students came from a wide range of academic disciplines and cultural background. For example, there was a student representing the First Nations, a former Somalian refugee who became a Canadian citizen, as well as many from a immigrant background. As an immigrant to Canada myself who is interested in understanding Japanese society, I was able to discuss in depth the trends and challenges that Japanese society is facing.
One of the most important things I learned was that often the hosting society, whether it’s the public or the government, tends to put great emphasis on selecting the "right people" to admit to the country, but is quite oblivious to what happens afterwards. It is after the selection process that problems of integration begin to surface, and integration is exactly what my team picked up on.
Our team focused on how primary and secondary education as well as their institutions can play a much larger role in foster inclusiveness in schools. We devised preliminary policies on reforming teacher training, introducing Japanese as a subject for non-native speakers, as well as developing a special "shared-curriculum" for all students that aims to foster inclusiveness and promote societal awareness among students.
I was inspired by the ideas that came out of our discussion and have decided to make the policy proposal the topic of my fourth year thesis to assess how it can realistically be implemented. I have become motivated to keep learning and sharing issues confronting our world. It is critical for us as students, researchers, and academic institutions to take the lead and promote public awareness and public discussion so that even more interdisciplinary and intercultural collaboration can take place to tackle these complex real world problems.