How has the journey been from being a teacher to an Olympian and now the minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science & Technology in Japan?
After I graduated I opted to become a teacher. I majored in Japanese classic literature. I was inclined towards sports and I got an opportunity to represent my country in the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984 as a Greco-Roman wrestler. At that time, I was also a high school teacher in Japanese language. After that, I entered the field of professional wrestling and even faced the famous Indian wrestler Tiger Jeet Singh. In 1995 I became the member of House of Councillors and in the year 2000 went on to become the member of House of Representative and in the year 2015 I became the Minister of MEXT (Education, Culture, Sports, Science & Technology) in the Abe government.
How do you plan to promote student exchange and university exchange programmes between India and Japan?
We have appointed a coordinator in Bengaluru for the Study in Japan programme. The coordinator’s primary role is to promote and provide information about studying in Japanese universities, including the University of Tokyo to which the coordinator belongs. The coordinator will also strengthen the network between Indian and Japanese universities. Last year, the Japanese government launched a new university exchange project especially for India and this programme encourages student exchange between IITs and other Indian universities with Japanese universities.
We hope to receive around 460 Indian students over five years through this programme. Last year quite a few Japanese business entities set up their office in India and we have found that many Indian students are interested in working for these Japanese companies. At MEXT we are trying to collaborate with other departments like the Ministry of Economics, and business entities to make this exchange programme more meaningful for students in both India and Japan.
Will these exchange programmes include management courses too?
This year MEXT plans to invite about 400 young Indians, ranging from high school students to researchers in science subjects. About 140 students have already registered for this programme. Next, we plan to extend the exchange programme to administrative staff, teachers and students in basic, secondary, vocational and higher education. Japan has several world-class management schools and they are very important institutions for career development. If Indian business schools are eager to cooperate with Japanese management institutions, we would be more than happy to welcome them and develop new programmes with them.