As the Head of K12 services at Rarejob Inc., and Executive Director at Envizion Inc. — both companies that provide online platforms for English-speaking lessons — Hiromi Sakae Ogawa has been working in the education technology sector since June 2021. That is when she made a career change from working at Mitsui & Co. Ltd, an investment and business development conglomerate in Japan, where she worked since she graduated college, in the Finance, Human Resources, Aerospace, Education, and Healthcare sectors. In recent years while being involved in many global industries, she began to realize that as the world becomes more dynamic, there is a growing need for leaders to be able to quickly synthesize information, judge whether it is trustworthy, analyze data, and use it in their decision-making process. Having made this realization, Hiromi considered attending an MBA program to gain the skills needed, but she never took the step to leave her career because she had an instinct that an MBA, although an attractive choice, would not directly lead to where she wanted to be.
Hiromi first learned about Minerva’s educational model through a group of undergraduate Minerva students she welcomed for an office visit to Mitsui back in 2018. She was pleasantly surprised by the insightful discussions she had with the students and inspired to learn more about the institution. Soon after, she discovered the Master of Science in Decision Analysis (MDA) program, but initially put the opportunity aside as, at the time, she was in charge of healthcare business, placed at an acute care hospital in Japan for a management change project in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. While supporting the new strategy implementation of the Director General and the Head of Nursing at the hospital, Hiromi experienced first-hand the importance of being evidence-based, breaking down complex issues into smaller pieces, and communicating effectively in an organization with various professions. In her words, it was tough, but doable. This experience motivated Hiromi to gain further skills to tackle even more complex societal issues and she decided to make a career change to the education field, which she had always had an interest in. She knew that the MDA program, with its opportunity to immerse in an interactive learning environment and study remotely with students from all over the world, would fit her professional goals, so she decided to enroll to increase her exposure to global trends and build up her decision-making skills.
Hiromi studied international relations and architecture for her bachelor’s degree at Keio University — a private Japanese higher education institution. The schooling she received there was progressive at the time, with interdisciplinary project-based classes, coupled with some lectures, which was rare in Japan. When Hiromi learned that Minerva’s curriculum was based on the science of learning, she was immediately impressed. This prompted her to reflect on the effectiveness of active learning, which she had intuitively known before but never fully experienced in practice and therefore never correctly implemented by herself. After starting MDA classes, Hiromi found out that as course material is reinforced over time, students are able to revisit what they have previously learned and class concepts can be immediately reflected in various aspects of their professional decision making — an essential part of the learning process.
“Most of the Japanese education system has not changed much for the last 30 years and is still based on lecture-style, mainly memorization, old-school type of learning. There are new initiatives on ‘project-based learning’, but it is not the majority of course material,” shares Hiromi, emphasizing the need for the education model in Japan to transform and adapt to new realities. She believes that curriculum should be designed in a way that helps students learn more effectively and that science of learning techniques should be incorporated into instructional design. “I see myself contributing towards the reinvention of the Japanese K-12 system someday, including my ambition to take a part in the government. I feel that we need that change,” Hiromi shares about her future aspirations.
For her master’s thesis, Hiromi plans to explore how education can contribute towards the mission of closing the gender gap in Japan. Women in Japan are historically underrepresented in STEM fields as well as most leadership roles in various industries, and Hiromi believes that this inequality forms as early as childhood, under the influence of a variety of factors, such as the involvement of teachers and parents. She shares that girls are typically not encouraged to pursue leadership roles and careers in science-related fields at school, or receive exceptional praise for their intellectual capabilities as often as boys do. Hiromi firmly believes this is an important factor that needs to be addressed in order to lessen the gender gap. To complete her thesis paper, Hiromi plans to work with an all-women’s higher education institution in Tokyo, Japan, and explore how girls’ confidence is influenced by the people around them, as well as how education can help mitigate the negative aspects of that influence. She has already started to identify concepts from her Minerva education, including bias identification and bias mitigation across contexts, that she plans to integrate into her project.
After graduating from Minerva’s MDA program, Hiromi hopes to contribute towards the reinvention of the Japanese education system by championing the integration of science of learning methodology into curriculum development to ensure students learn effectively. For Hiromi, exposure to active learning has been a transformative experience that changed her perspective on education and pedagogy and she is excited to use her learnings to make an impact on future generations of Japanese students.