Aomi Kuwayama, junior student at ICU, was awarded a grant of ¥150,000 during the spring term to cover the cost of field work in the Philippines. She is one of seven students who received grants from the JICUF this term. (An overview of the spring term recipients is here.) The purpose of her research is to investigate educational inequality between urban and rural areas in the Philippines. She plans to apply for the 5-year program at ICU, which will enable her to expand on this research in her master’s thesis and compare educational inequality between urban areas in the Philippines and Japan.
Here is our interview with Aomi.
JICUF: Your research is on the educational inequality between urban and rural areas within the Philippines. What motivated you to focus on this topic?
Aomi: My experience in the Philippines last year gave me a different perspective on education. I had the fortune of visiting urban, suburban, and rural areas in the Philippines as part of a club activity. I noticed that children’s learning situations in each area clearly differed. For example, urban areas are rich in human and physical resources as well as job opportunities for children (especially boys), which might be one of the factors that explain why poor urban children tend to stop studying. On the other hand, rural areas (one of which I visited was a remote island) have much fewer opportunities, so children are likely to find work elsewhere. Education could help rural communities thrive, but there are not enough educational equipment and materials. Before my visit, I had a general interest in education, poverty and inequality. After experiencing the situation in the Philippines firsthand, I became interested in how to explain it academically. Hopefully, I will be able to apply the findings to my future job.
JICUF: From your research proposal, I understood that you will be focusing on (1) gender and (2) income level as the major factors that influence access to secondary education. Are you aware of other factors, and will you be investigating them as well?
Aomi: In addition to these factors, some researchers in the Philippines point out that maternal education is associated with children’s education regardless of their gender. Also, it is said that population density and mother tongues are related to primary school completion. I assume these factors also apply to secondary education. In addition, children with special needs tend not to complete education. Although I have not decided on the precise method, I will investigate these factors in my research as well.
JICUF: You are applying for the 5-year program to obtain your bachelor’s and master’s degrees in an accelerated course. This is a new program, and many graduates are not familiar with it. Could you explain why you decided to apply, and what the benefits of this program are?
Aomi: I decided to apply to this program mainly for the following reasons. First, I would like to pursue my academic interest and conduct an in-depth research for my senior thesis. Second, the lower cost resulting from the exemption of the (graduate school) entrance fee and the possibility of gaining a scholarship is attractive. Third, the 5-year program allows me to finish my studies earlier, which is a significant benefit. I am strongly interested in working in the field of international educational cooperation which requires expertise and operational experience, and the program would allow me to start building my career earlier.
JICUF: What are your future plans? Is there a specific career path you’d like to pursue?
Aomi: If I become a candidate for the 5-year program, I have two more years of study. My long-term goal is to work for a major actor in the educational field such as UN agencies and large NGOs, but my immediate goal upon graduation from ICU is to be involved in a grass-roots educational program for several years, whether it is through an NGO, private company or a semi-public institution like JICA.
JICUF: Thank you Aomi, and good luck with your research!