Osaka is the Third Most Livable City in the World!

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View of the port of Osaka

The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), a branch of the famous weekly magazine, Economist, publishes an annual Global Liveability Index. It was nice to see Osaka moving to #3 in the world! EIU tries to be comprehensive and objective when comparing the quality of life in cities around the globe. The overall rankings are the total of 5 categories which I put forth my point of view. Why does Osaka rank so high? 

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The view of the neighboring municipality of Ikeda from the Minoh Quasi National Park taken on my bicycle ride last week. 

 

  1. Stability (25%) – Personal and violent crime is almost non-existent in Osaka. A lack of gun ownership and limited immigration has also contributed to the lack of terrorism or mass shootings. Another index in this category is the threat of military conflict and despite our proximity to North Korea, it did not hurt Osaka or Tokyo, another Japanese city in the top 10. 
  2. Health Care (20%) – Japanese live an extremely long time, in part due to excellent health care. I trust doctors and nurses here when my family needs care. 
  3. Culture & Environment (25%) – This is the category that is most noticed in our daily lives. I see Osaka ranking high in some areas, such as lack of corruption, censorship and social/religious restrictions. The city is a “foodie’s paradise” with great restaurants and cuisine. Shopping and the availability of products are also outstanding. One can get just about anything in Osaka and note that the city is not in the top 10 of most expensive cities in the world, although it is not cheap to live here and compares with cities in the USA. Sports and cultural opportunities to participate and view abound. Japan is the most distinctive culture of any developed nation. I ride my bicycle everywhere and could not do this anywhere else except perhaps Amsterdam. The humidity and temperature can be uncomfortable at times during the year, but Osaka does have the world’s average yearly temperature and we experience the change of seasons. I wish the insulation in the homes would be better in the three months of winter weather. 
  4. Education (10%) – EIU judges the quality and availability of private education and I hope the Senri & Osaka International Schools helped Osaka score high in this category. It also looks at public school indicators and Japan always ranks high in student achievement. 
  5. Infrastructure (20%) It is so easy and safe to drive in Osaka and the rest of Japan. it is rare to see a pothole and in this mountainous country, the number of tunnels that make one’s drive straight and flat is amazing. Public transport is also comprehensive and used a lot by everyone. There is quality housing, although people live a little bit too close together for my American sensibility. The internet connections are super fast, clean water, energy available, although utilities and gasoline are very expensive here. There are many international flights out of Kansai International Airport and Itami Osaka Airport. 

In summary, Osaka is a really nice place to live and the OIS community, teachers, parents and students are fortunate to have a high quality of life that according to the Economist at least, it one of the best liveable cities in the world. I like to think that SOIS played a small part of contributing the ranking!

Lebron James Launches The “I Promise” School

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I am a big sports fan and was so happy to see LeBron James invest some of his great wealth into public schools in his hometown of Akron, Ohio. I hope educational researchers do some long-term research on the students there to see if this model can be replicated in other public schools serving disadvantaged populations.

The Akron Public School District is spending 8.1 million dollars and LeBron’s Foundation is chipping in another over 2 million dollars to support the school. The model provides much support outside the regular classroom teaching. Parents will get job placement, GED and counseling to allow them to live better lives and be able to support their children in school better. All students receive a bike to promote health and give them transportation. Many poor families do not own cars and public transport is not comprehensive in Akron. There will also be extra summer sessions focusing on STEM education, extended school days, etc. to keep the students out of their troubled neighborhoods and not supervised. The best thing about the school, in my opinion, is graduates get free tuition at Akron University.

I see growing inequalities in the USA and the best way to attack this and lift families out of poverty is to give them the advantages of middle and upper-class families. The government and private citizens and organizations need to build our education system. I applaud LeBron James and the Akron School District on this project and wish them the best for the students.

Advanced Placement Research Findings

Valerie Strauss is the editor of the Answer Sheet, the section/blog about education from the Washington Post. I subscribe to the weekly summary of articles and often find something interesting. This week she summarized the research on College Board’s Advanced Placement (AP) program (Seven things research reveals – and doesn’t reveal – about Advanced Placement) This is an honors level high school curriculum similar to the International Baccalaureate’s Diploma Programme. In fact, in the comments, the IB is referred to several times.

Strauss concludes that AP is challenged by expanding to urban schools serving lower socio-economic students in the USA. This makes sense because as with the IB, it takes a lot of resources like training, support services, and an environment (class size, family support) to run a successful rigorous curriculum. Poor schools lack many of these vital services.

Some of her later conclusions about AP from the research did not sit well with me. She only found “moderate association” with passing an AP exam and university success. This may be to the difficulty of educational research to separate causes in a complex system. I would also like to know why some elite boarding schools are dropping their AP courses.

Interestingly, as more schools across the United States stretch their course schedules to incorporate more AP offerings, a small group of elite boarding schools have recently dropped their AP courses. This development presents a new wrinkle in the push for equitable access to rigorous learning opportunities. If elite schools change the definition of elite courses, old marks of distinction may give way to new ones.

I did a research review of IB studies last summer. There is a lack of studies targeting IB and student achievement.

 

OIS Excels on IB Exams

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A happy Class of 2018 after receiving their diplomas – June 8, 2018

The 28 students of the Class of 2018 attained an average of 36 points on the May exam session of the International Baccalaureate (IB). This is 6 points above the historical world average of 30 points. Seven OIS students scored 40 points or above, which on average, only 10% of test takers reach. All of the students passed the 24 point threshold to earn the full IB Diploma and almost half of them were awarded Bilingual Diplomas, signifying passing two “A” level languages.

I would like to congratulate the students, teachers, staff and parents for this excellent achievement. The IB Diploma Programme is rigorous and it takes our whole community to support student learning. Best wishes for continued success at the next level of your education!

Daniel Pink’s “When” (Part 2)

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With a huge earthquake interrupting the end of the school year, we did not get to discuss the second half of the book together. Pink’s ideas have been creeping into our conversations.

Reading the book as a group was powerful and it is something that we will try to do every year as a leadership team and among faculty. It is good to have a book to start conversations and get us thinking about innovation and forces us to take a fresh look at how we do things.

I just finished Part Two: Beginnings, Endings and In Between and wanted to put my thoughts down in writing before they are lost over the summer. The book has slowed down a bit, but there are still lots of interesting points.

  • Beginnings – Centers of Disease Control and Academy of Pediatrics recommend that middle school and high school not to start before 8:30 AM because adolescents need to sleep in the morning. The physical and mental effects of an early start are dramatic on the well-being and performance of teenagers.
  • U Curve of Happiness – Humans have a u-shaped curve of happiness, with a low point being between 50-53 (my current age) and then rising back up to where you were when you were a child.
  • Studies show the more spent on the wedding and engagement ring, the higher the rate of divorce. This could be that richer people can divorce and poorer people sometimes stay together for economic reasons. (my thought)
  • Find fresh starts, like start of month or week, anniversaries, etc. to spur productivity.
  • “uh-oh effect” – When teams reach the half-way point of a project, they feel a sense of urgency to get things done and the most creative portion of the process occurs then. Teams will go for a long time without anything creative and then at the midpoint, bam!, the magic happens.
  • Life is in three sections: 0-30 growing up / 30-60 – people are forging relationships that will help in the future /  from 60-90, people prune the peripheral friends and seek out only emotionally meaningful relationships and experiences; time is limited so they live in the here and now.
  • people like elevated endings, so if you have bad news and good news to deliver, give them the bad news first and good news second;
  • poignancy is a great word and emotion; it means an event or experience with a mix of sadness and happiness; this is especially true at the end of the year or graduation;

 

 

Daniel Pink’s “When”

 

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Sleep pods are becoming popular in Singapore offices – Can schools adopt them? (photo from LadyBoss Asia)

The OIS leadership team is reading When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing by Daniel H. Pink. Pink has a law degree and worked in politics before becoming an author. Like his friend Malcolm Gladwell, one of his main methods of writing is to take academic research and find patterns and interesting themes to popularize them in books. He wrote NY Times bestsellers DriveTo Sell is Human and A Whole New Mind. 

For this latest book, Pink and two researchers did a meta-analysis of 700 studies of timing to form the basis of this book.

Part I The Day

This section concentrates on daily productivity patterns. A person’s mental sharpness, physical energy and emotional state fluctuate during the day, being controlled by a small part of the brain’s hypothalamus called the SCN (suprachiasmatic nucleus). The main message is that a typical day would consist of a morning spike of performance, followed by a deep drop in the afternoon and a slight rally in the early evening. Pink gives techniques to avoid and overcome the afternoon trough.

  • Try to avoid important decisions, meetings, events in the afternoon. He cites numerous studies showing more errors occur during this time and the negative mood/energy influences greatly decisions.

I am a lark, someone who goes to bed early (9:00 PM – 10:00 PM) and wakes up early (5:00 – 6:00 AM). My peak performance is always in the morning and I struggle in the afternoons and late evenings.

He gives many pointers for arranging your day around this rhythms. Exercise first thing in the morning to lose weight and boost your mood, drink a glass of water upon waking and wait an hour to 90 minutes before drinking coffee.

The section I was most interested in was the science behind taking breaks. We as school leaders always feel we should be pushing to always get more done and seem to always try to squeeze an email or two while having our lunch. Pink tells us to make time for breaks and to put thought into how we do it and we will be more productive. He cites one study that showed high performers work for 52 minutes and then break for 17 minutes. A break meaning standing, moving, no electronics, socialize with others about non-work topics, getting outside in nature, etc.

I particularly liked his “permission” to take naps. I’ve said for years that in schools, we should allow students and teachers to have short power naps to refresh our brains, boost our immunity and improve memory. I envision “nap pods” that would be secure, time-controlled compartments that students, parents or teachers could use to get the optimal 10-20 minutes of sleep. Pink suggests having a cup of coffee then sleep for 20 minutes and as you wake, the caffeine kicks in. He calls is a “nappuccino”. Sleeping under 20 minutes is key to avoid “sleep inertia”, the fogginess that follows a long nap. So have a cup of coffee, set the timer for 25 minutes (average time to go to sleep is 7 minutes)and doze away!

I see teenagers struggle with sleep in every school I’ve worked in. Their SCN has them up late at night and waking late in the mornings. Many of them would greatly benefit from a 20-minute nap. It would help their learning, improve their mood and concentration upon waking. I would love to try to install sleep pods. A challenge would be supervision: make sure they didn’t sleep too long or bring classmates in the pod with them.

As we go through the book, I will try to post more of our learning on the blog.

elementary school implications

  • 1. recess – play first then eat; grades 3-5; K-2 this does not happen, look at how to change this;
  • we have not cut back on recess, perhaps add one in the afternoon; teachers take their own breaks and with specials in the afternoon, they do get the pauses;

afternoon meetings – pause; include everyone to share;

TELL (Tokyo Emergency LifeLine) Connects with OIS

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Sandra Strnadt the Kansai Coordinator of TELL, the Tokyo Emergency Life Line, visited our campus earlier this week. The main service of TELL is a free, anonymous, confidential English-language telephone (03-5774-0992) and chat service (telljp.com)offered throughout Japan, every day of the year. Highly-trained volunteers and experts receive over 7,000 calls per year. Almost half are from foreign nationals and the other half are from Japanese speakers of English. The staff provides emotional support for people in crisis, whether it be depression, anxiety, substance abuse, neglect mental illness, etc. They may have saved hundreds of lives since the service began in 1973.

TELL also offers confidential, face-to-face counseling to adults, couples, families, children and adolescents. They also provide psychological testing and assessments. The TELL Outreach wing offers workshops, resources, awareness raising campaigns, etc. on a variety of topics ranging from LGBTQIA, cyber-bullying, stress, suicide prevention, eating disorders, mental health first aid, etc.

TELL is always looking for donations as they receive no government support. They are also seeking volunteers. Contact volunteer@telljp.com to register for interest.

We are scheduling several events with TELL in the 2018-2019 school year. We are pleased they are expanding their reach to the Kansai region.