An interview with Ms. Cho Cho Tein, the Central Bank of Myanmar, who collaborated with the IUJ on training programs, is given in the Alumni News. This issue also features an interview with a current scholar Mr. Reinnuer Amin from the Ministry of Finance, Indonesia, in addition to the JISPA activities during December 2012-February 2014.
Here is the round-table talk with the professors.
The following professors from the four JISPA partnership universities attended the round-table talk.
- GRIPS (National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies): Prof. Roberto Leon Gonzalez, Macroeconomic Policy Program (MEP)
- HIT (Hitotsubashi University): Prof. Akira Ariyoshii, Asian Public Policy Program (APPP)
- IUJ (International University of Japan): Prof. Koji Kotani, Macroeconomic Policy Program (MPP)
- UTokyo (the University of Tokyo): Prof. Toshiro Nishizawa, Master of Public Policy, International Program (MPP/IP)
1. What aspects do you consider characterize the JISPA?
Prof. Ariyoshi (HIT): Let me kick off. The first most important factor is the involvement of the IMF, and its contacts and relationships with macroeconomic policy institutions in the region. This enables the universities to recruit good and highly motivated candidates from institutions e focusing on macroeconomic policy. Another important aspect is Japan. Japan provides a unique learning environment compared with other advanced countries such as the U.S., U.K, Europe, and Australia. Japan being in Asia creates close and strong relationships with the other Asian countries in the region. The combination of Japan and the IMF characterizes the JISPA.
Prof. Nishizawa (UTokyo): The concept of the JISPA is clearly defined and consistent. I also feel that there is a strong team sprit among the partnership universities as well as among the scholars and alumni. All of us are committed to better macroeconomic policy formulation and implementation.
Prof. Kotani (IUJ): The key feature of the JISPA is that the program is well-focused on macroeconomic policy issues. Therefore, JISPA scholars, who already have experience in policy making in their countries, always actively participate and take a leading role in discussions in classes, which provides a positive impact on the other students. With their experience, knowledge, and skills gained through their studies at the IUJ, the JISPA scholars receive good grades and write thesis of high-quality. This is another factor that distinguishes the JISPA scholars.
Prof. Leon (GRIPS): While the main role of GRIPS is to foster future policy leaders in various fields; our program for the JISPA focuses on macroeconomic policymaking. We offer macro- and micro-economics, econometrics, and other economics subjects, which are required courses. Another feature is that the recruitment process for the JISPA is very efficient. With the collaboration of the IMF, all the partnership universities can accept scholars who are already involved in policymaking. In this sense, the scholars also benefit from receiving training. In addition, seminars and events organized by IMF-OAP widen the network among the JISPA scholars. Of course, GRIPS emphasizes networking as well, but the JISPA provides a network with scholars from other universities.
2. As Prof. Leon has just mentioned, the administration of the JISPA is a collaborative effort among the partnership universities. Could you please elaborate on the efforts and merits of this collaboration for the JISPA and its scholars?
Prof. Ariyoshi (HIT): By having the partnership universities, the JISPA can create an alumni network beyond that which the individual university has. This alumni network is unique by having alumni engaged in macroeconomic policymaking in the region. Especially, the Orientation Program (OP), a summer preparatory courses, provides an opportunity for scholars to establish bonds with other JISPA scholars who will study at other partnership universities and build an extended network. This fosters a group spirit of the JISPA scholars. Subsequent follow-ups through OAP for the JISPA alumni are important to maintain a value-added network beyond the individual university’s network.
In addition, the selection, including interviews, is collaboratively conducted by all the partnership universities. We consider interviews as a very important component of the selection process in judging candidates’ motivation, which cannot be understood only by reviewing their application documents. Without collaboration with other universities, we would not be able to cover all the candidates from all countries in the region. These arrangements are extremely beneficial to recruit good candidates with strong motivation.
Prof. Nishizawa (UTokyo): As Prof. Ariyoshi pointed out, the extensive alumni network is a big advantage. I, in particular, appreciate the JISPA alumni network site. This enables all the alumni to search for others even 10 years and 20 years after their graduation. Another aspect is that we can learn from each other among the partnership universities. Our school, the Graduate School of Public Policy, has a 10 years history, and our English program was established three years ago. Since ours is a relatively new program, opportunities to share other universities’ experiences and programs are beneficial for us.
Prof. Kotani (IUJ): IUJ is located in Niigata, outside the Tokyo area; thus, events organized for the JISPA scholars provide IUJ-JISPA scholars with network opportunities through interacting with the scholars from the other universities. In addition, the JISPA scholars have already been involved in and have experience in macroeconomic policymaking areas in their countries. However, through interaction with scholars from other countries, they can share and learn about other countries’ experiences and broaden their knowledge and understanding to practice policy. It is an important strength.
Prof. Leon (GRIPS): As all the professors have pointed out, networking opportunities are very important. I witness that the JISPA scholars know each other very well, regardless of the universities of their enrollment, at JISPA events such as the welcome and farewell receptions and various seminars. These foster a life-long network. In addition, the scholars also learn practical policy issues through seminars organized by IMF-OAP. Moreover, the JISPA is run by the partnership universities. Through such arrangements, we seriously consider our program content by obtaining the best ideas and good standard practice. As mentioned earlier, we could have not been able to cover applicants from all the countries without the collaboration with other universities during the selection process. It is a unique and interesting experience for us to consider candidates who are applying for other universities, and vice versa.
Prof. Ariyoshi (HIT): Let me also add the positive impact from the social life stand point of the scholars. Having friends from other university is beneficial. For example, our HIT scholars visit their IUJ friends during the winter to enjoy skiing. You know, Urasa area is very famous for its heavy snow and skiing slopes. Conversely, IUJ scholars visit HIT and other friends living in the Tokyo area to explore the cultural experience and life in Tokyo. Such kinds of interactions at a personal level are also an advantage of the JISPA
3. How do the partnership universities ensure the quality control of the academic program?
Prof. Kotani (IUJ): In case of the IUJ, as part of our effort in ensuring program quality, we place emphasis on the recruitment process of new faculty members. The IUJ offers scholars a unique environment where the professors closely interact with the scholars for a whole day as we live on the same campus. All faculty members are requested to share and achieve this vision by being kind enough, flexible enough, and patient enough with teaching scholars from various country backgrounds. The faculty members are also requested to produce best quality research. In addition, teaching evaluation by the students is also conducted to provide feedback to the faculty members on their teaching style, and the faculty members give their best effort. Regarding curriculum development, we enriched courses in finance in response to OAP’s request a few years ago. Under the MPP where the JSIPA scholars enroll at the IUJ, finance and Japanese macroeconomics are offered in addition to core economics courses.
Prof. Leon (GRIPS): We, GRIPS, are very serious in ensuring the quality of the academic program by conducting evaluation internally and externally. Under the internal evaluation process, scholars’ evaluation is conducted by both quantitative and qualitative methods. The professors are also invited to observe other professors’ lectures for mutual learning and feedback. We are also requested to submit an annual report to the management as well as to the IMF on how to enhance the program. We also hold biannual sessions with the JISPA scholars to exchange views and to hear their opinions.
External evaluations are periodically conducted for curriculum assessment. This year, an external international committee convened to assess curriculum from the viewpoint of the best practice at an international level.
Prof. Ariyoshi (HIT): Our program, APPP’s goal is to train economists who will be able to function as policymakers in macroeconomics to contribute to the sound and sustainable growth of their home countries. To achieve this aim, our teaching staff members, who are all well-experienced policymakers with strong theoretical background in economics, know which areas to focus on to bring up our scholars to this level. It requires a great deal of efforts from our students. Since they have different academic backgrounds and careers, we provide additional teaching courses in mathematics and teaching assistance to address any weakness that the scholars might have in core courses.
In addition, as an advantage of being a small program, we provide intensive academic support for the scholars by designating a professor to each student during the entire two years of the program. One professor supervises up to four scholars per intake, and a seminar is held once a week and additional meetings are also held. Our faculty members closely watch and consult to make sure that our scholars graduate with the standards of skills required for their success in careers as policymakers.
Prof. Nishizawa (UTokyo): We analyze the students’ feedback as the most effective tool to control the program quality. For example, every semester, students vote for the best teacher award. Not only in terms of academic quality, but also in terms of value for practitioners, we invite policymakers and senior officials to give lectures as a professional school to train policymakers. Regarding curriculum development, our curriculum offers theory, application, and case studies, which are all interacted and integrated with the emphasis on fostering future policy makers.
The remaining interviews will be included in the next issue, which will be released in June 2014. It will focus on features and strengths of each university, universities’ perspective on the JISPA’s achievements, messages to potential candidates, as well as describing the living environment that the universities provide for the scholars.
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