An interview with Ms. Vathana Dalaloy, Director-General of the Securities and Exchange Commission Office, Bank of the Lao PDR, is featured to illustrate the career path of as a successful alumna. This issue also features an interview with Mr. Ashrafbek Olimov, the State Tax Committee of Uzbekistan, who has enrolled in a PhD program at Yokohama National University as a JISPA open-track scholar. The JISPA activities during March-May 2014 are also described.
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)
4. How do the partnership universities provide suitable living environment for the JISPA scholars?
Prof. Leon (GRIPS): The JISPA scholars stay at dormitories owned by GRIPS, where Japanese staff reside to assist students when necessary, such as in the case of going to hospital. All GRIPS administrative staff members are fluent in English, and they provide assistance from the beginning of settling-in and guidance of living in Japan. A nurse on day duty and a doctor for part time every day are available on campus for consultation on health issues. We also keep the scholar’s families in their home countries informed when necessary. GRIPS staff also provide assistance for the students’ families who are living in Japan.
Prof. Kotani (IUJ): IUJ students, including the JISPA scholars, from various countries live in on-campus dormitories with close interactions, which prevents our students from feeling isolated, or, even I can say that they cannot be isolated. In Urasa area where the IUJ is located, the local community has experience with international students and their families, in particular their kids who enroll in daycare centers and elementary schools. Thus, family members may not have difficulties in schooling and life. In addition, a Japanese student is assigned to help each international student when a situation occurs such as injuries. Lastly, with around 30 years’ experience in accepting international students, all administrative arrangements are tailor-made.
Prof. Nishizawa (UTokyo): Although the UTokyo is unable to provide dormitories, our international student advisor assists the JISPA scholars to find appropriate housing. There are also arrangements where current students assist incoming students by giving advice on academic and daily life. The UTokyo also has a strong language training programs, which will help our students to get adjusted to life in Japan. Japanese student tutors and experienced international students also support the scholars. Of course, our faculty members are always happy to support our students.
Prof. Ariyoshi (HIT): We offer the JISPA scholars rooms in university’s dormitories, where they can socialize and help each other with Japanese and international students on other programs. As mentioned several times, our APPP is a small program; so, our Program Manager can provide extensive support for scholars’ welfare to help out from settling-in to any other issues that may arise. While APPP is an English-medium program, we offer survival Japanese courses to make the scholars feel easier in their daily life. Most importantly, mutual support among classmates makes the scholars’ life active and fulfilled by organizing regular social activities and trips during holidays.
5. As mentioned above, the partnership universities offer JISPA scholars the programs with macroeconomic focus; however, the universities have different strengths and characteristics. Please describe the features and strengths that your university has.
Prof. Leon (GRIPS): I would like to explain three features of GRIPS. The strength of GRIPS is that we have a clear vision and objective as a whole university, that is, to foster leaders in policymaking. With this aim, GRIPS offers two aspects of teaching; technical training and more practical issues through application and communication with policymakers. In the context of the JISPA, these two aspects are reinforced. The MEP, a program offered by GRIPS under the JISPA, lays the rigorous foundation of economic theories in macro-, micro-economics, econometrics, finance and other areas. In addition to these courses, courses in application and case studies are offered by professors who are experienced with policymaking. Another aspect is a wide alumni network that GRIPS has in the region. Every country has members of “GRIPS family”. To end, GRIPS provides a well-suited environment for international students with its 30 years’ experience, including all English speaking staff. The environment of GRIPS is very international.
Prof. Ariyoshi (HIT): HIT is well known to be one of the best universities in social science in Japan with well qualified faculty members. Our APPP, where the JISPA scholars enroll, is a very small program, as I have already mentioned several times. Big universities and programs can provide a wide variety of courses and a large number of staff with diverse expertise. However, we can offer unique benefits that only a small program can deliver. We provide very intensive instructions and create a range of interactions during each lecture where the maximum number of students is only around 15. As said earlier, one academic advisor is designated to each scholar throughout the two years of the program. The advisor gives guidance on academic issues including thesis writing and research methods. With such intensive interaction and supervision, our students are encouraged to produce high-quality thesis both in terms of theoretical basis, applications and policy implications for their home countries. Perhaps one-quarter to one-third of students’ effort during the Program is spent on their thesis, which is the culmination of their studies at HIT. Although unlike other big programs, we do not offer a huge range of courses, all core courses in economics as well as elective courses focusing specific applications of economics to policymaking are taught by our faculty members and outside experts who are well-experienced in this area with strong theoretical backgrounds.
The small size of our program also deepens and strengthens bonds among the students which last throughout their life-time. These bonds across countries indeed are of great benefit at international meetings of central banks and governments. The intensity of studies and experience distinguish HIT.
Prof. Kotani (IUJ): The feature and strength of the IUJ can be characterized by the location of the IUJ. All facilities, including dormitories, are situated on campus, which makes students know even the schedule of the faculty members during the whole day and night. At 23:00 or even at midnight, students can visit me for consultation. This is just one of the examples showing how closely and flexibly the students can approach and communicate with the faculty members. Furthermore, one of the JISPA scholars told me that the IUJ period represents the period in his life when he studied the hardest. In terms of a climate, Urasa area is very famous for its heavy snow, so called Yukiguni (snow country). Once snow falls, students can only study and organize social activities, which is a highly unique environment that IUJ provides for the scholars to concentrate on their studies.
In the context of the JISPA scholars’ education, they are interested in quantitative and analytical skills. With supervision from our faculty members, they pick up challenging topics and produce high-quality thesis. Some of thesis can be considered at the equivalent level to doctoral programs. By nature, we are prepared to give quantitative and analytical courses.
Prof. Nishizawa (UTokyo): I will explain the UTokyo’s strengths from three aspects. First, the faculty members of the MPP/IP, where the JISPA scholars study, consist of top-class academics in economics and law/politics, many of whom were experienced in policymaking by serving as members of key government advisory councils or actually working as senior government officials. The program provides broad courses from academic disciplines to policy issues. The second strength is that we also have many outside practitioners as teaching staff, who can provide more practical knowledge and experience. The third point is the interaction with Japanese students at our graduate school, who are motivated to work both in public and private sectors. A chance to establish a network with future key persons both in the public and private sectors is given to the JISPA scholars.
6. To what extent do you consider the JISPA has achieved its objectives?
Prof. Nishizawa (UTokyo): I trust that the JISPA has achieved a notable success during its 20 years history. Wherever I go in Asia, it is not that difficult to find the JISPA alumni who have reached high positions and greater responsibilities in their government. This fact clearly shows the success of the program.
Prof. Kotani (IUJ): Yes, indeed, many of our IUJ-JISPA alumni tell me that they were promoted quickly.
Prof. Nishizawa (UTokyo): Let me add one thing. Thanks to the arrangements of the JISPA universities that each has different strengths, around 600 scholars have studied under the program and the alumni have spread throughout Asia as key policymakers. This could not have been achieved with only a single university. The joint efforts among the partnership universities have contributed to such an achievement and benefit.
Prof. Leon (GRIPS): We see many examples that showcase the JISPA alumni with greater responsibilities in macroeconomic policymaking in their home countries. One example is former Soviet Union countries. Since the theme is the 20th anniversary of the program, let me look back to the start of the JISPA which was established to assist transition economy countries. The alumni contributed to the transition from planned economy to market-oriented economy. A recent example is that many of the JISPA alumni came to Tokyo to attend the IMF-World Bank Annual Meeting in 2012 as representatives of their countries. Some of them gave a speech at the inauguration ceremony by expressing how much they appreciated their training in Japan.
Prof. Ariyoshi (HIT): The involvement of the limited number of partnership universities in Japan under the JISPA gives much more coherence to the scholarship and provides a stronger network for scholars. Many other scholarship programs give their scholars free choice of institutions, which may often result in a lesser sense of belonging. The JISPA is one of the rare occasions that the scholarship itself provides coherence and integrity, with the alumni coming not only from their university but also from the scholarship program.
In terms of the objective, the idea is to help train people who contribute to better policymaking in their countries. In that respect, when we see the JISPA alumni in their respective institutions and at international meetings, you may get a sense that the objectives and targets have been achieved.
7. Please give any message to potential candidates.
Prof. Kotani (IUJ): My message is very simple: Please apply for the JISPA if you are interested in the history of how Japan has developed. Comparing the situation of Japan with your country will be helpful for your future and your country as well.
Prof. Nishizawa (UTokyo): I would like to say to the candidates: Join the JISPA network to become macroeconomic professionals and share professional identity of the JISPA community!
Prof. Ariyoshi (HIT): Here is my message: If you have a strong desire to improve the welfare of your country and your fellow citizens, and you are willing to work hard to achieve this objective, do come and apply for the JISPA. It is not going to be easy. Study is tough; but it is ultimately going to be rewarding. The one to two years of study under the JISPA will be one of the best years and experiences of your life when you look back on it later. You will also establish friendships that will last a life-time. Your life in Japan will be very valuable. So, BE PREPARED.
Prof. Leon (GRIPS): I encourage the candidates to apply for the JISPA: It provides you with strong background to enable you to understand the current policy debates, how to get the best practice methods in policy making, to better contribute to the progress and welfare to serve the people of your countries and international community more effectively. It is a worthwhile and necessary investment to improve knowledge and human capital, in that way we can improve the performance of work of government officials.
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