Lin Kobayashi – School Founder - UWC ISAK Japan

About Lin Kobayashi:

Ms. Kobayashi’s passion for education began when she received a full scholarship from Keidanren to study at a full-boarding international school in Canada. Inspired by that experience, she studied development economics at the University of Tokyo, then joined the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in the Philippines, where she worked to program non-formal education programs for street children. Ms. Kobayashi felt a strong need to develop leadership education after witnessing extreme wealth disparity firsthand. In August 2008, Ms. Kobayashi returned to Japan to develop the ISAK project, and after seven years of hard work, ISAK opened its doors in August 2014.

Educational Background:
 Ms. Kobayashi received her International Baccalaureate Diploma in 1993. She graduated from the University of Tokyo with a BA in Development Economics in 1998, and completed an MA in International Education Policy Analysis from Stanford University in 2005.

 2012 – AERA magazine “100 People Who Are Rebuilding Japan”, 2013 – Nikkei Business “Change-Maker of the Year 2013”, by Nikkei Business; “Woman of the Year 2015” by Nikkei Woman; and “Management Award of the Year 2016” by Zaikai. In 2017, Ms. Kobayashi was named a Yale World Fellow, and assumed a role as a Director of Asia Pacific Initiative in 2018.

A message from Lin Kobayashi, School Founder and Chair of the Board

There is a necessity for visionary change-makers.

An upper class that benefits from a skewed tax system; a lower class that sells its votes for cash during political elections; a middle class that loses hope and leaves for other countries – These are the realities I faced in the Philippines when I worked there for the United Nations. These realities challenged my belief that educating a society’s lower class is the most effective way to democratize and change a nation. Although I remain committed to the education of the poor, I have also come to believe that a society’s progress depends upon the education of its leaders.

It is not only developing countries, of course, that need visionary leaders. Every country, even a country like Japan that is proud of its highly educated citizens and high-quality workers, needs leaders who can navigate the challenges of our rapidly changing world.

A leader does not necessarily have to be a politician or an entrepreneur. I believe that all individuals are born with unique talents, and those who strive to share their talents, regardless of obstacles and fear of the unknown, are leaders. Leaders are individuals who, despite risks and changes around them, have faith in their unique talents and experience deep satisfaction and excitement from pursuing revolutionary ideas. These are the people who will be change makers in their fields, and these are the leaders that I think the world needs.

The need for a school to awaken individuals’ talents

I first started wondering about an “ideal education” over twenty years ago, when I was in ninth grade. At the time, I was enrolled in one of Japan’s most prestigious schools, which sent over 100 students to Japan’s top university every year. The school promoted a liberal atmosphere, but the primary emphasis was placed on addressing students’ academic weaknesses so that they could pass top-level university entrance exams. I thought, “I want to be in a school that will prioritize my growth in areas that I excel at. I want to be in a school where I can grow as an individual, not just as a student.” These strong desires and my unfounded confidence are what drove me to leave my Japanese high school, despite its prestige and all of the effort that went into enrolling there, and instead go abroad to attend a boarding school in Canada with a full scholarship granted by Japanese corporations.

“What drives me to take action? What is most important?” To continually ask oneself these questions, to live one’s life fully, even if it sometimes means getting lost, but always being oneself – I believe that this is the only path that leads to the development of a change maker. My wish is for our school to be a place where our students can start this questioning process during their transformative high school years. This questioning will gradually be shifted toward the people and society that surrounds them, and when this connects with their own passions, they will move mountains.

The need for diversity in education

We live in a world that is rapidly changing, and it will continue do so at an increasing speed. “Globalization” is no longer an esoteric word that only applies to multinational corporations; it signifies the phenomenon occurring all over the world, including in Japan, even with its ever-shrinking population. It will no longer be unusual to live or work alongside others who do not share our fundamental views.

These are the reasons that we created a fully residential international school. The only way to truly learn about a different culture, religion, or way of thinking is not by having someone explain it to you, but instead to experience it in your daily life. At the school I attended in Canada, I met a fellow female student who was a very devout follower of Islam. She was one of the gentlest people I had ever met. Because I knew her, I do not have prejudices against the Islamic religion that many people have recently begun to develop when they associate it with recent terrorist incidents. I cannot emphasize enough how significant it is for outstanding students from all over the world to live and learn under the same roof during their secondary school years.

At our school, we remain committed to providing scholarships to students who would not otherwise be able to afford an excellent education. Through this, our student body becomes diverse not only in terms of nationality, but also in terms of socioeconomic background.

There is a need for holistic education.

It is very difficult to predict what will happen in this world twenty or thirty years into the future, with rapidly evolving technologies and values. What I can say for sure is that these changes will descend upon our world with a speed and scale that current generations have never experienced before. This chaotic time can be overwhelming, but it is also very exciting.

The problems that humanity will face in the near future will not be problems that can be solved by repeating the same approaches that we have used before. Not to take risks will be a risk in itself. While it will remain important for us to have the skills and knowledge to solve problems we encounter, it will also be critical for us to be able to identify the problem that needs to be solved next.

Someone once said that “true innovation hardly ever wins the approval of one’s peers.” Whatever everyone approves of is whatever other people are already doing; whatever everyone rejects, and whatever challenges common sense, is where the opportunity for innovation lies. My wish is for the students and graduates of our school to freely follow their passions and share their unique talents with the world without being limited by what others think or expect of them, and through this, bring about innovative and positive changes in the world.

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Karuizawa, Kitasaku-gun,
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