Winning Partnerships: British Council & Japan Association of Overseas Studies

Written by BCCJ
January 24, 2017

Written by BCCJ
January 24, 2017

On 13 December 2016, the BCCJ interviewed the two winners of the UK-Japan Partnership category of the 2016 British Business Awards, Matt Burney, Director of British Council Japan, & Masaru Yamada, Chairman of Japan Association of Overseas Studies (JAOS), to discover the secrets behind the success of their collaboration.

BCCJ: Give me two interesting facts about you or your organisation.
 British Council opened in Japan in 1953, but it was Prince Charles who opened the current Tokyo British Council offices in 1985! As for me, did you know I was a Bluecoat at Pontins in Blackpool?
Masaru: Forty-two years ago very few people studied abroad so I went to London, collected lots of information, and wrote a guidebook for Japanese students wishing to study overseas. This was the original inspiration for building a business with the goal of providing guidance and a safe environment for study-abroad candidates.

BCCJ: What are the benefits of working with young people?
Educational opportunities can change lives, particularly when those opportunities are international. They can open the mind, develop cultural sensitivity, generate trust between different cultures, and increase employment prospects. It is incredibly rewarding to help young people progress by providing them with these opportunities.
Masaru: Young people are our treasure. I started working in this field when I was 26 and have come to understand what young people need. I very much enjoy giving them advice and it is inspiring to see them grow.

BCCJ: What inspires you?
Listening to Sibelius’ violin concerto in D minor.
Masaru: Learning inspires me. As the saying goes, “Wise men believe in history”.

BCCJ: You work in education. What is the biggest lesson you have learned in life? Do you have any advice for others?
Life is hard! My advice is to accept the challenges that come your way in life and to work out how to overcome any obstacles.
Masaru: As Einstein once said, “In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity”.

BCCJ: What did winning a British Business Award mean to you?
Matt: I was surprised, delighted, and excited that an educational organisation was recognised by the business community. With increasing uncertainty in the world, education and cultural understanding is more important than ever to help bridge divides.
Masaru: It is wonderful to have the value of a public-private partnership recognised and an excellent opportunity to showcase the work our organisations are doing.

BCCJ: Would you encourage companies to get involved with the BBA and why?
The feel-good factor! The BBA is a great opportunity to gain recognition for staff and colleagues and to highlight all the good work they do. It was such a joy to bring the news back to the office after winning the award and was very good for boosting team morale.
Masaru: It is an endorsement of our organisations’ achievements and an excellent way to communicate what we do to the rest of the Japanese-British community.

BCCJ: What do you predict for the year 2017?
Well, I would never have predicted the events of 2016 so I think it is best to say that I will wait and see! I do believe the relationship between the UK and Japan will become stronger and gain greater importance, and it would be good to move out of our echo chambers and to create a forum in which we can hear all voices, even those we disagree with. Increased discussion and exchange would be a good thing.
Masaru: I see 2017 as a new page in history and believe it will be a very interesting year. We should accept the negative as well as the postive and learn from what we experience.

The British Council-JAOS partnership was recognised for launching the ‘Summer Study in the UK Programme’ for Japanese Senior High School students in 2016 to forge new links between Japanese agents and UK English language schools with a view to growing the market and helping young people realise their potential through education opportunities.

On 19 January, BCCJ members and guests attended an eye-opening training session at British Council aimed at raising awareness and developing capabilities in the area of equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) at work. Read more about British Council’s EDI insights HERE.