What's next from Sony's unique education business,
"Global Math Challenge" competition?
Sony Global Education
Sony Global Education, Inc. (SGED) is developing revolutionary applications and services, and putting them to use in unique and enjoyable ways. For example, Internet-based applications were used to organize the "Global Math Challenge", where participants from around the world test their skills against one another in an enjoyable test of logical thinking, creativity and calculation.
SGED is an educational tribute to the openness of Sony's culture
The company, established in April 2015, has been putting Sony's leading technology to work to support innovative breakthroughs in the field of education.
SGED's mission is to use applications and services to create educational infrastructure that everyone can access. "When anyone, anywhere can easily get a quality education, anyone can learn and compete successfully in modern society". Our objective is to make this a reality. Masaaki Isozu, the President of Sony Global Education, is keen to discuss this mission, and relate the story of how SGED was formed, and how it is working to open doors and create new possibilities in the field of education.
"The creation of SGED is a tribute to the openness of Sony's corporate culture. This business originated from a group of company employees who just happened to have a keen interest in education. Since Sony encourages the growth of ideas and activities from the bottom up, their interest in education was the seed for a whole new business division. At Sony, there is nothing unusual about employees pursuing their own interests with minimal direction from their superiors. Ideas are gradually given shape by the individual workers, acting on their own initiative to hold brainstorming sessions, teach-ins and so on, outside of their normal job responsibilities. The corporate culture at Sony actively encourages this sort of grassroots activity."
Over the years, Sony's bottom-up style of business development has been the source of countless innovations, including well-known products that have literally changed the way people live, such as the Walkman and PlayStation. Since it is best known for using state-of-the-art technology to develop useful and creative consumer products, some may argue that the field of education falls well outside the scope of Sony's core business model. What is your reaction to this?
How will globalization and the IT revolution change education?
"Advances in information technology have already changed the way people learn. There are a multitude of ways in which technology can contribute to improving the quality of education. Sony has already shown how technology can revolutionize a person's lifestyle, and education is another field in which IT can surely contribute to positive changes. Indeed, one of Sony's founding principles was 'to promote science education among the general public'. Furthermore, future progress in technology will depend upon the quality of science and technical education that young people receive today. This is why I view education as a central part of Sony's business model, and indeed, its very identity."
In the past, education standards have varied from country to country or even from school to school. However, there has been a recent trend towards the development of a global, standardized system of education in the core subjects of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). As Mr. Isozu notes, access to the Internet has contributed to dramatic changes in education, in countries throughout the world. These changes are affecting not only the content and methods, but even the basic objectives of education.
"Today, it is technically feasible to take lectures by teachers at the world's top universities, and stream them over the Internet, so that they could be viewed for free, by people all over the world. For this reason, the perceived value and importance of a college education is changing. If you look at the work forces of leading IT companies around the world, you will find that many of their top engineers have no university degree at all. Nowadays, it is not necessary for someone to attend a top university in order to make a valuable contribution to society. Education should reflect that reality, focusing on ways to train and inspire the next generation of innovators, and to cultivate the sort of people who can find solutions to the challenges that our world will face in the years to come."
Solving humanity's challenges through Sony's unique approach
One critical challenge for education is to foster the ability to think logically and solve problems. Today's society is made up of diverse individuals with a diversity of values. For many of the key issues, there is no "right" or "wrong" answer; the solution lies in the ability to finding compromises that a majority of people can support, and fostering consensus. One feature of SGED's Global Math Challenge is the use of questions that promote a flexible style of thinking, and finding solutions.
"The math curriculum in Japan, at elementary school level, is different from that found in most other countries. Indeed, there is not really an English or Chinese equivalent to this type of math. It takes more than rote knowledge and technical skill to solve most problems. The key is the ability to address any question logically and from a holistic point of view. In order for people to function effectively in today's society, it is extremely important to develop their logical thinking skills. Though it may be a slight exaggeration, I believe that we need to cultivate this ability to think logically, if mankind is to find a path towards a truly sustainable future."