Asian Students' Internet Exchange Program

Makoto Kageto <>
Nagoya Seiryo Commercial High School


1 Preface

Japan has had close relations with Asian countries throughout its history. There have been some attempts to promote mutual understanding, but not enough direct exchanges, resulting in one-sided images of each other. Now, through the Internet and through English, the international language, it is possible for high school students to have daily exchanges with each other. We want to support high school students so that they can take part in building mutual understanding among Asian countries.

2 Purpose

3 Seiryo Commercial High School as a center of exchange

Seiryo Commercial High School has qualified as one of the 100 Project Schools by the Education Ministry and International Trade and Industry Ministry and has a 64-k line. It has been working on international exchanges using electronic mail and CU-SeeMe. Those exchanges have been introduced on television and in newspapers. It has been keeping in touch online with schools in twelve countries such as America, China, Nepal, Taiwan, Korea, Canada, and Australia. Now it is starting to have exchanges with Asian countries.

4 Actual method

Questionnaires about certain subject matter: not something like political or religious matters but something more casual and easy to answer, which brings about interests that lead to cross-cultural understanding. Students will start thinking about the things they take for granted in order to tell their friend about themselves on the Internet. The following is an example of an exchange:

Question: What would you recommend as a souvenir from your hometown?

Answer: Momiji cake.

Q: What is it?

A: It's a traditional Japanese sweet.

Q: What are the ingredients?

Other possible subjects:

How I would treat you if you visited my house.

My favorite festival.

Traditional musical instruments in my country.

4.1 Activities

4.1.1 Nepal

We visited Nepal in spring 1996 to set up computers and install an Internet system. After several e-mail exchanges, we visited there again in August. In September, we invited people from Nepal for the offline meeting.

Schools in Contact

Holygarden High School: Connected UUCP, donated two computers, and paid the bill for the contact.

Katmandu Uni High School: e-mail exchanges, making plans for more exchanges.

Internet environment in Nepal

Nepal is a tourism country for the Himalayas. Its English education has been successful. Private schools especially are doing a great job. Mastering English is a must to lead a good life. This means students are all ready to use the Internet, where English is the major means of communication. In the country, there is pay e-mail service on the street for the tourists to use the Internet. The use of computers is highly valued in Nepal, but most people cannot afford to use them on a regular basis. The monthly salary of a university professor is less than 20,000 yen. One computer costs as much as a Mercedes. I saw a DOS machine in a prestigious private university--that was the best they could afford. The electricity can go off any time, especially in countryside, so they need a special machine to support the unstable electrical system. Generally speaking, most people are interested in Japan because Nepal receives most of its financial aid from Japan and because people admire Japan for having developed so quickly even though it's as small a country as their own.

4.1.2 China

We are trying to find schools we can start exchanges with through the China Japan Economic and Cultural Exchange Promoting Association in Nagoya. We are also planning to invite people from China to have an offline meeting. The following are the plans that we have been working on since the people in charge from China visited here.

School to contact

Beijing Bai Yi Junior High School

We are getting some mail telling how they feel about the Japanese people and what life in China is like. Occasionally we have TV-telephone contact.

Internet environment in China

The network system is being improved, starting with universities in Shanghai and Beijing. There are some restrictions on the students' use of their account. Some prestigious high schools in big cities have one computer for each school. Their exchange of information is controlled by the government.

4.1.3 Thailand

We are looking for some schools that are interested in contacting us through a local Internet provider and an American-based association to support Thailand. One of the members of Schoolnet Japan visited Thailand and started contacting Suankularb Aittayalai School, which has a 65-k exclusive line. We are in the process of setting up regular exchanges with the school. In a meantime, we have some contact with high school students who have personal accounts.

-------- Replies from Thailand--------

(a) My name, age, hobby

Mr. Tanin Kiada, 17, soccer.

(b) Things that are valuable to me.

My friends, soccer, music.

(c) What is popular among high school students in Japan?

Shopping, sports, listening to music.

Other countries' images of Japan:

(a) What cities do you know about?

Nara, Osaka, Tokyo, Sapporo, and so on.

(b) What foods do you know about?

Ramen, sushi, odeng, bento, tempura, soba, sukiyaki, sashimi, taiyaki and sake.

(c) What historical people do you know about?

Shogun, Nobunaga.

(d) Do you know anything about the history of the other country?

If so, what?

For Japan, I know the most sad tragedy. Back in the Second World War, Japan was destroyed by the atomic bomb by crazy USA. I really sad with this. In that time, it has many people died immediately and many follow after that bomb. At Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I'm so really sad with this event. I'm not agree with that operation of USA. I think it has many ways to stop the war. The peace is the best.

(e) If you visit another country, what will you buy for a souvenir?

In Japan, I don't know about the things at all. But if I must choose, I'll choose a kimono.

4.1.4 Korea

We took a research trip to Korea to get in contact with the staff at Korea Central Press Internet in education to talk about starting our exchanges. They improved their Internet system in schools last year as a part of the reform in education. There is a project where 100 qualified schools receive a special budget for effective Internet use mainly supported by Joong ang Iibo, a leading press company.

Schools in Contact

Seoul Girls Commercial High School

There is e-mail correspondence between staff in Seoul and Japan



4.1.5 Philippines

We visited the Philippines twice and did some research on their Internet use and possible schools to get in contact with on the Internet. We found Mact Island one of the best areas, which has relations with Japan.

Saint Alphonsas High School

It has 25 DOS machines. There is keen interest in communication because the country is composed of many islands far apart from each other. In the area where there is no telephone system, portable phones are popular, although they cost about 20,000 yen to install--the equivalent of an average person's monthly salary. They have one of the best levels of English ability in Asian countries. There are several Internet providers and teachers are familiar with Internet use.

4.1.6 Indonesia

We are in touch with Indonesia University and Surabaya University of Education and trying to find some high schools that we can start an exchange with. Some providers are starting their own businesses. We have received some requests from local high schools to start an exchange with us.

4.1.7 Singapore

We are trying to find some schools to get in contact with through Japanese schools in Singapore.

4.1.7 Taiwan

We are corresponding with Dr. Chong of Taipei University, who was in Japan as a guest lecturer at the International Conference in Fukuoka. We met him at the conference and talked about our project to connect schools in Asia supported by CEC and the Telecommunication Ministry. We asked him to introduce some schools with a 64K line so we can have CU-SeeMe contact.

5. The Nepal project

In September 1996, we organized the first international conference by high school students. We invited two high school students and two teachers from Nepal and had several exchange meetings. Everything was organized by volunteers. Not only the students but also the adults who were helping were greatly were moved by the exchanges.

5.1 Members of the Nepal group

Principal: Mr. Pradhan Kiran, 43 years old

Vice principal: Mrs.Pradhan Dibya Laxmi, 38

Students: Ms. Pradhan Jasmeen, 13; Ms. Manandhar Kabit, 15

Message from Mr. Pradhan Kiran:

Our visit to Japan is made possible by the SchoolNet Society of Japan to exchange cultures and views with one another, and we have found your country and people to be very special, loving, helpful, and cooperative. We like the life-style very much and we got a new experience of your private and public high schools as well as kindergartens. We really love exchanging our ideas and sharing our views with Japanese teachers and students. A hearty thanks to all the members who made this project a big success by giving us this chance to have the experience. We would like to invite you to our country, to give us the chance to help you experience and learn about our country, our culture, and our school life.

5.2 Schedule

Kathmandu --->OSAKA

Conference by Osaka Private Schools Association


Visit Komaki High School at its school festival

Visit Taki High School at its school festival

Conference for high school students by Tokai Schoolnet

Visit Hikarigaoka High School in Okazaki and Nagoya Women's Uni High School


Asahigawa High School


Tokyo sightseeing


Komona High School

YOKKAICHI ---> OSAKA ---> Katmandu

5.3 The students' activities

The students had five meetings to prepare for the conference after the offline meeting. They worked very hard making plans for the conference and making a video about the life of Japanese high school students to show at the conference.

5.4 International conference

<NTT-PLANET B1F> about 80 participants

Dance by Seiryo Commercial High School dance team, welcome speeches, introductions, Nepali traditional dance and video

<NTT-PLANET Multi-conference room>

Introduction of Nepal, video about Japanese high school students

Introduction of Japanese education system and curriculum

CU-SeeMe contact with Asahigawa Ryoun High School

Introduction of Japanese annual celebrations and annual school events

Discussion on energy and environment problems

<Workers' House>

Welcome party, introduction of traditional and modern Japanese plays

Questions and answers and discussion, translated by students

5.5 The Nepali students' impression of Japan

Written by Kavita Manadhar

My first impression about Japan. I think what I heard about Japan is absolutely true. It is definitely "the land of the rising sun." It has developed in such a short time that it is beyond description. In terms of science and technology, it has come a long way. It must be very expensive to buy anything--everywhere high prices. I'm quite amazed. Why is it so expensive over here? Even a can of Coke costs \110. By the way, most of the high school students have a pocket bell, which seems to be very useful, and the portable phones are convenient, too.

Japanese people are very attached to their culture and tradition. They use Japanese language everywhere. I think they want to preserve their culture.

5.6 Exchange activities

The dance by the Nepali students made the Japanese students feel what Nepali culture is like. The video about Nepal made them realize both aspects of Japan: material richness and spiritual poverty.

The major language used in the conference was English. Some part spoken in Japanese was translated in English to each of the Nepali students by students of Nanzan International High School. The student who took the part of emcee did a great job handling English and Japanese effectively. Some of the participants were impressed with the fluent English of the Nepali students and the students of the International High School, which might encourage them to study English, and some tried very hard with their English communication. The students who were listening to the English spoken there and trying to understand the country have taken the first step in cross-cultural understanding.

5.7 Movement in other areas

There were the same kind of conferences not only in Nagoya, but also in Osaka, Mie, Tokyo, and Hokkaido. The use of the Internet made it possible.

See for more information about these activities.

6 Changes in students and teachers

We are teachers. Giving students new prospects and stimulating ourselves at the same time, we hope they will realize, "Ah, here is a different perspective." We have carried out this project with this intention. I'd like to look back at how the students have changed, and what we teachers have learned.

6.1 Changes in the students

* The students recognized English as an international language.

Young people of the same age have come all the way from Nepal. "We've got a lot to say and a lot to ask," the students thought. However, there was a barrier: English skill. They learned that English just for exams was not of much use. This frustrating feeling greatly motivated them to try harder in practicing English conversation. After all, this project taught the students the basic system of learning: Need--Study--Practice.

* The students realized that we are all living at the same time.

In exchanging e-mail, they experienced many surprises. They saw many differences: content of presentation, ways of expressing things, types of hardware and machines, and so on. The immediacy of the Internet enabled them to be conscious of Nepalese and all other people on a daily basis.

* The students saw wealth and poverty.

Japan is wealthy, as various figures and statistics show. Japanese students have seen that true happiness lies in mental satisfaction, not in materialistic satisfaction. A student coined an impressive phrase: "Poverty in wealth." I believe that this was an excellent opportunity to reflect on our life.

* From "Nepal in the textbook" to "Nepal where my friend lives"

Nepal isn't really known to the students. Many of them didn't even know that its capital is Katmandu. Through this interaction, they learned about each other's culture and life. Japanese students were also impressed with the Nepalese dance performed as a part of their presentation. This gave them a chance to think over the style of interaction. Nepal as the country with the Himalayan peaks has changed into the country where their friend Jasmine lives.

* How wonderful the Internet is!

The Internet helped us a great deal to prepare for this project. We could communicate smoothly within Japan (with Asahikawa, Hokkaido) and also with Nepal. There was very little time lag, and the students could feel the benefit of the Internet.

* How wonderful collaboration is!

As we can see in the students' voices in the questionnaire, it was a great joy for them to accomplish something together. This time, "collaboration" was not just a word; it meant to actually work together, to experience together, and to be moved together. This has undoubtedly given them more self-confidence.

* A bigger self and the bigger world

One problem in Japanese schools is the lack of interschool communication. Furthermore, we must admit that grouping similar students for the sake of "easier education" decreases that kind of communication. This project was a good opportunity to remove barriers between schools, and to learn a lot about other schools.

* Self-awareness as an international person

This project helped the students to be aware of their international role. They made plans and carried them out. They tried to make full use of English. That will be a precious experience for their future life plan from the international point of view.

* Acquisition of computer literacy

The students, including beginners at e-mail, could feel the advantage of using it--its speed, its convenience and so forth. They can see the future possibility of using it as an indispensable tool for an international person. The actual experience of Web and CU-SeeMe at Nanzan University was highly effective in demonstrating the role of the Internet in their respective lives.

* Collaboration between teachers and students

The students, who used to be an obedient mass, changed into thinking selves. Everybody got to take a leadership role in some part of the project. It is true that teachers helped them with official matters, such as calculating expenses etc., but we let the students do the essentials. This sense of responsibility made them more confident in themselves.

In one high school, this kind of confidence in their own identity was seen in one student's action. She declared that she is a Korean, which unfortunately could lead to some future difficulty in our society. Then she visited her home country with confidence.

* Activities with students

We could see that the students' faces were more lively than what we usually see in the classrooms. Both the teachers and the students knew what to do, and what our goal was. We could work hand in hand.

We also could see our students' character as a group, comparing them with other schools' students. This helped us to give them more effective and appropriate advice.

6.2 Changes in the teachers

* Cooperation between teachers and students

The division of what was to be done by teachers and what by students was clear in this project. By being responsible for their own part and at the same time working together with the students toward one purpose, the teachers saw new aspects of their students. It was also a good opportunity for the teachers to work with students from other schools, which allowed them to make comparisons with their own students.

* Cooperation with teachers at different schools

The participants in this project are from 12 different schools: private schools, academic schools, vocational schools, girls' schools, boys' schools. Each school was at a different stage in its Internet use.

In Japanese schools, where harmony is highly valued, active and motivated teachers are sometimes thought to be a pain in the neck. That kind of teacher does not always get positive reinforcement in the school setting, but we could encourage each other through exchanges of information on the Internet.

* Building international understanding

We have learned how to use the Internet for international education and information exchanges. We had a CU-SeeMe contact between Nagoya and Hokkaido. Now we are working on publishing a book on what we have done.

* Children in the class, children in Asia, children in the world

Benefits to the students should be the first thing considered in our activities. Through this project, we have come to think "the students" should include not only the students in my class but also the students in all of Asia, or in the world. We have recognized a new scope of education through the use of the Internet.

* Participation in a international network

These kinds of activities call for cooperation with teachers in other countries. We met many key persons while participating in international conferences. We have shared and helped each other in Japan, but as we have branched out, we have learned to cooperate with teachers in Korea, Taiwan, and Hong Kong.

We presented a report on our activities at the APNG Conference in Hong Kong at the end of January and at another conference in Fukuoka last December.

* The purpose of SchoolNet Japan

SchoolNet is composed of university, high school, and junior high school teachers.( We support each other both technically and mentally. The network in universities is much more advanced than that in high schools, so the knowledge of university professors is an essential element to make this association always active and effective. In fact, we got our information about the current Internet environment in Nepal from university staff.

* Promoting the network among local schools

We have experienced great effects of the Internet in school. All the reports on our activities and attempts will be helpful for schools that haven't started using the Internet yet.

* Cooperation with the media

Some media--Chunichi, Sankei, and Asahi--covered this project, which was very encouraging for the students and good publicity for the teachers.

We hope this project will be connected with local volunteer activities and will develop into a regular international conference of high school students.

In some areas in Aichi Prefecture, there is a policy called "Not more than three schools," which bans students from more than three schools from getting together. This was originally meant to control students' political activities.

The effect of media coverage was a great deal of support for the students.

7 Toward the future

* From the financial point of view

International exchange through the Internet is a new field with immeasurable educational value. However, helping developing countries to set up an Internet system and inviting people from those countries requires adequate financial support.

We managed with some money we received for writing articles for Internet magazines, financial support from CEC, and some personal donations. We had a hard time raising enough money while doing daily errands.

* Across schools

Our activities owe their success to volunteer work. In the Japanese education world, volunteer means "not recognized" institution. There is no financial support from the government, and no such activities are allowed during working hours. That means all the work has to be done at night or on weekends. To administer this association that seeks to promote the well-being of many people, we are sacrificing our own lives. This contradiction should be resolved as soon as possible.

Keywords: English as the common language throughout Asia, cross-cultural understanding, gap in economic level, one-sided patriotism, the future of Asia Daily exchange, support to install the Internet, understanding different cultures, dispatching to the world.