#Asia #Japan 112: Why Artificial Intelligence Is The Key to Fixing Japan’s Rigid Eduction System


Using artificial intelligence to change the way the education system works seems like a fool’s errand.

When you combine the fluid and opaque nature of AI technology with the slow, bureaucratic decision making of education, you usually wind up with the perfect storm of stagnation, frustration, and rapidly burning through investor capital.

Out guest today, however, thinks he’s found a way to make it work. Daisuke Inada, founder and CEO of Atama+, left a promising career at Mitsui to start an EdTech company he believes will change the way children learn.

Interestingly, Daisuke’s vision is not the standard EdTech dream of online classes and automated learning. It’s one where human instructors are still very much involved and critical to the success of both the students and the programs. Of course, their role will change and the overall structure will look quite different from what we know today.

It’s a fascinating discussion, and I think you’ll really enjoy it.

Show Notes

How to find a customer willing to fund changes in education
The challenge in exporting the Japanese education model
How to find co-founders when you are a mid-career executive
What most people over 35 misunderstands about starting a startup
Why education is hard to disrupt
Why online education will not work in Japan or any other country
How Japnese AI companies can compete against their better funded foreign rivals
How to convince more Japanese to start companies

Links from the Founder

Check out Atama+
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Welcome to Disrupting Japan, straight talk from Japan’s most successful entrepreneurs. I’m Tim Romero and thanks for joining me.

Today, we’re going to talk about artificial intelligence and natural intelligence. In fact, we’re actually going to talk about using artificial intelligence to improve natural intelligence, so yeah, and tech. Education is one of our institutions that is both most in need of disruption and most resistant to disruption, and there’s probably no small amount of cause and effect in that statement. I mean, the reason education is in such need of disruption is because it has been so hard to change for so long although almost every other aspect of our lives has been transformed. Education has changed over the past 100 years, not just in Japan, mind you, but all over the world.

Well, today, we’re going to talk about exactly why that is and what the hell we can do about it. So I’d like to introduce you to Daisuke Inada, founder and CEO of Atama-Plus. Now, Daisuke left a long and lucrative career at Mistui because he believes he has a better way to help people learn. Now, in the interview, Daisuke and I talk about jyuku and for those of you outside japan, I should probably explain what jyuku are and why they’re important to innovation and education.

Jyuku is usually translated as cram school. They don’t really have a parallel in the west, but they’re very common in Japan and in other parts of Asia. Jyuku are school run by private companies and Japanese high school students attend jyuku after they finish their regular classes and on weekends, and on holidays. The purpose of these schools is to help the students score higher on their college entrance exams or in the case of junior high school jyuku, to increase student scores on their high school entrance exams. Unlike the high schools and junior high schools themselves, however, jyuku are private companies and some are even publicly traded. Jyuku compete fiercely for students and they’re evaluated based on how well their students do on the tests. It’s no surprise that they’re willing to try new technology and why most education innovation in Japan focuses on jyuku.

Now that you have that background, our conversation with Daisuke will make a lot more sense. Of course, we also talk about the challenges he faced when deciding to leave Mitsui and he has some practical advi…

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