"Life is about truth, goodness, and beauty. A school should be a place where the truth should be taught and ethics practiced... it should be a place of beauty and refinement."
Seijo Gakuen founder Masataro Sawayanagi's Primary Principle
A prominent career bureaucrat, Masataro Sawayanagi played a highly significant role in shaping and establishing modern Japan's education system, serving as Undersecretary to the Minister of Education and Dean of Tohoku and Kyoto Imperial Universities (1). However, believing there were limitations on public education, he strove for what he termed "true education" after retiring from the bureaucracy. In 1917, he founded a private elementary school, which was to be the origin of Seijo Gakuen.
Masataro Sawayanagi lived his entire life by what he called his Primary Principle.
"Primary Principle" here refers to reality, the most important thing in life, the foundation of all things — it means to always strive for the ultimate truth, and to be the very best that we can be.
The words above were spoken by Masataro Sawayanagi in 1926 at the first opening ceremony of Seijo High School (under the old system) as his advice to the school's first group of students (2). They reveal his high aspirations for the school: that is that it should embody the ideals of truth, goodness, and beauty. He held truth and ethics in the highest regard, striving to educate high-minded, gentle, and courteous students. Convinced that a school should be a microcosm of society, he wanted his students to live noble lives free of falsehoods.
Masataoro Sawayanagi believed in the concept of "numen" or inner spirit of each individual, and his ideal for education was to help students develop their individuality. To achieve this, he considered the following goals his mission in establishing Seijo Gakuen Elementary School: 1) education that respects originality, 2) education integrated with nature, 2) emotional training, and 4) scientific research-based education (3).
He wanted the students, ranging from kindergarteners through university-age young adults, to engage in self-study and self-learning, and to practice a degree of autonomy. In addition, he believed that teachers should be researchers as well as educators, based on which he implemented teaching methods rooted in real circumstances.
Masataro Sawayanagi wished to educate his students to be honest and sincere, and for them to energetically work to develop their own unique character or inner spirit, stretching and building their imaginations to the greatest of their abilities. He wanted his graduates to become strong-willed, self-reliant individualists once they graduated from school. His believed that students endowed with self-confidence capable of paving the way for themselves could also pave the way for a new society during their youth, a time in life when people should be brimming with self-reliance.
Further, he also hoped that his students would become men and women of culture, embodying a spirit of fair play and aesthetics, and at the same time inspired with creativity to forge ahead in an ever-changing world.
Seijo implements education in small classes, seeking to foster individual capacity. For instance, we try to facilitate each student's progress in accordance with his or her ability, and if an individual displays the capacity to learn more, we teach adjunct material in addition to textbook curriculum. This structure renders education more efficient. Therefore, this emphasis on originality is not a general, abstract academic idea of respecting the individual, but rather a practical concept.
Since our student body has consisted of city children since our beginnings, there was concern amongst the founders that the students would become physically frail. To prevent this from happening, Seijo has its students "experience the life of our distant ancestors, taking the unique physical and emotional characteristics of each child into consideration, to facilitate development of solid body and mind." Ever since its establishment, Seijo has built exposure to the mountains and oceans into its curriculum.
Seijo's policy in this area is for teachers to truly love their students, "paying special attention to the students' changing moods, interests, and wishes and empathizing with their feelings," and to educate students "heart to heart," training them to develop their own interests and sense of appreciation." Here, "interests" refers not simply to hobbies, but rather to a process of deepening sensibilities.
Seijo seeks to keep educational research on par with actual education, and our ideal is for Seijo to be a research school in the true sense of the word: a place where we "research actual circumstances in a logical manner, and at the same time delve into theory that applies to reality." The Kenyu sosho (Research classic series) by Masataro Sawayanagi and a group of fellow researchers — published immediately after the establishment of Seijo Elementary — became a subject of extensive discussion in Japan's educational circles.
We allow students the freedom to pursue individuality in academic interests in a liberal and open atmosphere that pervades the entire campus. This liberalism is a key feature of the University’s tradition. Our learning atmosphere and educational system, which brings out the best in students’ individuality and creativity, has produced a great number of highly capable graduates.
In order to preserve its tradition of small classes, Seijo University remains a small institution. Small classes encourage close interaction between students and teachers as well as between the students themselves. As such this system is an effective means of reinforcing academic learning as well as developing character. We are committed to pursuing our educational ideals while retaining the true essence of the university setting as an intellectual community.