Simon Sakala is founder and owner of the Oasis English Schools (Oasis英会話) in Sagamihara, Kanagawa in Japan. The first school was opened at Fuchinobe(Oasis英会話淵野辺） in April 2004 and the second was opened at Bono in Sagamiono（Oasis英会話相模大野） ten years later in April, 2014.
Oasis English schools have adopted a dynamic and effective approach to teaching English skills, especially to kids and teenagers. Over the last few years, the program has helped many children, teens as well as adults acquire and improve their English skills, especially in the areas of listening, speaking and reading.
How did I Start Teaching English?
I arrived in Japan on November 1, 1997 to join my wife who was pursuing her graduate studies. When I arrived, I had a dream of going to graduate school while waiting for my wife, and return to Zambia my native country upon completion. However, I met insurmountable obstacles to my achieving my dream. The two major ones were lack of both Japanese language skills and money to pay for tuition. After trying hard for about five months to go to graduate school or get a job in Engineering, I was frustrated, bored and broke.
One day, a friend of a friend told me about an English teaching job at the Yokohama Y.M.C.A. Although I neither wanted to teach English nor was good at teaching it, I took it up because that was the only thing I could do earning some reasonable money, while looking for something more meaningful to do. After teaching for a few weeks however, I wanted to quit because I thought my skills teaching children were terrible thus I was just wasting their time. The staff were so kind as to give me an assistant to help me continue trying. Thankfully, I continued and has done so until the time of this writing.
One day, I attended a conference where the speaker talked on the subject he titled ” A miracle in the house”, after teaching for a few months. In the speech, the speaker encouraged the listeners to think about what they could already do or what was already in their hands instead of looking for something else to do. I found my answer.
What’s in your hands?
Although I was not yet good at it, I had teaching English in my hands. So I set out on a learning journey so I could not only become good at teaching English, but also make a substantial contribution and earn good income in the process. I went on to found the Oasis English Schools and develop the Tako or EASE business loop.
I love what I’m doing and I feel I was meant to be an English teacher in the first place. My Engineering background has helped me have a different perspective and consequently a different approach.
The Tako Education and Education Business Solutions (TEEBS) is the next step in the effort to leverage both the teaching and business skills I have acquired over the years.
Tako is the Japanese word for octopus. Through personal experience and studying both successful businesses and entrepreneurs for over sixteen years, I came up with a list of Eight Arms to a Successful Enterprise (EASE), like those of an octopus. Actually, you can do anything with EASE.
The eight arms are Standards, System, Organisation, Satisfaction, Brand, Influence, Enrollment and Profitability, in that order , thus the acronym SSOSBIEP. I call this the Tako or EASE loop.
Over the years I have attended several live business seminars both in Japan and the U.S., have undergone coaching by successful business and personal development coaches/entrepreneurs, have taken online business programs and have read several books on business and personal development. I also constantly read books about teaching and learning and about business entrepreneurship.
Education That Endures (ETE)
Education that Endures (ETE) concept .
Education that Endures is the education that remains effective and relevant in spite of challenges resulting from changes in the environment.
I acquired all my formal education, that is, primary and tertiary education, in Zambia. I have a Bachelor of Engineering degree from the University of Zambia. However, due to the circumstances I found myself in, I ended up doing work that is different from that I was trained for at college and in a language I never learnt at school, and a country and culture different from the ones in which I went to school. Everything suddenly changed except for one thing, my education. In retrospect, the education I had acquired had prepared me for the changes, only that I had not realized it until much later. Had I realized that I had the necessary education but only that I had to think about how I could apply it under the then prevailing circumstances, I was not going to go through the stress and frustration I did as I was searching for something “right” to do. I was stuck because I did not know the four right reasons why we go to school.
Starting with the end in mind
I think it is now even more important than ever for younger generations to understand the right reasons why they go to school. This is so because, in the near future, they are bound to find themselves in circumstances very different from what they think they are ready for. It will not necessarily be as a result of them moving to a different country like I did, but rather as a result of change coming to their country and community. The rate at which business models and whole businesses, for instance, are changing is alarming. This means that at one time in the future, may be soon, knowledge that is being acquired will substantially change in its application, if it does not become obsolete altogether. This possibility makes it necessary for the young to undergo an education that will endure. An education that endures is that which provides the right mindset and skills that remain relevant despite rapid change. It is an education that will produce graduates that will create jobs rather than look for jobs, because most jobs will be taken up by technology or will simply disappear. British author, speaker and international advisor on education, Sir Ken Robinson, said and I quote, “We have to go from what is essentially an industrial model of education, a manufacturing model, which is based on linearity and conformity and batching people. We have to move to a model that is based more on principles of agriculture. We have to recognize that human flourishing is not a mechanical process; it's an organic process. And you cannot predict the outcome of human development. All you can do, like a farmer, is create the conditions under which they will begin to flourish.”
I entered the education profession as an outsider. That is, I was not schooled in the school of education, but rather in the school of engineering. My background made me start questioning a lot of conventional methods, practices and wisdom in the school of education. In engineering design, things are looked at first from the first principles and empirical analysis. I brought this approach in education. For instance, when I started teaching English in Japan, I noticed that it was, and still is, common practice to make children memorize English words, expressions and grammar rules. The problem I had with this approach was that it was not helping children to speak English. In my search to find a solution, I resorted to the first principles and empirical evidence. I asked the simple question, “How did I learn my mother tongue and the other languages I speak?” and “How do children acquire language?” The answers to these questions helped me develop an effective approach to teaching not only English but other subjects to children.I teach English in an environment where students generally have very limited class time (one hour per week after school at most) and have no other contact with English outside the classroom (their parents have either minimum or no English ability at all).
The ETE approach aims at creating the entrepreneurial mindset and habits that foster innovation and resourcefulness in both the teachers and students. The concept was born from the combination of engineering background, teaching and entrepreneurial experience and studying various teaching and learning methods and characteristics of successful entrepreneurs.
After considering all that education has been able to achieve, I came up with a list of the four correct reasons why we go to school. Below are the summaries of each reason.
1. We go to school to learn about how to stay alive and healthy. In biology and chemistry, we learn about our bodies, how they function and what substances are good and what are harmful if ingested or inhaled. We learn about plants and how useful they are as a source of food, medicines, oxygen and shelter and how they help the environment. In environmental sciences, we learn about how to conserve our environment. We learn about chemical substances that can be used to cure diseases.
2. We go to school to learn economics, that is, how to generate, preserve and manage resources. In first grade we learn arithmetic so that we can know how to deal with quantities of resources. As we progress, we learn other advanced subjects that help us understand how resources flow and are consumed and the consequences thereof.
3. We go to school to learn about leadership or people skills. We learn history, geography, civics and so on to learn about people, where they live, how they live and the activities they do. We learn about who a good or bad leader is and the results of their respective leadership styles. We also learn that nothing happens except people cause it to happen.
4. We go to school to learn about how to make our lives more convenient and more effective, that is, how to innovate. We learn physics and other subjects to help us understand physical processes and energy and how that can be used to our benefit.In my view, an education that emphasizes the right purposes for learning has the potential to stimulate the curious minds of young learners to become solution oriented. A purpose driven education can create responsible business and political leaders.
I would like to suggest that if the four right reasons why we go to school were incessantly emphasized and were printed on posters and the posters were hung in every classroom, staffroom and office, they are bound to create innovative mindsets in learners and workers. The revolution of the work place and in political leadership should start by pre-framing the mind of the first grader, not only by teaching them the right reasons for going to school, but also by structuring all teaching methods in such a way that the children can immediately relate what they are learning to a practical purpose for learning.
Teaching the English Language
The ETE concept and EASE tool have helped achieve exceptional results in teaching different kinds of students, including children with special needs under the Oasis English Schools program. The classes at Oasis English Schools combine students of different ages and English abilities. Thus it has been necessary to create individualized curriculum and achievement goals for each student. The two Oasis English schools, which are under the umbrella of TEEBS, have a total of more than one hundred and sixty students. The EASE tool has made it possible not only to overcome the limitations the environment poses, but also to meet the needs of every single student. Slow learners are not put under undue pressure and the fast learners are not slowed down at the mercy of those that are not as fast.
Why is the ETE relevant?
The ETE approach is relevant because of the following reasons.
1. The constantly changing work and business models in the market place.
2. The changing objectives of education.
3. The changing role of the teacher.
The Four Themes of ETE
1. Health. (staying alive and healthy)
2. Leadership. (people skills)
3. Economy. (managing resources)
4. Innovation. (making life more convenient and efficient)
Characteristics of ETE.
1.Deeper (quality) learning
2. Faster (effective time management and resilience) learning
3. Individualized (relevant and suitable to individual learner) learning
With actor/seminar speaker
Lou Ferrigno at I Love Marketing
Seminar, Phoenix, Arizona
To contribute to education in a substantial way by changing the way both educators and learners think about education.