Soka Gakkai International
Buddhism in Action for Peace
History & Philosophy
Stories and reflections on the Buddhist approach to life
Tsunesaburo Makiguchi and Josei Toda, the first two presidents of the Soka Gakkai, were both teachers. The organization they founded was originally called the Soka Kyoiku Gakkai (lit., “Value-Creating Education Society”) and was comprised of educators who were united in their commitment to help bring happiness to children through education. Inheriting their spirit, SGI President Daisaku Ikeda has described education as his final undertaking.
In 1961, President Ikeda created the Soka Gakkai Educators Division (later, Educators Department) to bring together individuals working in the teaching profession and help them contribute to creating a world of genuine happiness and peace for children.
Since then, the group has striven to develop original responses to the many challenges posed by a rapidly changing educational environment, with the guiding principle that “In every age, the greatest factor in a child’s educational environment is always the teacher.”
One young elementary schoolteacher, for example, describes how her effort to support a struggling student who was suffering from discrimination led to a change in the dynamic of the whole classroom: “I wanted to make my classroom one in which each person could recognize their own strengths, as well as those of their friends. For this reason, I determined to create a classroom environment in which everyone could feel at ease. I strive daily to become a person who can help draw forth each student’s unlimited potential.”
Members of the group hold a variety of meetings, including lectures by experienced educators, conferences for young educators and seminars for parents and schoolchildren. Through such interactions, teachers are able to share information and ideas, broaden their perspectives and hone their approach as humanistic educators.
related article SGI Organizes Event on Women’s Leadership at CSW59 On March 17, SGI organized a parallel event on women’s leadership during the 59th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW59) held at the UN Headquarters in New York from March 9-20. CSW59 marked the 20th anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women held in Beijing in 1995 where the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (BPfA) was adopted. In President Ikeda’s 1984 Education Proposal, he writes, “Through concrete trials and efforts, I would like you to develop a youthful perspective and focus on growth and development, creating an approach to education that is in keeping with the times.” The Educators Department has to date compiled over 65,000 teachers’ experiences of applying humanistic values in the classroom.
One of the group’s most impactful initiatives has been the creation of counseling centers. President Ikeda proposed these in 1968, at a time when the very idea of counseling was still quite unfamiliar in Japan. Thirty-five such centers have now been set up around Japan, staffed by some 700 volunteers trained in educational and psychological counseling. The centers offer free counseling to students, parents and teachers, and have been visited by some 380,000 people since their establishment.
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