Japanese Grandpa Finishes School


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Not all people are lucky to pursue a college education. There are numerous reasons why this may not be achieved. Financial difficulties, emotional problems and forced and unexpected circumstances are just some of them. But for people who put great value on education, anything is possible. We’ve heard of success stories involving parents and even the elderly who decided to continue their education at a later age and were still able to graduate and earn a degree.

This latest success story is one for the books. Did you know that an 87-year-old great grandfather in Japan has earned his degree in economics in a university there? For this achievement, Yoshimichi Harada may be the country’s oldest undergraduate after completing his dissertation on the theory of product distribution in November 2006. Although this Tokyo resident does not expect to get full-time employment, he aims to continue acquiring more knowledge and sharing his experiences with other students including those in high school.

You may ask why Mr. Harada wasn’t able to complete his college education. The story goes that during his time, children were expected to start working after completing even just five years of elementary education. Of his 53 classmates, only ten percent went on to high school because they came from well-to-do families. At age 20, Harada was drafted into the imperial army and was based in China for six years. Upon returning home, the poor young veteran had to scavenge for his own food. At that time, getting a formal education was also considered a luxury. Harada went through a life of labor supporting his family for half a century even until his children were already senior citizens. He last worked in the construction business and retired at the age of 76. The Japanese great grandpa recalled that he had long wanted to go back to school to earn higher education. Harada added that ever since he began working in the construction industry, he was always reading textbooks, writing reports and memorizing important formulas.

One day, he just told his children and grandchildren that he had to cut off their financial support to spend for his own education. Surprisingly, his family welcomed with much fervor Harada’s decision and gave him new clothes, shoes and bags for use during his schooling. While in the university, this senior student adjusted well to his new surroundings. He even joined friends for drinks at bars after school and shared notes with them before exams.

The elderly student believed that many senior citizens in Japan would like to continue their education if only they can. It’s sad though that many of them find it hard to spend the money they earned because of their responsibility to their children and extended family. A government survey showed that more than 20 percent of Japanese are now over 65 years old and continue to support their families. Harada, however, thinks that they should also make use of their earnings and take new directions in their life similar to what he did. He not only earned his college degree but was also able to experience a modern curriculum and technology in school that most elderly haven’t known. Although the grandpa scholar did learn typing, he believed writing by hand was still faster. And so he just handwrote his 60-page senior thesis on business economics and theory of distribution.

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