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Entrance exams: How parents ruin their kids' chances with misguided 'support'

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’Tis the season – wake up from New Year’s festivities and find yourself in exam hell. Facts crammed in, facts regurgitated out – so say the critics of this crux of Japan’s education system, with its unyielding reliance, regardless of changing times and needs, on time-honored entrance exams. Pass – sail into a reputable university and a rewarding career. Fail – languish for life in the social and economic periphery. Such is the stereotype.

It’s not that simple, and reform is at least being talked about in relevant circles, but for now, in January, some 500,000 young people are poised nationwide for the standardized multiple-choice” center” university entrance exams, known officially as the National Center Test for University Admissions.

Pity the parents of these students whose future hangs in the balance! They walk on eggshells. What should they do? How can they help? They do their best to lend support and encouragement, but alas, says Shukan Josei (Jan 20), more often than not, their blundering good intentions risk dooming their offspring to produce less than their best work, with potentially disastrous, potentially lifelong consequences.

It is interesting that there are actually “exam clinics,” staffed by medical and educational professionals, that help tide families through this seminal rite of passage. The one Shukan Josei consults is Tokyo’s Hongo Akamonmae Clinic, one of whose counselors, Takayoshi Yoshida, lists “three don’ts.”

“But first,” he says, “let me say the most important thing parents should do is protect their child’s health. Catching a cold before an exam can mean the loss of 100-200 study hours ... and could mean the difference between passing and failing.”

The three don’ts, succinctly stated, are “don’t say, don’t cool, don’t feed.” More comprehensibly, don’t say the wrong things, of which there are many; don’t cool the student’s body (in other words keep him or her warm); and don’t feed the student the wrong things – of which, again, there are many.

The prime word to avoid is one which trips so naturally off the Japanese tongue – “daijobu” (“all right”). It can be a question – “Daijobu?” – or a reassuring statement, as in, “Daijobu, don’t worry, you’ll do fine.” Both are destructive. “Ask a kid if things are ‘daijobu,’” says Yoshida, “and the kid will deliberately look for things that are not ‘daijobu.’ All you’re doing is stirring up anxiety.”

As for the reassuring statement, it does not reassure – quite the contrary – if it’s devoid of content. Reassurance should be specific: “You did better in this subject on your last mock test than on your first – good, keep it up” – that sort of thing.

“Don’t cool the body” – there seems to be a popular belief that a chilly environment is stimulating, and it is; not for humans, however, but for bacteria. Keep the student warm, even over protest, Yoshida advises, to the point of checking at night to make sure the student remains well covered through the night.

Food – now here’s a pitfall, a deep one. A parent naturally thinks food equals energy, energy drives the brain; fuel up the brain and it will function at peak capacity when it’s most needed. High-energy food means, or seems to, fat and protein. What first comes to mind? If you’re Japanese, probably, tonkatsu (deep-fried pork).

Wrong, wrong, wrong! Well, not entirely. Actually, this is appropriate, says Yoshida, during the “input” phase – when studying and absorbing information. But not just before “output” - the regurgitation for the exam. Fat is hard to digest. The extra energy needed for digestion is energy taken away from the brain.

What’s good before the exam? Grape sugar, vitamin C and yogurt rich in lactic acid bacilli. That’s Yoshida’s recipe for success. It might work or it might not. Isn’t it daunting, though, to think how many people may have got where they are today because they ate right – or wrong – at exam time?

© Japan Today

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What’s good before the exam? Grape sugar, vitamin C and yogurt rich in lactic acid bacilli. That’s Yoshida’s recipe for success. It might work or it might not.

I hate this final line, it is a typical line spouted by the ignorant spreading ignorance and suggests that just because THEY do not know the correct answer means that there is no correct answer.

Go and ask a doctor, or anyone who has studied human physiology and they'll tell you that Yoshida is only half right. The brain consumes mostly sugars, but they'll also point out that the glycaemic index (GI) of foods is a critical factor.

Eating "grape sugar" (d-glucose) will give a rapid spike in GI and then a crash, which means you'll start the test feeling like a champion while you're doing the easy questions and then by the time you get to the difficult questions you'll be out of sugar and crashing just when you need the extra energy. Yoghurt has the same problem, it is very low GI, which means the sugars release quickly and you'll be out of energy in half an hour to an hour.

Drinking grape juice (note, NOT refined grape sugar like Yoshida advises) gives a medium GI, which means a longer, slower release, which means that over a 2 or 3 hour test you'll have a more consistent energy release.

Of course a healthy solution is to eat a balanced diet with a little low GI food for an initial energy burst, then a larger amount of medium GI food for a slower energy release, and then finally a little high GI food (which is more difficult to digest) so you don't suffer the dreaded post-test crash, because this isn't just one test, but rather days of testing.

There are right and wrong answers to these questions, and it is just plain irresponsible that reporters feel it is okay to repeat bad advice and then rather than checking with an expert just disclaim all responsibility with a line like, "It might work or it might not.".

There's a world of difference between a free press and a blatantly irresponsible and lazy press.

12 ( +14 / -2 )

I like my "grape juice" fermented... but then again, I finished my studies a long time ago...;-)

14 ( +14 / -0 )

The approach of this 'clinic' is dysfunctional and very disturbing — obsessive to the point of being sociopathic with respect to warping young minds. I pity the kids whose parents buy into this misguided entrance exam mentality.

12 ( +13 / -1 )

Studying to prepare to pass a test, such is a sad state of most countries' educational system. Scandinavian countries are way ahead when it comes to education and human welfare, and that's where I'm sending my kids to study.

6 ( +6 / -1 )

As a parent who has lived through the "exam hell" charade twice, it is hard to describe how obsessive some people become about the whole thing. It is also hard to describe my total disdain for the hanger's on (the cram schools, etc.) that try and feed on the insecurities of both students and parents. The whole shebang seriously makes me angry.

14 ( +14 / -1 )

This is a huge problem in international marriages raising children. My wife wants the son to study study study to the exclusion of meeting family, vacations, part time job, volunteering, etc. I was raised totally opposite in a hands off environment and went to a top university.

Well, I have basically lost the battle,,,

11 ( +14 / -3 )

I'm glad we shipped our son overseas so he doesn't have to go through all of the entrance exam nonsense. It's basically a case of having to learn lots of useless facts, like what is the 10th longest river in Japan. I don't know and I don't care. Anyone who really wants to know can look it up.

15 ( +14 / -0 )

A long exam is like a marathon, endurance is critical. Eating properly the day of the test is a necessity. Breakfast is extremely important, as your brain needs energy to work at optimal capacity. Mental alertness is key during the exam so eat brain-powering foods. Protein rich foods are all good choices as they promote brain activity and mental alertness. If it's post lunch time, try and throw some vegetables in there. There are also foods you should avoid. Refined and processed carbs can have adverse effects, as they can make you feel tired. Lastly foods high in refined sugars and sugary drinks should be avoided. Water is most likely your best option for test day. Most importantly, just eat smart. As long as you know what works for you and what foods don't you will be fine. But don't forget to get enough sleep. To function at your best on exam day, you need not only the energy that comes from healthy nutrition, but also the energy that comes from adequate, restful sleep.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

What the Japanese education system doesn't do is prepare students for after study life when they pass but more important if they fail. The point the Japanese and for that matter other Asian countries simply forget is that many of the world's most successful or wealth did not do well at school but had other qualities that got them where they are today. If the Japanese government wants to get young people into work (yes education is important) then it should consider alternative ways of nurturing the huge potential the young have. Unfortunately there is too much rote and not enough free thought and opportunity and drive.

18 ( +16 / -0 )

@Scrote

I'm glad we shipped our son overseas

You didn't have to go to that extreme ! There are some very good "International schools" in Japan. They may be expensive but surely cheaper than several "return tickets" to Gaikoku ?

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Parents upthread, as a dad of a 5 yr. old with another cushy year in hoikusho, at what age would you consider it a must to have your child educated abroad. I cling to this fanciful notion that primary school shouldn't be too much of a problem but that by age 12, I should be taking her back to my country. Advice? Or is it possible to just avoid juku and the exam madness altogether then get your child into a university abroad?

3 ( +3 / -0 )

@Novenachama

I don't know... Coffee with whisky, caffeine tablets and no sleep for 72 hours worked for me!

Can't say I remember much about the experience, though....

1 ( +2 / -1 )

@jcapan

I (was) also in an international marriage but hubby had agreed to send our two boys to the French school in Tokyo. For completely unrelated reasons, we divorced. The older boy stayed with father and went to Japanese schools (where he was bullied as a "half" and also because he's left-handed). The younger boy was in "Hoiku-en" until age 6 when he entered the French school. He went on to University in France - much cheaper than Japanese Universities ! There are also British schools and German schools in Japan. I would recommend any/all of them ! (I heard the "German" school has an excellent reputation)..

7 ( +7 / -0 )

@jcapan, my plan is normal public Japanese schools all the way to high school. I will not put the kids in "private" high school, to avoid Juku stupidity. I've read that private high schools in Japan focus too much on passing Toudai entrance test, their students have very little general education. Apparently, Japanese government changed a lot of education system in the past decade and public high schools now is actually much better than private ones in term of generally education the students. After high school then it will be university somewhere in Europe or Canada.

5 ( +4 / -0 )

I will not put the kids in "private" high school, to avoid Juku stupidity. I've read that private high schools in Japan focus too much on passing Toudai entrance test, their students have very little general education

It depends an awful lot on the school. Some of my friends sent their kids to private schools that, when they told me about them, sounded horrendous. My own son opted to go to a private school after watching his older sister go the public route, and he had a great time. He didn't go to juku. The school certainly did focus on academic work, but not to the detriment of everything else; the students were encouraged to engage in volunteer work and to develop non-academic interests outside of school, and he left school a well-rounded individual.

If you're going to uproot the whole family to resettle overseas so that junior can start secondary education there, I can see the point in that; but I don't see that it's necessary, and I certainly would not send a 12-year-old off on his tod.

I have a friend who used to teach in an International school. For the cost, I don't think I would recommend it.

0 ( +4 / -5 )

Thank you both for your thoughts. F-Viking, as appealing as some international schools are (Canadian Academy here in Kobe) they are at present bit beyond our means. Of course, the bullying is a major concern. I've heard horror tales and also that some kids escape virtually unscathed, so it's hard to predict. We live in a relatively tolerant area near a major university. Foreigners and their kids don't stop traffic, but I'm largely ignorant about how things operate in public schools, what sets of the Lord of Flies group sociopathy.

Kibousha, that is kind of where my wife (Japanese) and I are at present--that university abroad would be ideal, but I lean more and more towards having some cultural and linguistic prep time in the US before then. By university, moving to the US might be an easier option for all of us, but I'm wondering if pulling it off sooner might be better.

OTOH, guns, drugs, the sexualization of young girls--sometimes the juku zombies here look pretty innocent, if unhappy, compared to the adolescents in the US and the far more adult issues they're contending with--driving, working...

Things were so much simpler pre-parenthood and as much as I'm enjoying these easy years, I can't keep my head in the sand much longer.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

There is way too much emphasis on these exams being the be all and end all, and not enough on the alternative pathways for the vast majority of people who don't "make it".

Case in point my husband: above average intelligence, but way too busy chasing girls and having a generally good time in high school to study. He bombed the center test and scraped into some crappy university because he wanted to get it over with and not study an extra year to try for a better one. But he got into sailing and wound up on a school afloat trip to Australia - where he discovered blondes. The rest is history. He asked his dad to support him while he went to study English (and blondes), got a job in a US company on his return to Japan, and with his life experiences, english, and well rounded charismatic personality he has made a huge success of his life. Including marrying a blonde! ;)

There is more than one way to skin a cat. But the juku and various other edu support groups would have you believe that if you don't follow the traditional path you are screwed for life. You may actually be - unless you step outside the box.

10 ( +8 / -0 )

NathalieB

With the caveat that his alternative journey was made possible by his father's generosity, including of spirit it sounds like. A lucky guy, not that I'm denying his own hard work (chasing girls) or charisma. He sounds like my doppelganger or inverse--when surveying my life pre marriage it looks like one grand pursuit of raven haired Latinas and Asians. I was rewarded for this hard toil by fathering a hugely unexpected blonde (who says black trumps blonde!) I can only imagine the young J-blokes in the future who will see her as part of their quest.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I have three children in public junior and senior high schools in Japan. As has been said, international schools are prohibitively expensive and not an option for most families; private schools are not cheap, either. However, as private high schools hold entrance exams and interviews in January, some two months before their public counterparts, and as students who fail to pass the exam at their first-choice public high school have to go to the back of the admissions line (as it were), it's a good idea to have a private option.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Good luck with your blonde daughter jcapan! We have similar concerns over our beautiful raven haired angel! :)

3 ( +3 / -0 )

jcapan, international schools are generally more expensive than university and are not, from what I know, any better than a solid private school. I was fortunate to have a Lutheran school (Kyushu Gakkuin) just around the corner from my house. The tuition was reasonable; there were dedicated English missionary teachers - not JALT - so their commitment and program was quite good; there was absolutely no bullying whatsoever; and my kids thrived there.

College is a different story. In the US, the SAT is the end-all, which is why "international" schools in Japan are able to extort so much money from parents. My son graduated second in his class and was student body president, but his SAT score was too low to allow him to enter any "prestigious" US college. Instead, I sent him to a community college (he's now finishing his second year); from next year, he will be eligible to transfer to almost any US university that he chooses due to his high grades. Attending a community college also allowed him to meet a wide variety of people, from Iraq war vets to Hispanic immigrants who are the first of their family to attend college, and this is something he would never have been able to experience if he had gone to a "prestigious" college.

There are many options. Remember, it is not the college where you begin that matters; it is the college where you graduate.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Laguna, I taught at community colleges for several years in the US and I'm familiar with the benefits you mention--ease of admission, lower costs, and that wide cross-section of society. Adult learners, immigrants from Eastern Europe, South America etc. In fact, these usually wound up being my favorite students, the most motivated, sometimes it seemed the only ones with some critical thinking skills, but that's another story. At present, I'm hoping to move back in time to re-establish residency and get her into a 4-yr. university but I'm open to that the junior college option.

Of course, as Reckless alluded above, I may not win this battle when the time comes and there is, after all, a certain would-be, willful teenager in the mix--who's to say she has any interest in leaving her birthplace.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I feel sorry for the poor little buggers here in this country. Kids are railroaded into the system from pre-school, or even before that as I know there are kindergartens here with entrance exams too.

I've decided that if ever end up having kids here, I'll move back to NZ for their education. It's not perfect but there's none of this competition to get into certain universities there. Nor is there as strong a notion of "go to university after finishing school or your doomed" there.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

@kibousha Japan's best high schools have always been public ones. The best around Tokyo are Tsukuba-Komaba, Gakugei and Hibiya. Kids only go private if they don't get into an elite public school (which are often designated as super science schools and thus get more budget from the government).

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Why do these kids have to study so much just to end up being a cashier at Lawson?

4 ( +7 / -3 )

Pretty dumb stuff !

Dumb enough to believe this then you shouldn't be sitting the exam.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

These translate so badly... they don't seem to be based on anything in reality just a page of wives tales and rumors

0 ( +1 / -1 )

There are some exciting alternatives to these tests if your kids speak English. I'm currently doing an MA degree with 40 other students in the Middle East and Canada -- but it does not matter where I am located. We spend a few weeks studying together in the summer and then all the classes are online using Moodle software. It's really wonderful to share ideas online, participate in video conferences, collaborate on assignments through Google docs and even search through libraries online. Waseda U is doing some experimenting in this direction too. There are changes on the horizon.

As many know, Japan is basically focused too much on the domestic scene in the corporate and education world (galapogization...) ..Students need to hear more varied opinions. I was at a lecture last night with a former J government official who mentioned there is recognition the current entrance exams do not accurately predict whether a student will do well in university. He told us there is some movement to modify the process.

So Jr can go explore the world, learn English and study anywhere with a iPad connection!

3 ( +3 / -0 )

My kids were in the Australian education system but a few years back we put them into Japanese schools. Honestly, my kids grades and confidence have gone through the roof. The biggest difference is that they are continually challenged here. Back home the methodology was if you can do it then great but if it's difficult then here is something easier.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

yeah unfortunaetly most graduates sit in dead end jobs in a big corporation making the average or slightly above average wage, i dropped out of uni as the lecturers most of whom have never done a practical days work in the fields they teach drove me crazy. I make considerably more than your average Japanese uni graduate of the same age as myself, with average japanese ability. the most important thing is good business sense, hard work ethic and know/learn the industry your in.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

@FightingViking - we'll have to meet, when I'm in Japan (Mar11-Apr16), because your comment about one child remaining with father and one being looked after by yourself brings my situation to mind, except that I had only one child with my wife, and my wife, when we divorced (our little girl was six and in a private girls' school) agreed to the child living with me because of my education and background. That child is now a political science major in a highly-regarded Canadian university and won an international contest to attend a rather significant two-week conference in Taiwan, last summer. Education is expensive, yes, and so is travel to Taiwan from Canada, but our children are worth it, wherever they go to school. Our job as parents is to give them moral guidance and encouragement to be who they are.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Absolutely agree with WTF. My brother is another great example. Dropped out of school at 15, but loved computers, so did a free course at local college, then another, and another, and finally graduated from a mediocre university with an associates type degree (HND in the UK). Got a crappy low paying job that gave him great experience. Then another, then another. Fast forward, he is now mid thirties and earning insane amounts of money: he worked very hard, knows the industry he is in well, and is prepared to think outside the box. You can make a success of anything with patience, diligence and hard work, AND being a little different. There's the key - many Japanese have the first 3 on the list.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I see two problems and these are not exclusive to Japan, England is similar here and to some degree every country outside way to much emphasis on the finality of college. It is simply not necessary to demand one and only one test and once finished the rest of life is predetermined. England is similar, don't score high enough and there is zero chance at a university, trade school for you. America is heading down this path. California now has a high school exit exam, don't pass No graduation, regardless of grades. America and everywhere Also basically demands school only happens in your early 20s. Forget going in your 30s, fora career change. But at least in american you can Do it. Japan, it's insane, one test, in or out, 3rd year, have a job lined up or out, and That's it. Zero options to Do it again, retest for higher scores. I think this feeds the birthrate problem too. The prime years to get married and have children are right over this get college and career time. Any woman knows if the children come first, she can't ever go back and get into a career. Same with men, by the time career and college are set, it's too late for kids. Really a person should be allowed to take these over and over, college itself is just not that important, to be considered permanently life altering.

The test itself is the second problem. Tests are not really a good measure if intelligence, only an ability to memorize and regurgitate. Then colleges don't really teach much of value anyway. So this is not surprising. I have yet to meet a green programmer who didn't have to have the ridiculous skills learned in college, unlearned and replaced with real skills and an ability to think.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Actually, this is appropriate, says Yoshida, during the “input” phase – when studying and absorbing information. But not just before “output” - the regurgitation for the exam.

Can anybody see what's wrong here?, the system of entrance exams are based on input something and then regurgitate it on an exam, Where is the knowledge kept?, students just study for the exam, with no clue of what that knowledge is for and worst of all never remember it... It's the same to those students that prepare and take the TOEIC or TOEFL test, just input and then output, none of the English actually "stays" in the student.

I still remember the type of questions of the entrance exam for the university in my country, it was an academic aptitude test, meaning that it was basic knowledge of math and language presented in some challenging ways to solve a problem, Nowadays that test is more about knowledge rather than thinking, so it became the same as Japan, input-regurgitating output.

I would advice parents that they should consider different alternatives to college education, be it overseas, or some kind of community college, or technical institutes, I don't know if they exist in Japan, but I hope so in the future get rid of the stressful system of entrance test/exams because it seems to be out of control (with kindergarten having these exams too), and worry about our children to strive in their own ways (and no, I don't consider being an idol a career worth striving :-) )

2 ( +2 / -0 )

High test scores plus low-to-middling high school grades = "bright slacker" in mind of college admissions office and there's not anything the cram schools can do about the grades, in fact if cramming for aptitude tests and loading course schedule with advanced placement tests results in low-to-middling grades they are counterproductive in the end, and "in the end" is too late to do anything about it. (By middling I mean 3.5+ unweighted GPA on 4.0 scale, high 3's to 4.0 or so weighted on 5.0 scale.)

I think they put out those tidbits about "he/she was just on the edge but the committee was so impressed with the application essay that we admitted him/her" just to keep the application count high. Like rumors in the stock market or residential estate or Tupperware. Have to put that uncertainty in there. Can't really picture an admissions officer, having read thousands of essays a year, getting their socks knocked off by that one special essay.

collegeconfidential.com and other sites I forget have lots of discussions from students "chancing" their GPAs (as in asking the world aka other people on the forum, "what are my chances with this SAT/ACT and this GPA and these extracurriculars? ... chance me and I'll chance you back!"

http://www.houstonchronicle.com/local/education/campus-chronicles/article/Colleges-want-you-to-apply-so-they-can-turn-you-6012120.php

Colleges want you to apply so they can turn you down - January 13, 2015

Colleges have spent the last several months flooding the inboxes of prospective students and their parents, hoping to lure applicants -- often so they can reject them.

The more applicants a school rejects, after all, the more selective it appears, which could help the school boost its placement on the countless, ever-more popular college rankings.

... Even the most elite colleges, including those in the Ivy League, send letters encouraging many students to apply although, high school counselors say, most of the students' odds of getting in are infinitesimal.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Still trying to figure out why any parent would pay for their kid to go to most Japanese Universities....

2 ( +4 / -2 )

England is similar, don't score high enough and there is zero chance at a university, trade school for you.

This is absolutely not true at all.

NVQ / BTEC qualifications can lead to what the US would call an associates (2 year) degree, I believe its called a junior degree or junior college in Japan, and you can then convert that to a full bachelors by attending the final year of university, assuming of course you obtain your BTEC HND. To obtain NVQ / BTEC you need only attend your local community college for the initial stages. This enables a lot of people who are not traditionally academic to attend college in their specific field of interest (lets say computer science) and the only requirements for entry are a C in GCSE Maths and English - basic qualifications you can leave school with at 16. If you can't even obtain a C in English and Maths then yes, of course, university is not for you. But I know of several people trained and working as hairdressers, plumbers and electricians in their own businesses earning way more than people who went all the way academically and doing what they love.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I have sat for my own country's uni entrance exams, twice. First time they landed me in hospital. My Japanese friends told me I wouldn't have survived the pressure of Japanese university entrance exams.. My personal opinion, regarding University entrance exams in general. Are we trying to build up people with creative minds or people who can regurgitate stuff? Because if it is the first one, then tests need to be more..creative and be more assignment-oriented, that way students can really prove what they DO know, not what they do not know. Just my 2c.

@NathalieB ...wow, I'm thanking God that our requirement is NOT a C in Maths. Would have taken me 2 decades to enter university!! Our system is different (but it is based on the British System); we leave secondary school with Ordinary levels ( I think they would be GCSEs... English, Maths, Social Studies, 2 subjects of choice, a science subject, our mother tongue..etc). We use O-levels to enter High School. Subjects (2 A levels and 3 Intermediates) in High School are a choice of Languages, Sciences, Social Sciences). If you get the complete A level certificate you can enter university. Ofc though to enter Medicine you need top grades, and other faculties vary in level). Anyway..my Mathematics grade was D, pass mark for High School..

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Why do these kids have to study so much just to end up being a cashier at Lawson?

I don't think you've been to a Lawson recently. All of the cashiers are foreigners.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

I once asked my son (he goes to a japanese school) if most of his classmates go to "juku", he said yes.

I asked him "do you want to go to juku"?

he said "no".

I said "good, because you could be playing the sports you like and could be spending time with us or friends, and you could probably focus more at school.

I told him that I will NOT tell him to study - does not mean he doesn't have to study but I trust he's old enough to know what he needs to do. I told him he needs to study NOT for a test, he needs to study for HIM to become a decent adult.

one of our family rules for the kids is that when they study, we want them to study in the living room not in their own room with the door closed. It works great because we can see what the kids are doing (so we don't have to keep asking and bugging them if they've done homework) and they can ask questions and when we (parents) don't know the answer, we can look up the answers together, it's fun. Study time should not be a lonely time, should be a routine family time.

Juku might be good for some people, but not for MY kids.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

I remember not too recently, I was at a bus stop outside Seattle and I've accidentally got into a conversation with a young Japanese girl that just got off the plane at SeaTac Airport the day before. I wondered aloud how she'd came to the U.S. Did she fail the college entrance exams in Japan and the U.S. was "Plan B"? or was it something else entirely? It seems that going to college is totally "Cut-Throat, Life or Death" there. Here, it's like we can get 2nd, 3rd, 4th or whatever chances! (LOL)

1 ( +1 / -0 )

when I was 18 the best thing my parents could do for me is to give me food/drink when needed and maybe help with a mock test but especially LEAVE ME ALONE.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Kids only go private if they don't get into an elite public school

I don't think Nada or Hakuryo are schools you go to only if you can't go somewhere else :-) The kind of private schools that kids go to if they don't get into top-tier public schools are the lower-ranked private schools, the ones with famous baseball teams etc. They take these kids to raise the overall grade point average, and some of the schools have separate courses for them, as the regular curriculum isn't enough for higher-ranked universities.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Kids only go private if they don't get into an elite public school

I think this is true to a certain degree. I'd say this description fits a large number of private schools, but there are quite a few prestigious private schools around Japan.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

As someone who teaches the sociology of education in Japanese at a Japanese university and as someone with two children aged 14 and 11 in Japanese neighborhood public schools, I get the feeling that there must be a parallel universe with another Japan quite different from the one I inhabit. And, it's not just Japan that I don't recognize. Thanks to No Child Left Behind, there is a relentless emphasis on testing in the US that goes beyond anything found in Japan yet I see little or no mention of this in postings. High stakes testing is also pervasive in contemporary Britain and in both Britain and the United States the pressure and cost of getting into top universities easily matches and perhaps exceeds that of the Japanese case. Yet, I see no recognition of this in postings that seem to be at least as off the mark about the US and the UK as they are about Japan.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

@bullfighter

That's not completely true about high stakes testing in Britain; I am currently in College studying BSc Computer Science and I haven't had any tests since GCSE. I also did not do well in those (only got 4 GCSEs and one of them, English, was a D grade which is probably evident from my poor punctuation and/or grammar), but I still managed to get into the third best college for computing in the UK.

Well, I say that but I've been doing retakes for my English each year (at a count of 9 attempts at the moment) since college. But it hasn't affected my ability to attend a somewhat prestigious college.

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Connor is absolutely right. I have children that believe it or not have been in the UK system, the Japan system and are currently in the US system. Honestly - the US is the worst for testing, but Japan is by far the worst for pressure. There is a pervasive feeling in Japan that if you don't get in you are screwed for life. America and the UK offer far better opportunities for people like Connor. Case in point here - if your grades are not good enough to directly enter CSU, you can go to junior college for 2 years in your local town, and assuming your grades are reasonable 3.0+ average, you can automatically transfer for your final two years and graduate from CSU with a CSU degree.

Connor is experiencing a similar thing in the UK. But in Japan you are pigeonholed from the start unless you get very lucky.

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