Here
and
Now

kuchikomi

The dumbing down of Japanese students

160 Comments

“Is it true,” asks Shukan Gendai (Feb 13) in a black banner headline, “that the Japanese have grown stupid?”

The magazine proceeds to make its case. An increasing number of students, it finds, are kanji-illiterate, ignorant of history, at sea in math, allergic to reading anything more serious than manga. As for the nation as a whole, 30 million Japanese, it says -- roughly one-quarter of the population -- don’t read a single book in the course of a year.

Study itself may be obsolescent in the Internet age. An alternative the Japanese call “kopipe” -- from “copy and paste” -- is so much easier. Suppose you have a term paper due yesterday. The professor is getting impatient, and you haven’t even started. You could drop the course, but you need the credits. What do you do? Stay up all night poring over source material, cudgeling your brains? What for, when you can simply Google the subject of your report and connect to any of numerous websites selling the efforts of past students? Naturally, being no fool, you change the wording here and there, but essentially your work is done; you’ve made it through one more hurdle on the steep path to adulthood.

“Probably half of college students nowadays do 'kopipe,'” Shukan Gendai hears from a regular practitioner of the art.

Of course, professors are not fools either. They know what’s going on, and one -- Kazunari Sugimitsu of Kanazawa Institute of Technology -- has developed software which detects that kind of thing. Released in December, it is generating an overwhelming demand among university administrators as grad theses fall due.

Much of Shukan Gendai’s evidence is anecdotal, but it comes from people who should know -- from students themselves, and from frustrated professors at a loss where to begin their courses because too many students lack the basic knowledge that university-level instruction used to presuppose.

The anecdotes concern some of Japan’s most reputable universities. A Hosei University professor speaks of students who, asked to translate a passage from English to Japanese, are reduced to writing their translations in hiragana because they don’t know kanji. A Chuo University professor recalls a student who raised a hand to ask, “Did the fall of the Soviet Union happen before World War Two?”

A survey of 1,500 private university students by the Private University Information and Education Council found that 20% of university students can’t do basic math. This may not be too surprising, given that the pollees included humanities students, but even many first- and second-year science students, says a Ritsumeikan University professor, have failed to master the elements of calculus.

How did Japan’s once vaunted education system sink to this? The culprit most often cited is “yutori” education, a progressive easing of elementary and high school curricula beginning in 1998 in response to fears students were buckling under the strains of a hyper-competitive academic workload. Has this “easing” gone too far?

In 2009, the Japan Youth Research Foundation surveyed junior and senior high school students in Japan, China, South Korea and the U.S. to gauge the amount of time students spend at school, doing homework or attending extra-curricular cram school. Chinese students were at it an average 14 hours a day; South Koreans, 10; Japanese, 8. (Shukan Gendai does not cite the American figure.)

The same survey, ironically, showed 77% of Japanese students feel their studies are too demanding -- the highest percentage among the four countries.

© Japan Today

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

160 Comments
Login to comment

less emphasis on club activities in JHS might help free up more time for study.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

less emphasis on club activities in JHS might help free up more time for study.

Non-sense, a brilliant student can do both sports and study by careful time management by squeezing every minute they have.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

the Japanese have grown stupid

Grown?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Chinese students were at it an average 14 hours a day

LOL. I am not even awake that long

0 ( +0 / -0 )

And years after years, Japanese are around the top in education studies.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Non-sense, a brilliant student can do both sports and study by careful time management by squeezing every minute they have

Most students - most people - are not brilliant. Roughly half the population are below average. A system that caters only for the brilliant is not going to have much success.

To enable everyone to get the best out of themselves, time management needs to allow a certain amount of free time on a frequent and regular basis - time to let the brain cells ruminate on what's happened to them in the past 24 hours. Otherwise you get brains crammed full of 'knowledge' in the heads of people who have no idea what it all means, what its significance is, or what they ought to do with it. If that means cutting into bukatsu time a bit, then bukatsu time needs to be cut into.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

After having almost all Japanese I know inform me with much glee that westerners are rubbish at Mathematics, I am yet to find one who can match me without using a calculator. And this includes the Financial and Sales people in my company.

I think westerners have bought into Japan's education myth for far too long. Looking at the new hires in my company, there are gaping holes in mathematics, literature, lexicon, politics, general knowledge, design, art, history, and free-thinking. And we're talking about students from Tokyo and Osaka Uni here. Bizarrely, the students still seem to have to spend longer at school than I ever did.

What the hell are they all doing in there?!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Cleo: Most students - most people - are not brilliant. Roughly half the population are below average.

Ummm....exactly half are above average and exactly half are below.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I wonder what juku attendance is like these days.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

kanoe81: mainly to stay out late with your friends.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Ummm....exactly half are above average and exactly half are below.

Not if some are exactly at average (mean). Then it would necessarily be less than half.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Ummm....exactly half are above average and exactly half are below.

Only if the average is equal to the median, which is not necessarily true.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

From my experience teaching 18 years old - yep. Cut down those stupid stupid club activities that waste the students time for hours after school and on weekends

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Is there no consideration to the dumbing down of Japanese society through an imposed "arrested development" that occurs from obnoxiously perpetual announcements and admonishments from train cars, escalators, and so forth -- mindless warnings to hold onto the rail or not to forget your umbrella -- that systematically hypnotized people into not thinking for themselves as a matter of habit? Unsurprising that there exists a copy/paste phenomenon; all people living on Japan are subject to this invasion of mind. Thank you for very much shopping at Marui today, and please be very careful to hold onto the handrail when riding the escalator. It never ends.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The mean should be the median of the weighted scores....and the average of the population would be half more, half less. Only one person is average if there is an odd number to the set. I'm just having fun with the topic and responses.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Shukan Gendai (Feb 13)

Either this article is a year old or newspapers have found how to reverse their decline in sales - reporting from the future!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I think this has more to do with "monster parents" and apathetic teachers more than anything. Plus the fact that most Japanese kids think that college = party time.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

the Japanese have grown stupid

Grown?

I second that.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Most students - most people - are not brilliant. Roughly half the population are below average. A system that caters only for the brilliant is not going to have much success.

To enable everyone to get the best out of themselves, time management needs to allow a certain amount of free time on a frequent and regular basis - time to let the brain cells ruminate on what's happened to them in the past 24 hours. Otherwise you get brains crammed full of 'knowledge' in the heads of people who have no idea what it all means, what its significance is, or what they ought to do with it. If that means cutting into bukatsu time a bit, then bukatsu time needs to be cut into.

I get it, Japan ought to have rigid socio-economic class distinctions like Anglo-America

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@TokyoXtreme Totally agree with you. Discouragement of personal responsibilty and freedom of thought. Our brains are like the rest of our bodies. They require exercise to develop

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I found the part about Kopipe interesting. When I was writing my thesis, I just found a matching article online, translated it into foreign language which i don't even know how to say 'Hello', then retranslated it to English and made grammatical corrections. Our professors had kopipe detection soft but I evaded them because of the double translation and the grammar correction. I'm surprised Prof Kazunari Sugimitsu of Kanazawa Institute of Technology 'developed the detection soft only last December. I graduated in 2007! Prof, I think you are far behind.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

If it's "bad" in Japan it's 100x worse here in the US. It is frightening just how uneducated a populace we have. I'm met numerous people with university degrees who don't even know the rudiments of US history! Shocking. They also rely heavily on the internet and technology to get their work done. It is the impatient and lazy generation.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Kazunari Sugimitsu of Kanazawa Institute of Technology—has developed software which detects that kind of thing

I just use google. Input a sentence and bingo! up come about 20,000 sites with the same article.

There's something more disturbing about the current student population than just their ignorance about almost anything: they don't care and don't want to know anything beyond their noses. That lack of curiosity is worse than not knowing anything.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

A decline in the standard of maths and kanji is a direct result of the use of computers. Most people have little need for mental arithmetic. Even cashiers don't need it as they rely on the till to do the calculations.

It is also not so necessary to learn kanji if one uses a keyboard.

However, the real reason for the dumbing down is that as there are fewer students, educational establishments are dropping standards so that fill as many of the places they have on offer. Most of these establishments are primarily businesses selling qualifications. Education is taking second place to profit.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

the Japanese have grown stupid

Grown?

I second that.

I third that!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I do believe technology that takes away the need for certain mental functions do dumb people down.

Like any part of the human body, if you don't use it then you lose it!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Over-emphasis on testing which is in turn over-emphasised with rote answers and multiple choice questions, has lead to a lack of critical thinking ability in Japan. The kids are not taught to learn, or to put 2 and 2 together, but are taught to regurgitate information( right or wrong) and to pass tests which get them onto the next level. Life in the Japanese rat-race is little more than a game of donkey kong... jump through a few hoops without the need to understand why the hoops are there, just get through the next level, pass go, whatever.

Just an experience with any customer service in Japan where the situation is unique, exposes how lost and unable to think on the spot or problem solve they are, and is all you need to find evidence of the effects of the Japanese education model's failures.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Just some thoughts; no answers. Let's really think about "dumbing down".

It's arguable that there are three main aspects to what education provides: operational ability (maths calculation, grammar), knowledge interoperability (data inventory muxing), and mental agility (reasoning, logical connection pathing). When these are firing on all cylinders, you get a sum that's more than it's parts; a synergy. The key thing is achieving that synergy.

The primary capacity could be said to be mental agility. If operational ability and knowledge interoperability can be supplied by other means, and still support / are driven by mental agility, it likely doesn't matter if those two are inherent to the system (ingrained in your head), or available to the system (via computers), unless you no longer have access to those external sources.

If Johnny or Taro can't pull geography facts from their gray matter storage, but can get the answers they need from the Internet and produce a desired result; fine. By one accounting, sure, they're don't have the same raw capacity as Mary or Yoshiko who know where Kazakhstan is in their heads, but if the result is the same. Big frickin' deal.

What we really need to understand is if new, and to us older set possibly difficult to recognize mechanisms are providing mental agility growth. Who knows, maybe it's hand-eye-brain coordination from computer gaming; maybe the complex structure of manga formatting, maybe handling vast amounts of input from copious media sources. This might not be apparent to older paradigm folks, but that doesn't mean it don't exist.

Not knowing stuff isn't the same as dumb. In the eyes of some of these youngsters, we older types may be dumb. Granted, failings in our educational systems world-wide are leading to alarming degrees of developmental problems in all three critical capabilities, and that's a problem. But we don't really know where the new paradigm kids will take humanity; it could be a good place - just one hard for us to appreciate right now.

There's always talk of standards, but the real question there is are said standards really keeping pace with new paradigms, or are they fossils? An outdated standard only holds progress back.

Not to excuse the truly idiotic, as often exhibited on YouTube during the US Presidential races...

0 ( +0 / -0 )

It is not the curriculum itself. It is the powerlessness of Japanese teachers, apathy of students and overprotection of monster parents who are a little on the dumb side themselves.

There is no reason a kid should be at school as long as a Japanese salariman is at work. I wasn't schooled in Japan, I didn't have endless hours of classes, club and then juku and need to stay up til 1am to get homework done and I was a lot further ahead mentally than most Japanese students nowadays. Although, I am sure it is the case with many countries...kids are getting lazy and don't have to think so much when doing schoolwork. But Japanese students do seem to lead the pack with lack of free-thought, maturity, and everything being spoon-fed to them.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@xeno23 Enjoyed your post and there is much merit in it. What you are speaking of has benn called the concept of "digital natives".

Young people are indeed able to process a lot of information in a short time in a way that say over 50s are unable to do. They also have vastly superior search skills Search in its own way does entail some lateral thinking ability. So not all is negative

All in all though things could be a lot better. The educational and brain power developing benefits of the mindless TV here are, for example, dubious and very possibly detrimental.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The problem with japanese education is not related to the lack of forced studying, but to the lack of understanding why one should study. Or to put it more boldly: the lack of natural curiosity.

Meaningful education relies on curiosity and curiosity is an enemy of obedience.

Unfortunately the top-priority in Japanese education is still to raise smooth turning, obedient cogwheels for japanese society and this poses a contradiction to the requirements of a modern, knowledge-driven democratic society.

To go backwards and just try to solve the problem with more pressure will just increase the number of mental disorders drastically. (I teach at a japanese university and I can tell you japanese students are everything but resilient)

It is essential to understand the importance of fostering the natural curiosity children have at all ages and to provide them with enough guarded freedom, guidance and inspiration to experience the joy it means to discover the world on their own.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

“Is it true,” asks Shukan Gendai (Feb 13) in a black banner headline, “that the Japanese have grown stupid?”

What can you expect when you reduce the amount of education given to kids? Of course they'll learn less, it's those responsible for reducing the amount of education who are the stupid ones, more than the unfortunate students.

77% of Japanese students feel their studies are too demanding

That's no surprise is it? They've barely learned anything, of course they feel overwhelmed, they don't understand what they're supposed to be doing!

One of our neighbours teaches maths at one of those cram school places, and he said all the teachers agree that the main problem with most of the poor students isn't necessarily the subject being taught, maths, English etc, but it's their limited grasp of kanji which literally makes it so they don't understand the question. How can they possibly give the correct answer if they don't even understand the question? It's a tragic waste of young minds to give them such an inferior education that they genuinely can't read their own language without a computer so they can paste things into the dictionary and find out what they mean. It's a fiasco. And to think ABC still imagines that Japanese students spend huge numbers of hours at school when actually they spend about the same number of hours at school as their American counterparts. Silly ABC. (I'm talking about an article a few months ago by the way. They gave figures for the number of hours they claimed kids spent at school in various countries.)

As for the copy and paste society, I'm afraid it's not just in Japan. It's a shame, but there you have it, make their life easier and they want it made easier still. I was bad enough when I was at school, but now they want the work done for them too! Incredible.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

This is not new, all newgrads from Japanese school are ultimately unless. The teacher tells them to "remember this book" and all the answers to the questions are in it, there is no learning at all. You just need attend class and read 1 book and you graduate in Japan.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Life in the Japanese rat-race is little more than a game of donkey kong... jump through a few hoops without the need to understand why the hoops are there, just get through the next level, pass go, whatever.

Superlative analogy there sir!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

“Is it true, [...] that the Japanese have grown stupid?”

Japanese are made that way by the education system that still produces obedient factory and ministry workers. People that can follow orders without questions. The later introduced "soft education" added a misunderstood "individualism" concept which is in Japan equal to selfishness.

As a result the system now produces little Frankenstein of company soldiers, that have all certificates there are, but are useless in an environment that requires flexible and intelligent approaches to doing business, plus do not follow orders anymore.

Hence the education system is the biggest risk for Japans future, beside its huge government depth.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

As for the nation as a whole, 30 million Japanese, it says—roughly one-quarter of the population—don’t read a single book in the course of a year.

Another 30 Million read only Manga-Books.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

of course they are dumb..........never encouraged to ask questions, what really do you expect ?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I don't think not knowing some information or facts makes you dumb. The important thing is can the student find that information, think critically about it and can they transform that information into knowledge

And as for the internet's contribution to the 'dumbing down of students', I don't think new software is what is needed. Teachers need to get creative and give students assignments, such as in class essays or presentations, where they can't get away with 'kopiping' and they have to use their brain!

I don't know what schools were like before 1998, but even now Japanese students seem to do a lot more than what I remember doing in elementary school and high school. I think 8 hours is plenty. What is necessary is focusing on quality rather than quantity. As in the workforce in Japan, people place more value on the number of hours you put in rather than how productive you are.

As notimpressed mentioned, education in Japan is just about memorizing and taking tests. Of course if you are simply cramming some information into your head so you can pass a test, you are going to forget it shortly after.

Japanese schools don't need to be harder & students don't need to study longer hours. Students need to be learning for the sake of learning and actually thinking creatively and critically. And they also need to be acquiring good interpersonal and communication skills for use in the workplace and in life!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I agree with Bamboo! You have to foster curiosity. The problem is the students, teachers and parents don't understand that either. Not just some of the posters on this forum. I sometimes feel sorry for foreign instructors because even when you try to foster that curiosity the students don't understand whats happening and could perceive it as being a bad instructor. Especially, because you are not filling their heads full of facts or teaching like Japanese instructors. On the flip side when do try to fill them full facts they don't want that either because University is all about getting in and joining groups. The job will teach them everything they need to know. No need to make yourself a desirable candidate by acquiring skills before you graduate.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

A lot of good observations made here in comments. I think it's not just the Japanese... since the advent of the Internet and rise of corporate need for slave-wagers, most kids are not taught HOW to think critically--just fit in and use the 'Net on their computers. It actually changes the way a person's brain works, hence, the dumbing down. Use it or lose it, folks. Not program in--info out.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I sometimes feel sorry for foreign instructors because even when you try to foster that curiosity the students don't understand whats happening and could perceive it as being a bad instructor.

biglittleman, very well observed. Are you a teacher as well? I'm teaching in Japan and the question of how to get my students to be more curious is the most challenging.

Btw, I think the term cram school is marvelous...

The term, and the importance that is given to the institutions it stands for in Japan, says it all.

Cramming might work to make 'Foie gras', french fat goose liver, but for humans it just makes you want to throw up.

Good education is based on absorbing not an cramming.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Growing up I had always heard and thought the Japanese school system was very good. But after being in Japan a few times and also visiting S. Korea. I could instantly see a gap between the young people of both countries. It seems the Koreans are on average better students and were so far ahead in English speaking ability (on average) than Japan's youth. This is quite scary since Japan has an ever decreasing population of young people, how are these ill prepared youth going to lead their nation, I see tough times ahead for Japan.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Young people are indeed able to process a lot of information in a short time in a way that say over 50s are unable to do. They also have vastly superior search skills Search in its own way does entail some lateral thinking ability. So not all is negative

Take away the internet and see how true this is.

The Japanese school system is perfect. For Japan that is. Teaching students how to be Japanese during the day and only what they need to pass an exam into high school or University in jukus at night produces a work force willing to sacrifice everything and anything for the company.

People speak of the internet and the opportunities to search for information but how many actually use it for that purpose? Why, after 150 years or so having opened their doors to the rest of the world are the Japanese barely aware of anything outside of Japan? The Japanese are their own worst enemy. Ignorant in history? No kidding. What do you expect when the government won't allow students to know what all happened in WW 2 or other major historical events. Don't read books? Why would you when you can surround yourself with kawaii creatures in a video game on your keitai,psp,nintendo DS, or feel yourself getting dumber by watching any of the overwhelmingly bad "TV programs" Japan has to offer. Treat the population with kid gloves and that's exactly what you get. A country of children who can't do anything for themselves and have to depend on someone to tell them what to do. As I said their education system is perfect and they will succeed as long as they don't try and compete outside Japan. Unfortunately the rest of the world will pass them by and Japan will be forced to play catch up.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I could have saved my rant and read Bam Boo's post. Good call mate.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

As far as not understanding questions there's more to it than just inability in kanji, There are also grammar problems. For example, if the math question is something like this, "If you are on a train and you leave the station and 2pm and the train is traveling at 30kph and the next station is 60kph away, what time will you arrive at the station?" Students just don't know who the "you" refers to because they have never familiarized themselves with pronouns or personal pronouns except when it comes to talking about themselves. Instead of "I" they blurt out "Eriko ha....", "Hiroshi ha....", or "Papa ha...". Plus they just don't comprehend how verbs encode the timing of events. Present, present progressive and future tenses are a blur for them. On top of that answers to questions are routinely repetitions. Tanoshii ne? Un, tanoshii. Or stranger yet, "What's that?" "It's cold." Huh??? If it wasn't so sad it'd be funny.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I dont know as an English teacher here at Junior High some kids are amazingly intelligent and alert. As for the others well they fall between apathy and being asleep. In the summer I got a top count of 15 sleepers in a class of 30. Its not just the heat its the homework until 1am. Training must be productive..ok Time spent learning or trainng is not always proportional to the end result. It has to be effective. You need a tangible result. Work for works sake.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I get it, Japan ought to have rigid socio-economic class distinctions like Anglo-America

wawawasuremono- "Anglo-America"? Is there a "Franco-America or "Sino-America" etc. that i'm not aware of?

Moderator: Back on topic please.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

First thing you need to do is stop using the cutesy name for it. Call it what it actually is: In English, "Cheating"; In Japanese "Kataru" or "Damasu". I'm about to start teaching at a Japanese University, though at the graduate school level. having just dealt with a 10% plagiarism rate in an assignment for a large class in the UK, I had been hoping it might be less of a problem in Japan. I'll have to keep just as alert, though, I see.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Ummm....exactly half are above average and exactly half are below.

No. You are talking about the "median" which is used to offset outliers. It gives us a better idea of central tendency than does "average" or "mean".

0 ( +0 / -0 )

One of the very few advantages of being an oldie is that you've heard all these tunes before. The people who are condemning contemporary kids were themselves criticized as a generation of wasters. But there is no evidence at all to back up the claims. Yes, there are problems; always were. Some kids don't learn much at school; always was the case. Some students cheat or plagiarize; it's universal and was as common a hundred years ago as it is today. If you look at the OECD statistics, for example, you can see that educational attainment is fairly level across industrialized, developed countries. There are a lot of very bright, aware and original Japanese students, just as there are in Norway, or France, or Canada or anywhere else. They don't always want to show off in front of the foreign language teacher, just the same here as in your own country. The big problem comes when these bright kids get into the world of work and have to submit to the hierarchy of idiots who make it up the ladder. That's the problem, not how many archaic kanji they know, or whether they pick up the phone on time.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I recall asking a class of 17-year-olds to find Africa on a map. Not a single one of them could.

It was a map of Africa. With the word "Africa" written across it in large bold letters.

But to give them their due, several of them did tilt their head at the appropriate moment and perform the officially-sanctioned "thinking" gestures.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Ivan: That's a pretty bad class. But it's not representative of the whole, I think. Whilst I do think Japan has serious problems in school, they aren't as bad as the article makes out. I would believe more than 3/4 of people read... if keitai novels count?

Acubed: expect much, much more.

Kyrie: You're only showing your own unfamiliarity with Japanese and other languages in general. If people aren't raised using a language where those things are necessarily the same, you can't expect them to grasp the differences easily.

And to the poster who suggested 'did not' ... Back to your grammar and writing books, please. It's a statement in general, not about the last year, so the author is correct.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

"Is it true that the Japanese have grown stupid?"

Lessee... Japan, the 10th most populous country... still the #2 economy in the world... I'd have to say no.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Let me see if I can find an app on my iPhone to response to the posts above. I will be back

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Well, they just discover what is obvious, but they don't say anything about a solution. Sometimes I believe what a friend of mine used to say. "In Japan only the 5% use the brain, these 5% rule the country, the rest are sheep". Unfortunately, it seems to be true. But no solution from the government, one reason they don't care; another is that is not convenient for them for the people to use their brains; the last, their own parents don't care.

Remember the new class of men that this site described few days ago, the herbivores. I think is not a consequence of the education system, is that when the kids arrive home, no one cares about them or their education at home = values, they are alone with no guide.

Think about it.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

For a country that seems to spend enourmous amounts of time studying...they don't seem very educated.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

It isn`t just Japan I bougt something for 84 pence the other day, the girl in the shop took ages working out the change from a Pound on a claculator.

School standards must have dropped since all this new fangled technology appeared to amke life easier.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

**"In large states public education will always be mediocre, for the same reason that in large kitchens the cooking is usually bad."

-- Friedrich Nietzsche

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The Japanese school system is perfect. For Japan that is. Teaching students how to be Japanese during the day and only what they need to pass an exam into high school or University in jukus at night produces a work force willing to sacrifice everything and anything for the company.

Thats about it

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Much of Shukan Gendai’s evidence is anecdotal

Japan is about 50 years behind the U.S. in most things.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

when it comes to Japanese language, writing takes maybe 15 years to do properly. For me, i can get away with typing, but for a native, if they don't do it they will be illiterate.

Now that we are in 2010, perhaps Japan conducts a census and the government will not continue to cover up the sad news.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I used to teach in a Japanese university. I was told that if students had a certain amount of attendance, they passed the course. Nevermind learning.....

0 ( +0 / -0 )

netrek at 12:28 PM JST - 6th February If it's "bad" in Japan it's 100x worse here in the US. It is frightening just how uneducated a populace we have. I'm met numerous people with university degrees who don't even know the rudiments of US history! Shocking. They also rely heavily on the internet and technology to get their work done. It is the impatient and lazy generation.

This is the redeeming point about the internet, using it to avoid the rote learning, leaving learners more time to try out their imagination. Why learn all the cr@p if we can use the internet to pinpoint information. Having the magic data base is freeing, not confining.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Japan has the highest literacy rate in the world at 99%. This article is based on a survey of 1,500 college students, but we know nothing about the survey itself. We don't know the questions asked, if the survey was biased, if the 1500 was from a specific geographical location and not really representative of the country as a whole. I think the whole article is bogus...

0 ( +0 / -0 )

"ignorant of history" Hahahaha which history are we talking about here? They never taught history in Japan.

When they say Japanese students are getting dumber, what they really mean is they're becoming more like the Americans. And that's okay, not everybody can be good at math or reading. Society can't function when nobody is willing to work in construction and cleaning.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

when it comes to Japanese language...

they should have followed the post WW2 U.S. recommendation and made the transition of written Japanese from kanji to the world standard: the Roman alphabet. It's worked for other Asian countries such as Vietnam and the Philippines. Miraculously, every word in Japanese can be written using the Roman alphabet. Without writing it out by hand much (and who does these days), I'd forget kanji too after leaving school.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I would also add that unlike more difficult English, Japanese via roumaji is simplistically phonetic and so easy to spell and read. If only English were as easy. 'colonel'... 'kernel'.... hmmm.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

InTheKnow, I'd say NO!!!! Even too many katakana in the sentence is a pain in the brain how much more roman alphabet. The Vietnamese and Filipinos had no choice, I guess. As an educator I believe thi is the reason: "How did Japan’s once vaunted education system sink to this? The culprit most often cited is “yutori” education, a progressive easing of elementary and high school curricula beginning in 1998 in response to fears students were buckling under the strains of a hyper-competitive academic workload. Has this “easing” gone too far?" btw, that's a kopipe :-)

0 ( +0 / -0 )

people are still graduating from university but they can't think. A lecturer at Keio recently bemoaned his frustrations to me at the lack of quality amongst his graduates in the past 10 years.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

It's amazing the number of people you see who think that tilting the head, or scratching the back of it, is the same thing as figuring something out.

Let them follow an unchanging routine, they're happy with it, and We Japanese can be self-satisfied in their own superiority. Change that routine by one iota and they freeze. Take a look at a train station next time there's a typhoon and the announcement informs them the trains will not run for several hours. The drones stay rooted to the spot, frantically calling the office for advice on what to do when the routine's disturbed.

There is no cognition in this burg. That's they way the elite want it.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Bisoy said, >Kyrie: You're only showing your own unfamiliarity with Japanese and other languages in general. If people aren't raised using a language where those things are necessarily the same, you can't expect them to grasp the differences easily.

Sorry Bisoy but I am familiar with it. In fact the dropping of subjects and particles make speaking Japanese quite easy but that really isn't the point.. However, the point of the article and most of the posters here, is that there is something wrong with the amount of time studying vs the ability to think which begs the question why you guys can't understand and answer complex questions after all of that studying.

Again, sorry Bisoy, I am in agreement with the romaji suggestion by IntheKnow. Just don't forget to add the spaces between the words.

And while I'm railing on you bisoy, you can't just mention that you stole a quote. You are supposed to mention who you stole it from.

Agreed with Ivan, "there is no cognition in this burg!"

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Oops I apologize, bisoy, Saborichan said the first thing I quoted you as saying. Sorry, sorry, sorry.

I should have said, Sorry, Saborichan, but I am familiar with it. In fact the dropping of subjects and particles make speaking Japanese quite easy but that really isn't the point.. However, the point of the article and most of the posters here, is that there is something wrong with the amount of time studying vs the ability to think which begs the question why you guys can't understand and answer complex questions after all of that studying.

Forgiven?

After mulling it over a bit, I think bisoy is probably right. Romaji would never work. Can you imagine how long it would take to retrain the J brain to recognize word segmented sentences. And not only that the embedded concordance that each kanji character hauls along with it would be lost. And to top it all off the sentence length would appear to stretch out making books appear to be much longer and therefore probably a put off except to the most die hard readers.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Sounds like some people think the Japanese education system is inferior because (1) Japanese don't speak English and (2) they have the temerity to hang on to kanji even though the world's English speakers can't be bothered/haven't got what it takes (time, mostly) to learn enough of them to be considered literate.

The Japanese education system does have its problems, some very serious problems, but the lack of spaces between the words is not one of them.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Middle-class apathy.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

has developed software which detects that kind of thing. Released in December, it is generating an overwhelming demand among university administrators

... and students, to check they've made sufficient changes!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The bar does seem to be getting lower and lower at universities & other schools for all sorts of reasons, the economy probably being the biggest one these days as schools struggle to stay afloat and keep students interested in learning. I'm not involved in schooling directly but read in a job I'm editing now of some literature from one big J university that a growing number of colleges and (I guess smaller) universities aren't even requiring a thesis to graduate anymore (I'm guessing because they felt students would be more attracted if they didn't have to work as hard.) WTF?! Are degrees worth that little now in Japan? Aren't there any nationwide standards that have to be followed for university degrees, whatever the major, especially for those considered more "professional" like doctors and engineers? Even before this thesis revelation, my understanding was that degrees from many Japanese colleges or universities haven't been looked at too highly overseas (N. America, Europe and Australia/NZ, namely). Still true?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

trinklets2 - You're saying 'not dumb' means 'dishonest'? Or 'trusting'?

Forgive me if I've got the wrong end of the stick, but that comment seems to say more about you than about Japanese education, dumb or otherwise.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The dumbing down of Japanese students

Yes, Japanese students are being "dumbed down". They are powerless to effect any change. They have not "grown stupid". The education system has been successful in producing the kind of people required for the growth of Japan. In just sixty years, Japan has grown from an unknown, impoverished nation of rice farmers.

My children have no time to read a book. There are no book recommendations for them. Skip term papers. Undergrads can't do calculus, can't write kanji? Complain to the uni admissions office - they let them in. This whole article is an easy swipe at students who are trying to follow the system. Typical kuchikomi.

Many posters do not seem to have children who have passed through the system. You are writing from a non-Japanese aspect.

Sleeping in class? Of course. Teachers get tired.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

It's amazing the number of people you see who think that tilting the head, or scratching the back of it, is the same thing as figuring something out.

I find that sucking air through my teeth and then proclaiming 'muzukashii ne~' quickly brings about a solution.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

InTheKnow, I'd say NO!!!! Even too many katakana in the sentence is a pain in the brain how much more roman alphabet.

katakana, hiragana, furigana, kanji, roumaji... all used to write Japanese today. Yes, writing in one alphabet (Roman) that can represent every word in Japanese would be confusing.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

people are still graduating from university but they can't think. A lecturer at Keio recently bemoaned his frustrations to me at the lack of quality amongst his graduates in the past 10 years.

poster DenDon has it right. Education here is still focused on rote memorization and test-passing. Logic, reasoning, and critical thinking skills along with the freedom to (politely) question your teacher/superior's views/opinion is lacking.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

You can,t possibly blame the students blame the backward educational system there,s no promotion for an open discussion in school no one has the confidence to question a teacher, they are taught what they are taught and perhaps that,s why most of my students think Africa is a country and not a continent made up of 53 individual countries, it,s a real pity they also take so long answering simple questions, it,s ok to make mistakes, but there is such an emphasis in this country on tooooo much study that,s what the problem is , being told what to think rather than thinking in your own dimension...

0 ( +0 / -0 )

steen , 60 years ago Japan was a higly developed democracy, not rice farmers.

The students these days are dumbed down. I have first hand experience of this. I know 2 HS students who thought WWII started with the a bombs and Japan were against the Nazis.

Instead of after school cram classes, how about after school debating societies and get the young to change the corrupt system.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

alcohol removed 20 years of my education

0 ( +0 / -0 )

that,s why most of my students think Africa is a country and not a continent made up of 53 individual countries

marcels,

Sarah Palin also believed the same thing. What does it say about the US?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

it,s ok to make mistakes

Not when the exam system penalises mistakes instead of recognising merit. Say nothing, you lose nothing; speak out and make a mistake, and your grade goes down.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Cleo is absolutely right about the importance of avoiding error in a culture where examination performance is paramount. And there is another consideration. A lot of foreign language teachers adopt what might be called a Socratic approach to education. The teacher asks a question; the student gives an answer; the teacher shows how wrong the student is and what the right answer is; the student is enlightened. Japanese students loathe this kind of strategy. They see it as a smartass prof making them look foolish in order to reinforce the teacher's superiority. If teacher knows the right answer, why doesn't he just impart the information? (And I know all the arguments for students having to learn through active discussion, but that is a different thing from making someone look stupid in front of their classmates.)

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I would think is should be a major concern if kids can't do math and 2nd year college students don't understand calculus. Maybe Toyota problems can be traced back to new workers. If you expect a certain level or proficiency and that gone, quality control is gone.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

A Chuo University professor recalls a student who raised a hand to ask...

Well that's a first.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

This phenomenon is not just happening in Japan, that's for sure.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

do what we used to do.. hand in all papers hand-written!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

"The teacher asks a question; the student gives an answer; the teacher shows how wrong the student is and what the right answer is; the student is enlightened. Japanese students loathe this kind of strategy. They see it as a smartass prof making them look foolish in order to reinforce the teacher's superiority. If teacher knows the right answer, why doesn't he just impart the information?"

This is EXACTLY the kind of spoonfeeding that got the Japanese training system into the mess that it's in. (I couldn't bring myself to call it an educational system, because it's not.) Spoonfeed, regurgitate, forget.

Critical thinking: What's that? Another thing Japan could do: Don't dub over foreign language speakers on TV. They'll NEVER learn another language if they never hear it. Why learn, when NHK will always be there to translate for you?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Hasn't this been going on for a while already? It definitely has in my home country of the U.S. at least, that's for sure...

I attained my engineering degree two years ago and there were maybe only two or three Americans besides myself out of a graduating class of about 500. The rest were all foreign students who had worked their @$$es off to attain that level of education. No one seems to care much about math and science or delayed gratification anymore, which is a shame because the opportunities in engineering, math, and science are practically limitless right now. Not to mention the fact that that same technology is making it very easy for everyone to compete, no matter where you are located in the world. There must be some way to get these students motivated to give it their all in school so their lives can be easier later on.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

This is a scary truth! I am actually a junior high school teacher year 7-9 and am actually quite surprised at the lack of general knowledge that most of my students display. General world facts, geography, history etc... I really would like to know what they learn in elementary school and other subjects. Supposedly they spend so much time studying at home and in Juku's, What are they studying is the question I would like to know.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Dumbing down of students is definitely not limited to Japan.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Actually might come down to personality traits or the system. I actually asked a teacher to explain something in class if I didnt understand it, here i find students are either to scared embarrassed or the cuture to speak freely isn't here. This is the start to rectifying these problems.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

From ten years in Japan I have observed that the key failure of the educational system here is to create critical, analytical thinkers. I find so many adults lack the skills to critically evaluate problems and creatively approach solutions. Also I find that many people are highly specialized and lack the broad knowledge needed to evaluate problems from many angles.

I don't think Japanese people are unintelligent. On the contrary, I think Japanese people are very bright. But the harsh reality is that real life here does not encourage people to be bright and independent thinkers. Instead people are encouraged to be silent, to suppress their intelligence in favor of not ruffling feathers. This does not encourage people to continue to develop their intelligence. On the contrary, it teaches them to shut up and comply with whatever power they are subject to.

Add to this the endless "obstructionism" of this society and it isn't any wonder that both young people and adults are giving up on being bright. After all, it doesn't get you anywhere.

So when kids see their parents and the society around them with these barriers, it becomes clear quite soon that all you really need to suvive in Japan is a basic ability to follow the crowd and avoid drawing too much attention to yourself. Add that to the fear many youg people have of becoming their stressed out overworked parents and I am surprised kids are bothering to go to school at all.

The solution rests in empowering students to think and to have faith that the future will give them the opportunity to use their intelligence and creativity. That is how you motivate learning.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Very sad !!!! Give it up to the governments around the world. Dumb citizens are easier to control than a smart citizens.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

xeno23 and bobobolinski have mostly written what I think so I won't add any more than some side remarks:

I recall asking a class of 17-year-olds to find Africa on a map. Not a single one of them could. It was a map of Africa. With the word "Africa" written across it in large bold letters.

To such kind of question, I wouldn't expect to get an answer from almost any well-educated class in the world...

Regarding Kanji in Japan: it takes much more effort to learn Kanji than Romaji. Writing is slower. On the other hand, reading texts in Kanji is faster. Whether Kanji or Romaji is more effective, depends on how much you read or write in your life. My gut feeling tells me that for people with university eduction and qualified jobs Kanji will be more effective.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Your average person on the street in Japan is not that smart, but I remember back home the US has its fair-share of stupid people, too. Remember when Jay Leno interviewed people on the street and they said the war of independence was fought against Germany?

The problem in Japan is that "stupid" = "kakkoii". Not studying, being dumb, being lazy, answering "shiran" or "betsu ni" to everything, dressing like a homeless person and thumbing your nose at authority are all the "in" things, and Japan is doing nothing to stop it. It's the classic 'ignore the problem and it'll go away' mentality - unfortunately for Japan it's only getting worse.

How many parents push their kids to study? How many parents check homework? How many times have I gone over workbooks with all the answers marked as correct when they weren't? How many parents actually do anything when their kid attacks teachers and destroys school property?

Parents need to actually be responsible for their kids and society as a whole needs to rid itself of this 'stupid = cool' thinking - otherwise I see things getting only worse.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

How did Japan’s once vaunted education system sink to this?

When, I ask, when did we go from the traditional sleeping in the classroom to actually complaining about it?

// sarcasm aside, anyone else ever told by Japanese how superior their intellect is, backed by the relatively high iq average here? If you ask me, that average is most likely judged and scored the way most university tests here are: attendance, and not actual knowledge. I'm sure a lot of you English teacher whom ever had had to grade people would agree...

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Simply put: if the education system did their job while kids were at school......they wouldn't need juku's. Education systems these days are child minding centers. Their real study comes after school when they are whisked off to the juku's. Some folks here have mentioned the fact students dont know world geography. Try the students with a map of their own country. You'll be surprised how many can't even name all the prefectures or capitals within Japan. As for the dumbing down of society; can anyone tell me why at some minor sites (where the smallest amount of work is being done on the footpath for example), why on earth they need the red arrow AND the flashing lights AND million red cones "AND" the man in front of the red arrow and the flashing lights and the red witches hats telling you it is safer to walk this way or that way????? No don't think for yourself. Let me guide you exactly where the red witches hats are placed and the red arrows are pointing you twit....duh!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I think the Ministry of Education needs to take a long hard look at their system and make some necessary changes. For one thing, there have to be penalties for not studying. "A Hosei University professor speaks of students who, asked to translate a passage from English to Japanese, are reduced to writing their translations in hiragana because they don’t know kanji." If I was teaching this class, those students would be penalized for not knowing the kanji. This happens thanks to the "conveyor belt" education system, and in some cases the lack of interest shown by the teachers.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

All this education hype is bs. A developed country doesn't need more than a few percentage of the population with high math/science skills. It's kind of like getting all dressed up to hang out with your friends in front of 7-11. Give the smart kids access to what they need, teach the basics of reading/writing to others, and let the Abraham Lincoln's and Einstein's teach themselves at the well stocked libraries.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Lol @ratpack. Great example. Also I have noticed that some of the department stores even have girls in the elevators to press the numbers of floors for people who have not learnt to read them yet

0 ( +0 / -0 )

this does not just happen in Japan, that's true..... but Kanji is definitely a way to have more illiterate so the power can still be held in certain people's hands (which usually are the same since ..ever!)

0 ( +0 / -0 )

A developed country doesn't need more than a few percentage of the population with high math/science skills.

Well, ronaldk, the problem with that is that the rest of the population starts believing the world was created in 4004 B.C. and votes for Sarah Palin.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

ratpack: the man in front of the red arrow and the flashing lights and the red witches hats telling you it is safer to walk this way or that way.

MAN? I don't know where you are but every construction site I've seen has at least three of them directing foot traffic for a total of 20 yards.

Michaelqtodd: can you think of another country that "needs" someone to push a button in the elevator? The lack of elevator operating knowledge in this country is scary.

Has anyone read Dogs and Demons by Alex Kerr? Sums up the country nicely. Pretty disturbing though but answers a lot of questions as to why the Japanese are the way they are. Great chapter on the education system too.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

It's kind of like getting all dressed up to hang out with your friends in front of 7-11.

Ooh...brings back memories

0 ( +0 / -0 )

it is what it is.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Throw away all those electronic devices including phones.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Oh and gotta love the retests and the reretests where the students just memorize the answer order to pass;A, C, B, B, B, D.....

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Mercury causes brain damage, Minamata desease, you feed your children mercury laced dolphin & whale meat in school lunches, you eat it while you are pregnant effecting the growth of these children in the womb, now you are surprised at the results? Here is research from the University of Calgary on the effects of low doses of mercury on brain nuerons... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lCzT1yuau_4

Or check your own history, Japan is the only country to have suffered an outbreak of Minamata desease, Minamata, 1956, & once again then the government & companies involved lied, denied, & hid the facts from the Japanese public. Time to educate yourself Japan, & learn from your history...

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Miss Cleo, That's why I put in quotation marks the dumb word. I just thought that in a big factory like that where Japanese, Brazilians,Pinoys and Peruvians are around a thousand, the sub leader did not even had the hunch hat something is amiss. Imagine him collecting several times in a year. Yes I must admit inspite of my educational background I'm at times dumb . Dumb for not ratting people around.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Miss Cleo, That's why I put in quotation marks the dumb word. I just thought that in a big factory like that where the Japanese, Brazilians, Pinoys and Peruvians are around a thousand, the sub leader did not even had a hunch that something was amiss. Imagine him collecting several times a year. Yes inspite of my educational background I'm at times dumb. Dumb for not ratting people around.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I suppose it is human nature for people to slam or discount what they do not understand, but I get so tired of listening to 'Japanese experts' about how dumb and soul-less the J-folk are. How can anyone who has been in Japan drone on as so many posters here have done about J folk being unable to think critically... Of course they can solve problems, think thru issues, create art etc. Does anyone really think that Americans and Europeans have come here and told the J folk how to create the finest cars and most advanced electronics in the world? Idiots created the second largest economy in the world with no raw materials and a tiny land mass that a quarter of is habitable? Thanks for the laugh.

Of course manga is dumbing, so is tv. Any studies on who watches more TV? Americans or J folk? How many Americans read a book this year? Simple people look for simple answers to complex problems.

Sure things are different, and sure there are problems but one can't compare apples to oranges. I have had 4 kids go thru the school system here so I am intimately acquainted with it. And as my children have also spent off years in American schools I am solidly convinced in the superiority of a Japanese school education. Dont get me wrong, there are problems in any system and I have wanted to pull my hair out many times but my children have no lack in acquired knowledge or the ability to think critically. If one were going to point fingers at a country unable to think critically, I think America would be a prime example as shown by their choice of presidents over the last 20 years.

If we are going to compare learning, we are going have to start with language as the base of that learning. And in Japan, that learning will take place using Kanji. It simply takes longer to learn the Kanji, and more time is spent remembering it than in countries with alphabetic languages. Chinese student need to learn twice as many kanji as Japanese so they will obviously need to study more to acquire the same level of proficiency in any subject. The short of it, American or German students can study less to acquire the same knowledge as their Japanese counterparts, and far less than their Chinese counterparts.

Yes, without a doubt, the yutori education philosophy and the changes it brought are at the root of decreasing academic performance. Who in their right mind would think that studying less would bring any other results? However there are many other factors contributing to the malaise permeating the academic community here.

One large factor is the wide spread adoption of cell phones over the last decade. I myself had learned the joyo kanji when I came here 15 years ago and remembered them as I used them for work. However, since my computer and keitai selects the kanji for me, I usually have to check my keitai now if I even write a simple note for someone... Many of my Japanese friends have suffered the same fate. Ever wonder why professors request hand written essays and resumes are written by hand?

A second looming factor is the necessity to master a second, formal, language for work and research. Though similar, the need to master and maintain a second language simply adds to the time requirements and stands as a major stumbling block to communication that western folk need not bother with.

If Japan wants to continue to use hieroglyphics to write their language, they are going to have to add substantial study time and ditch the idea that J kids can study the same amount of time as their western counterparts. Some very influential and forward thinking people actually proposed ditching Japanese as the national language for English during the Meiji period. It would have been a smart move but the Elite put a lid on that movement because it threatened their position in society. The best laid plans of mice and men....

0 ( +0 / -0 )

tkoind2: fully agreed with you, well said.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Well, I am not an expert but I guess that when the system give you points for just keep your notebook updated in place of just check if you can answer the questions... Of course that "cut and paste" is going to be a popular cheat. Even more if the tests of the system dont check if you really understand what you are memorizing from the books.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The problems are the emphasis of memorization over understanding, monster parents, and the inability to fail students who don't perform satisfactorily.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I live in Japan and see students out on their bikes even at 5.30am in the morning right up until 10.30pm - when they finish their cram schooling. If you go out jogging around 8-9pm ish the cram schools are still full...bikes in rows outside. I always feel really sorry them. They jog on sunday nights, out in the public streets - they attend schools on Saturday.

Im not sure if stupid is the whole story - try no self-confidence aswell.

Most people I come across have absolutely zero self confidence.

Not all japanese are stupid. At least you can walk out on the streets after dark and get home safely.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Japan is a country of eternal complainers. For all the faults you can find with the Japanese education system, other countries have worse problems. Japan will be just fine.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

hakujinsensei,

Yes, without a doubt, the yutori education philosophy and the changes it brought are at the root of decreasing academic performance.

I believe you're barking up the wrong tree. The current problem with Japans education system goes far deeper. Yutori education is not the cause of Japans education crisis, but a measure to cope with it, unfortunately an awkwardly implemented one.

Actually the ideas behind Yutori education are surprisingly contemporary (cited from wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yutori_education):

In 1987, the School Curriculum Council (教育課程審議会 Kyōiku Katei Shingikai?) declared four basic core principles to improve education.

To form people with strength, confidence, and open minds.

To create self-motivated students able to deal with changes in society.

To teach the fundamental knowledge needed by Japanese people and to enrich education to ensure it considers individuality as very important.

To form people who fully understand international society while still respecting Japanese culture and traditions.

And these are the goals stated in a report of the Japanese School Curriculum Council in 1998:

To enrich humanity, sociability, and the awareness of living as a Japanese within international society.

To develop the ability to think and learn independently.

To inculcate fundamental concepts in children at an appropriate pace while developing their individuality.

To let every school form its own ethos.

Sounds ok to me.

The problem was that none of those brilliant Council members really understood what it requires to implement such ideals.

The inevitable change of the education system (in the 70ies and 80ies schools were not able to deal with growing violence and keep up classroom discipline anymore) was carried out without fundamentally changing the old system and without a proper dedicated budget.

The curriculum was eased, but teachers were not provided with a teaching environment that could realize above promises. Teachers are still dealing with 35 to 40 pupil classes in elementary school and this fact alone makes above ambitions look shallow to me.

Japan is in a complete different situation then China or Korea, where such numbers might still workout. Japan is not a fast growing economy anymore and Japanese are not eager and ambitious such as 30 or 40 years ago. Values are shifting, lifestyle is changing drastically and the obvious education crisis is a result of such developments.

The Japanese society hasn't yet fully acknowledged to what extent the cornerstones of its education system are unfit to back up the profound transformation process it is going through.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

has developed software which detects that kind of thing

that's either paranoid or just wanting to make life easier for the teachers, much the same way the students are kopipe-ing. I agree w/dolphingirl, new software is not the answer.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Stupid article. It cites statistics yet gives no baseline statistics from past year which to compare. Then it gives anecdotal evidence from "some" professors - who knows what their agendas are, but older people always feel the younger generation is stupider than they were - and this is supposed to be fact.

Articles like this just feed into the myth that Japanese people are brainless automatons. Maybe I work with and hang out with a higher standard of people than the norm, but I certainly don't find that to be the case.

IF Japanese students are in fact getting dumber, perhaps it's because they are reading pseudo-science infused nonsense like this tabloid junk?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

TumbleDry - please keep in mind that a failing grade in most Japanese Jr./Sr. high schools is 29%, and students that DO fail end up being given "extra work" to help them pass during Spring Vacation.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Blue Tiger...interesting bit of information...prove it...obviously you have no children in the system or you would know better. High school is not guaranteed in Japan. they only have so many seats, and the students must compete for them. They go all the way back to 1st grade records when they start the selections for HS. Then those that aren't selected can compete by taking a HS entrance exam for round 2 of the HS draft pic...This article is totally baseless...and bogus...

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I am amazed they don't already have an anti-plagiarism system like in the UK. From what I have heard it used to be rampant before they became incredibly strict on it and put systems in place. If I am caught plagiarising just once I can fail my whole year.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Plagiarism software has been around for a while now. Even when I was in high school 7 years ago, they were using it in America.

It's not laziness nor is it wrong. It's an efficient way to filter out cheaters. I don't know why it hasn't been implemented mainstream in any college yet.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Japanese universities don't have the specific standards for academic discipline in comparison to schools in western countries. Most department faculties and instructors don't seem to care students' cheating habits. Even some of them do, most universities are way too reluctant to politicize plagiarism as an irrevocable and unforgivable sin in academic education. If I were a college professor in Japan, I would set a very strict policy on plagiarism for those who attempt to make shortcuts, double-dipping, submit the works used in other classes or the works written/published by other students or scholars. I would give them an F (it means no credits to students!) for academic misconduct.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The schools need the money so as long as you attend class you pass.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The problem with the Japanese education system is amazingly simple actually. Japanese students learn how to study to pass examinations, and the learning is rarely cumulative, so they also learn to memorise a large amount of data (note, not information) for the test and then forget it afterwards. The system does not encourage learning, it encourages perfect recall for a limited period.

Until the testing system changes the education system won't change. Japan's testing system really is a case of the tail wagging the dog.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

spot on Frungy

1 ( +1 / -0 )

'Scuse me, sharky, but I teach in a Japanese Jr/.Sr. High, so I have first hand info. I have not only the Sr. High English Department Chair's word on that, but the Head Teacher's, the Principal's, and the Jr. High English Department Chair: Thirty percent (30%) is passing. As far as High School not being a guarantee, that is a load of rubbish, and the "limited seating" thing to, as is the "go(ing) all the way back to 1st grade". Lotta' baloney there, as the school I teach in - while having pretty good standards - has no lack of seats. In fact, I was told by another teacher that my J/S High School of 400+ students had 1,200+ just two decades ago. Dion't know where you get your info, but the sort of thing you describe is probably limited to the top flight high schools and universities, not to lower-tiered private schools and public schools....

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I wonder if it is time for a new definition of "education". For thousands of years the standard was long study from scrolls, books and interaction with teachers.

Now however, the internet offers huge volumes of detailed pre-compiled pre-interpreted pre-digested knowledge of any esoteric subject imaginible. Pick and choose what fits your need of the moment. Cut and paste.

Ruling out a total worldwide collapse of technological civilization, this situation is not going to change - indeed, the bank of such knowledge and the options for accessing it will only increase. 20 years from now, implanted devices will speak answers directly into your skull (it can be done now, but isn't ready for prime time yet), 30 years and you'll get private images/video too. 50 years and ... who can say ... databases and human brains all forming one huge homogenous 'cloud computing' network ???

So who prospers in such an environment - the person who spends decades memorizing and totally understanding a few subjects ... or the person who is best at sifting, organizing and presenting facts from the vast global database ? Hate to say it, but the latter kind of person will seem, and in many cases be, the more productive and generally utilitarian individual.

Naturally there will still have to be "experts", "specialists", those who go deep into one or a handfull of subjects. They are the ones who produce new knowledge. But MOST people will not be in that kind of occupation. What serves them best, what constitutes "education" for them, is the art and skill of information retrieval, compilation, presentation and utilization.

So, the future of "education" may be one of relative individual ignorance, save but finesse in making use of other peoples information, skill in "working the system". Why study and learn something when you can just 'Google' it in seconds - anytime, anywhere ?

Yesterdays kind of learning ... just for science geeks, stuffy boring people and such - you know, the insufferable types who think they're SO clever because they can work out square roots without using a calculator and know who the Trojans 2nd in command was at Thermopylae ..... :-)

And yes, in some ways we ARE becoming 'The Borg' - version 0.2 and counting ......

So, are Japanese students being "dumbed-down" ... or smartened-up where it does the most good for their futures ?

Sometimes you've got to rattle the old paradigms to see if they still hold up ... or crumble into a heap of rust on the floor.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

It's the Japanese academic system.

No 2nd chance, but the rich families can send their kids abroad and get a better quality education at a Western University (if they graduate) and get a better job than a Tokyo University graduate.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The education system isnt there to educate us its controlled learning by government where we all absorb the information they choose for us. Then we can be graded into different levels so we can be sent off to work in different types of mindless jobs where we work till we die with out questioning the system. If you want to be educated read and find things out for you self. Dont rely on school.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

No 2nd chance, but the rich families can send their kids abroad and get a better quality education at a Western University (if they graduate) and get a better job than a Tokyo University graduate.

Nonsense. Graduates from overseas schools have a harder time getting a job in Japan than a domestic graduate. The overseas grads miss out on all the networking, too.

And I think it's pretty hard to get a better job than a Todai grad!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

glyco157: Excellent point. Nowadays it's pretty useless to be memorizing tons of history facts, scientific theories and mathematical formulas. Of course it's still important to study language, math and science but education does have to change it's basic function. And teachers have to change their methods.

I suppose the act of memorizing itself can be good exercise for the brain but now that we have all this information at our fingertips, why don't we focus on using this info to develop other areas of the brain?

Instead of spending oodles of time on lecturing to kids what happened in World War II or the exact process of photosynthesis, teachers could be giving them creative projects, dong more experiments, spending more time for conversational English, or going on outdoor excursions to apply the info that they have gained.

Now that we have computers to store facts and figures and to do the grunt work for us, we should be exploring our brain's full potential.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

"Ummm....exactly half are above average and exactly half are below."

I hate to keep on about this one, but the average human has less than 2 arms (there are a handful with one or no arms), but about 99.9% of the population have over the average number of arms.

An interesting example to illustrate the weakness of mean average.

On this topic of education, I have an almost off-topic example to illustrate how children develop. As a JET at JHS I used to use a warm-up thinking exercise with board magnets. The basic idea is to, "move one magnet to make...". They are based on lateral thinking exercises with coins and match sticks.

Over and over again, the ichi-nen-sei were able to get the answers, whereas the san-nen-sei struggled and took much longer. I told the san-nen-sei this to their amazement and disbelief.

Sadly, something happens in that period at JHS in adolescence to make them lose that creative spark, to "think out of the box". I am not sure if this is a Japanese thing, a human thing, or both, but it was noticeable and sad.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Rudimentary plagiarism-checking is used with something as simple as Google. If a teacher gets a student-submitted paper using a phrase that seems out of character from the student, you can type the phrase into the Google search engine and many times the phrase will pop up as a quote from an article or book. If the article or book (or the website) are not credited, you have a very strong case for plagiarism. Usually if they did it once, they did it a lot so you can "ding" them multiple times.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

diggerdog, maybe you've heard of John Taylor Gatto. In which case, I agree although not unique to Japan. Maybe anyone who's been in public schools here notice it more.

For anyone who teaches public schools, I have a little thing I noticed. Notice how many teachers are there and teaching which subjects. There are right brain and left brain subjects. I won't go into a lecture about what that means, but in Japan (but maybe elsewhere) I've noticed left brain far outways right brain (ie Math over Music). Language is actually a bit of both, which you notice in the Japanese school system. Some things, they're good at, others, they aren't.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I think the dumbing down of Japanese starts and ends with TV and the masu komi.This having been said, Japanese schools do not teach kids how to think, and I think the Japanese as a whole are lacking in both common sense and creativity..although I do believe that there are many highly intelligent people in Japan.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

It's not just Japan. It's a global trend. The 'A' levels in the UK get easier to pass each year.

Devolution baby! Just take a look at the average comments on any You Tube video. Sad.

The halls of education prepare people for society. Do you believe that society wants hordes of highly educated free thinking individuals? More onus is put on attendance and confirming in Japan, because that is exactly what will be expected from them when they enter the work force.

Education needs to change with the modern world. The ability to translate Shakespeare and read ancient Japanese is all well and good, but the ability to use a computer, search for relevant texts, cut 'n' paste it on a end of term paper should be seen as a modern life skill and go towards graduation credits.

Q: Are we not men? A: No, we are devolution.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Ha! After nearly an hour of reading through all the posts in this thread very few people have actually hit the nail on the head. The dumbing of Japanese kids can be summed up very simply. no consequences = no control. The Japanese "uhum" educators have NO way of disciplining students and the students know this. As a result, they accept the student's apathy and reply with even more apathy. They create tests for senior high school students that elementary aged children could pass in order to keep the averages table afloat. The teacher's apathy just extends to the students and visa versa creating the downward spiral mentioned in this article. Japan has a declining youth population and a declining educational level, which is treated with empathy for apathy? Give Japan another decade and they will be lucky to be considered a third world country. The only thing the youth of Japan could excel at is, spending ten to fifteen hours a day glued to their mobile phones.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Well said, Disillusioned. I, personally, have no disciplinary control over my students. If one of them decided to totally disrupt class for the entire period, there is, really, nothing I could do to prevent it from happening, stop it from taking place, or would there be any kind of consequence later. Only thinkg I can do is report troublesome students to the respective English Department chiars of the Jr. and Sr. High. The nly thing they do, in turn, is "talk" to the students, and have them "apologize"...

0 ( +0 / -0 )

They should simply give students who misbehave a warning and then expulsion. On first warning, it needs to be stamped by their parents to show they acknowledge the consequences of another infraction. If not, then they can be expelled on first violation.

Of course some horrible parents are going to be pissed off at this policy, and I don't particularly blame them. But the cold fact is 30 other parents are going to be delighted that their child has a better shot at a real education thanks to cutting out the cancer.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Today, I was at school marking my first year JHS students final tests in English. More than half got less the 50%. One even got 0. I know my school is pretty bad and the other school I go to is pretty good but even then, I'm spending all day crossing answers feeling pretty bad for them. I was thinking of this article.

Apparently, their other subjects aren't much better. And yes, discipline is a big issue at this school. Quite frankly I'm amazed that the teachers, principle, parents and above all, the BOE aren't more concerned about this.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

And yes, I know less THAN 50%. It's been a long day.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I've been to about 25 countries in all and though I may have found out more about the people if I had lived in some of them, I still have no doubt that the Japanese are probably the biggest boneheads I have ever met. These people are just backward. This country may have advanced technologically speaking but the society is backward in every aspect of itself, e.g. its views on foreigners, its views on women, its views on marriage, its views on China, its approach toward animal and human rights and on the rights of employees, especially of its own people. The way they speed on every road and the number of crashes that I have personally witnessed also shows that these people are dumb as they are too dumb to understand what happens when they hit concrete at 60kmph. Also the way they cycle towards oncoming traffic, thinking I assume, that they are safer doing this - what a bunch of boneheads. The way they feel that weighing 45kgs and not eating anything healthy or nutritious is healthy, the way in which they are so ignorant of everything foreign. The Japanese lack the ability to think, they can't think, they can only do or follow what others Japanese do - e.g. the way they wait at pedestrian crossings when the light is red, but when one person walks whilst still red, they all walk - such boneheads. These Japanese are always crashing into each other head-on because they don't have the ability to think their way of it and instead of turning or driving at a safe speed in built up areas, they instead play the who-is-going-to-turn-first-because-I-am-more-important-than-you game and because neither of them turn because neither idiot wants to let the other person feel that they are less important, they later get impaled into the steering wheel. There is dumbing down and the Japanese are very dumb. They are also shortsighted people stuck in the past with an outdated view on the world and itself and an ethnocentric boneheadedness. They also practice bullying from day one to day end as a way to control the whole system and anyone different even by just a hair strand is treated the same way that a pigeon that doesn’t belong to the flock is. They are a pitiful nation of semi-robotic drones.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

It's not only the Japanese students that are falling below the curve. The U.S. has had major problems with its education system for years. Reading emails from my cousin is a real task as I can't understand half of the words she uses. Her English grammar is terrible and her spelling worse. Do teacher need to create an entertaining way for the students to learn? Yes of course. But we are not there to entertain but rather to educate. We all remember those of us old enough, sitting in class looking at a blackboard. Computers weren't in the school let alone the classroom. But our teachers still managed to make classes as interesting as they could. And we paid attention. Why? Because they had the power to do something if we were screwing around.

Why don't the countries elected officals give the power back to the teachers. Last week a student threatened to kill me. What could I do? NOTHING. Its the politically correct bullshit that has ruined the school systems world wide. Schools should go back to the cause and effect method. You spit at a teacher, you get detention. You hit a teacher, your expelled. No ifs, no buts.

In regard to students only reading manga or anime, why don't book companies produce interesting comics that can get the student to learn something. The animation "Elemental Hunters" is a great example of this. Viewers learn the periodical elements and they get a story on the side.

We as teachers need to create opportunities for students to learn, not only in the classroom.

Do students study too much? When I worked in Korea, I watched students study 10 to 14 hours a day. The effect of which was students sleeping in class. Its not the amount of study that a student does, but rather the quality.

We also have to remember what it was like as a student and try to sympathize with the students. In today's global environment, it is increasingly more difficult to gain employment in the field we wish. I feel that students dreams are squashed too early. Give them time.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

antsjnr76, should see what i receiev from my British neice. There is no polite talk, non hi or goodbye just lots of slang. Strewth, my Japanese niecef the same age writes better English than that!!

Japan must be doing summink right in some schools at least.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Having read all of the posts (headache) I have come to the conclusion that there is no simple answer. Change is needed. We all agree on that fact. However, change for the sake of change is pointless. Teaching in Korea, China and Japan, I learned several valuable lessons.1) English isn't the best language to learn. 2) Reading and writing Korean is a hell of a lot easier than Japanese or Chinese. 3) The school systems worldwide need to change with the times. 4) Teachers going through university need to be given the skills to deal with today and tomorrows ever changing educational environment.

And to stevecpfc "Thank you, and Good day Sir."

0 ( +0 / -0 )

As many people already wrote, there are no simple answers. Lack of discipline is not a universal reason. In Scandinavian countries education is 10 times more relaxed than Japan and very few students do homework in elementary and high school, and university classes are not so demanding, but in generel there is a high level of common knowledge among even teenagers about many subjects around in the world. But i also feel its difficult to generalize about Japan. Many of my japanese friends are university students, and maybe i just met the right people, but the japanese i have met are pretty knowledgeable about a lot of things. I have gotten the feeling though that many japanese are more focused on a special interest and have chosen not to focus on stuff outside of their interest. I have met japanese who knew a lot of things about small subjects like european fusion jazz music and about underground movies and so on and so on, but at the same time they were not really aware that Thailand produce rice. For me it was like hearing that danish people would be unaware that Russia produces Vodka. And most people do know that here. But Japan is also a nation where a lot of young people are paying a lot of attention to their social life with other young people, and pressure to be accepted by others and finding boy/girlfriends and fitting in could maybe mean that no priority is given for basic knowledge. The school system raises you with the idea that YOU MUST know this and that, but only for passing a grade. It doesnt seem like students are being stimulated into really wanting to be curious/hungry after knowledge outside of their own hobbies.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Regarding Japanese schools, it is really school by school. I teach two and one is way above the other in every way. So what is the difference? Well I think environment is a big thing, one school had an environment where kids want to learn, in the other they just want to play cards in class and throw s*&t at the teacher. Why? I have no clue. They are in the same area so social economics are out.

So if it's the environment, it comes down to the teachers and the PTA. I've figured out, at least in Japan, that relationship is the key to everything.

But even school by school it is not hard to see Japan kids are on a downward slide. Even at my "good" school, I had a few kids ask "Where is Tokyo?" during a weather game on a map. They aren't dumb as such just, I dunno, ignorant is maybe the word I would choose.

But the bottom line is it's not their fault. The older generation of Japan needs to have a long look at what it's doing to their young.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

If a kid threw something at me, I would throw it back. Eye for an eye.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

This is the consequence of being a developed and wealthy nation. People who are comfortable are complacent. Children who are raised by parents who suffered no real hardship do not raise their kids with a sense of urgency about improving themselves. The entire educational experience becomes rather rote to such people as it seems abstract. They know they will get jobs. They know they have a high chance of living at a certain lifestyle level. Where is the motivation once you are relatively comfortable?

You can lay this at a lot of feet, but the bottom line is that this happens to all country's average citizens once those in the middle are relatively comfortable. We all live better than kings did 500 years ago - T.V. is our constant court jester, fast and processed food our always at hand chefs, education is available on demand and not just something reserved for the elite so it's of less value. It's about motivation more than the minutiae of the education system, parenting or culture. It's also one of the reasons why advanced nations tend to sink after they reach their peak.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Some people mentioned using romaji instead of kanji for Japan. Hehe, not gonna happen. Japanese is a beautiful language the way it is with the combination of Kanji, hiragana, and katakana. It's fun to read if you are dedicated enough to learn it. For Japanese, it's natural. For westerners, only the hardcore, strong, and patient, can manage to put in the time necessary to master kanji.

Personally, as someone who has studied the Japanese language formally in university and has lived in Japan for years, I can assure you that such a plan will never work and should never be considered. There are too many words that have the same pronunciation to ever have any roman alphabet replace them effectively. I'm sure those of you who can read kanji will agree that kanji can actually help you read faster.

Kanji is not the problem. Heck, even countries that use the alphabet, there are still quite a few cases of illiteracy. So what should they do, spell words like they sound? Wow, that wood maik mee laff!!!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@helloitsme

Dude, I think you need a hug... or a role model or something...

I respect everyone's opinion, but I have to admit that your comments are so boneheaded, if you didn't know any better, you'd probably think you were Japanese yourself.

I'm not sure what group of boneheads you hang out with here in Japan, but I've been to my share of countries, and I could easily find a similar group of boneheads in any other country.

The Japanese are some of the most curious people on the planet who are generally interested in learning more about other countries and cultures. Granted, they're not the smartest people on the planet, but I'm always impressed about how much they generally know about other countries.

Let's try to understand the culture before we criticize, this article could apply to any country. In fact, it should be titled, "The dumbing down of the planet."

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Ok, well we all know the problem.. (its happening all over the world not just japan...) WHAT are we going to do about it? talking only gets us so far.. we need to start acting!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@ituzr I like your re-title idea :P

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Login to leave a comment

Facebook users

Use your Facebook account to login or register with JapanToday. By doing so, you will also receive an email inviting you to receive our news alerts.

Facebook Connect

Login with your JapanToday account

User registration

Articles, Offers & Useful Resources

A mix of what's trending on our other sites