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What's wrong with Japanese education?

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Well, I guess I am not the first one who tried to complain or give insight into the poor state of the Japanese public education system. There are legitimate concerns from parents about their children's education and future. Yes, there are many problems. And yes, there are many proposed solutions out there. But most of the proposed solutions or all of them are problems themselves rather than real solutions.

One of the supposedly major problems among students in Japan is discipline. There has been big media hype about classroom violence toward students and teachers, childhood prostitution by some middle school and high school girls and general unruly behavior unacceptable according to Japanese customs and traditions.

People fail to see that these kind of problems are not educational in nature at all. Do we call it a medical problem when a patient physically assaults his or her doctor? No, we do not. It is a security problem and someone who is an expert in security should address it.

The proposed solutions by the bureaucrats are to "relax" the curriculum to lower the stress of the students and to always keep an eye on trouble students by having a designated teacher to attend to them. In a nutshell, the solutions are meant to decrease the educational standards and assign personal nannies inside the school.

I should know all of these. I have seen it firsthand as a teacher in a public school here in Japan. People do not realize that discipline problems should not be a concern at all. Putting a lot of children in an area and forcing them to absorb ideas they have no way of pre-approving is a recipe for disaster. Child discipline should only be between parents and their children. When other people decide how to discipline someone else's children, it is always a bad idea justified as necessary and good.

Next is student prostitution. This is not an educational problem at all. Again, this is an individual or a family matter. What is next -- childhood obesity considered as an educational problem?

Another very obvious supposed problem in Japan is poor English communication skills among the students and the general population at large. Some Japanese teachers who teach English as their main specialty cannot even speak proper English. The solution was to introduce Assistant Language Teachers (ALTs) from abroad to teach and communicate in English with the students, Japanese teachers taking English lessons outside the school time and introduce standardized English exams.

Again, these "solutions" opened an array of problems instead of solving any of the original problems. Discrimination, poor treatment and low salary for the ALTs ... and poor exam results even with increased educational budgets.

To be clear, there was no real problem to begin with. This is what eventually happens when anyone tries to solve a fictional problem. It just compounds the original problem rather than solving it. Students should not be forced to learn English. Japanese students and the majority of the Japanese people do not speak English because they do not see the need for it. Yes, being proficient in English will be a definite advantage anywhere but it does not make it a necessity.

Japan is a modern and a rich developed country. To be really successful in Japan, the Japanese language is a necessity, not English. So, when politicians and educational bureaucrats start to meddle with what children ought to be learning, they themselves create the problem. If there is a case to be made to give students an advantage in the future, it should be learning computers. Even that is not given any priority at all. Public elementary and middle schools have outdated and insufficient numbers of computers. At the public elementary school where I taught before, students are given one hour of computer instruction every six months.

So, how to fix this whole Japanese public educational debacle? Easy. Abolish all public schools. Let private schools and private teachers compete with each other. And let parents and students choose their own education. This way everybody is happy. The solution is very easy but very hard to achieve. The reason for this is that people think the end of public schools would be the end of education in Japan. Most people worry about paying high tuition fees to private schools. But everybody fails to realize that private schools are only expensive because public schools exist. Without public schools, private schools will get a lot cheaper and affordable.

The current Japanese educational policies are misguided and misinformed. Eventually and unfortunately, the children pay the price for these mistakes and they are left with bad education unsuited to an uncertain future. If we really value our children's future, we should make bold and brave steps to change the current system. Because we, the human race, only advance if our children can have a better education and opportunities for themselves.

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Some thirty years ago I read an article about the sad state of medical treatment in the US. The solution proposed by the author was simple: abolish all requirements and legal hoops for becoming a doctor. Let anyone who wants to be a doctor become one and let the market place decide. Competent doctors, who study medicine, will rise to the top and charlatans, according to the author, will fall by the wayside.

This course of action, of course, was not taken, primarily because most people realized that charlatans never fall by the wayside; they come up with 'alternative' and 'holistic' medical practices.

Also, to be successful in Japan does not require math, science, the ability to read, or, evidently, any knowledge of history. Why teach them?

Being successful requires the ability to put more over on enough people to fleece them of their money in order to become rich (one definition of success); formal education not required.

If public schools were abolished, people with the ability to put more over on enough people to fleece them of their money in order to become rich will succeed. At the expense, of course, of the children.

But how is that any worse than what Japan has now?

3 ( +7 / -4 )

The same abusive labor practices go on against teachers in private schools in the US as ALTs in Japan. In New York City, private school teachers are grossly underpaid and most teachers considered it undersirable work or a last resort. In Japan, native teachers who are fortunate to get a full time position will get at least a reasonable salary, but without as many benefits as public school teachers (i.e. teacher pensions). Public schools should remain so that private school are forced to at least be somewhat competitive with salary and benefitis - otherwise teachers (an not just native teachers) will get paid squat - far less than they should be.

Another reason to preserve public schools is vastly different family incomes. Public schools are a way to level the playing field so that all families regardless of background have an opportunity to send their children to school for a decent education and the same opportunities beyond public school to succeed at college or work. Elimination public school sounds like a US republican politician trying to eliiminate "expensive" pensions to say money and off-load this expense on hardworking families...

From what I understand all of the problems outlined in this article were much more serious in the 1970s and 1980s and public school violence and teen prostitution have declined. I would really need to see reliable stats to be convinced about whether these are indeed on the increase, or have declined but still persist as problems. I would like to see the same for bullying statistics. The media tends to report what is trendy.

11 ( +12 / -2 )

Not working in education so will limit my comments.

I'm of the view that English should be an optional subject in Japanese schools, with the languages of Japan's neighbours also being taught, and with students required to select a language. As the writer says, not everyone on this archipelago needs English.

I know full well this won't happen any time soon however.

3 ( +6 / -3 )

I think the author makes a valid point talking about computers since some people never learned to use the "Tab" key effectively.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

Oh wow, there's so much wrong with this article that I really struggle with where to start, but let's start here:

To be clear, there was no real problem to begin with. This is what eventually happens when anyone tries to solve a fictional problem. It just compounds the original problem rather than solving it. Students should not be forced to learn English. Japanese students and the majority of the Japanese people do not speak English because they do not see the need for it.

The author just finishes writing that "Some Japanese teachers who teach English as their main specialty cannot even speak proper English.", and then proceeds to the (incorrect) conclusion that English isn't required in most professions so it should be abolished. What about those professions where it is required? Should students there continue with teachers who claim to teach English but can't speak it?

The idea that "Japanese students and the majority of the Japanese people do not speak English because they do not see the need for it. " is a failing of Japanese society, that they can't see the need for English doesn't mean that they do not need it. Any student going to University will need English if they want to read about the latest trends in their profession, at the moment the majority of scholarship is written in English and the world's leading journals in most areas are written in English. In short, if your doctor can't read English then you're not getting the best treatment.

Even for lower-level careers there is a need for English. The mail boy in your company needs to be able to read English addresses, anyone processing orders from overseas (either import or export) needs to be able to communicate with the people they're sending stuff to or receiving stuff from. International visitors from branch offices (or even head offices) overseas can't all be expected to learn the local language, not when they might be visiting a dozen or more countries. Likewise one needs to be able to read and respond to an email from a potential customer overseas.

Frankly it is a big part of Japan's financial woes that it has been so slow to accept the NEED for English. China, the fastest growing economy in the world, is also the country with the largest number of English speakers (admittedly most of them second or third language). China embraced the idea that English was the language of business and has reaped massive benefits. Japan persists in the idea that it can ignore the language of international commerce and require every foreigner to learn Japanese. That's fine, but then they can't whine about their declining economy. Until Japan sees the need for better English instruction for every student in every school then Japanese education and the Japanese economy (and studies show that the quality of education is closely linked to economic growth) will continue to stagnate.

21 ( +23 / -3 )

I've never understood why Japanese kids, in addition to full-time schooling, need hour after hour of cram school on top of their homework, plus regular weekend classes to learn less than any vaguely conscientious kid getting five days of school in Europe.

It couldn't be another instance of the triumph of ritual over validity, surely?

I once had a class of 15 year olds who were unable to identify Africa on a map. Of Africa.

0 ( +16 / -16 )

Yeah, let's abolish all public schools, so all of these non-educational problems can dissapear. Noone will ever behave violently, there will be no school prostitution, and no more discipline problems!

-2 ( +4 / -6 )

The starting point is the actual classroom environment in many public schools. The simple fact is that many schools are concrete boxes with no central heat, no a/c, no green space, and look more like prisons than educational institutions. Expecting students to be able to learn when they are bundled up in coats, or sweating onto their textbooks, is ridiculous. Not to mention the shocking lack of technology- still using chalk and blackboards, etc.

After that, the sense of professionalism in the teaching profession needs to be upgraded, Teachers are given little/no support from school administration, who in turn kowtow to the almighty PTA and other groups. Schools have no written policy or guidelines on basic issues like discipline, attendance, etc. As a result, each teacher is left alone as an island to deal with their own situation. When I worked in junior high schools, I rarely if ever saw teachers helping each other in meaningful ways. Example, if a teacher is assigned to 2nd year English in the following year, the current years teachers won't offer them help, lesson plans, resource materials, etc. The teacher has to start from square one and do everything again. The wheel is constantly reinvented. I asked why and was told that it would be seen as "lazy" to assist each other this way.

My experience was that elementary education was quite good, but public JHS and SHS are little more than factories. They don't exist to teach students in the sense of educating them. Rather they exist to teach students how to be Japanese. Education can wait, or be done at cram schools. The other issue is the whole "tail wagging the dog" scenario of entrance tests driving the curriculum, instead of the other way around. Leading of course to ridiculous situations like "Oral Communicaiton" classes in which English is literally never spoken, due to the class in reality being a grammar crammer class designed to get students past the Center Test for university...............

5 ( +7 / -2 )

So, how to fix this whole Japanese public educational debacle? Easy. Abolish all public schools. Let private schools and private teachers compete with each other. And let parents and students choose their own education

WIN! This would truly solve plenty of problems. The only kids in school would be ones that want to be there, and have a specific reason for being there. Everybody else would learn whatever skills they need at whatever job they could get.

This would be wonderful. Unfortunately, it will never happen, because it will eliminate a whole lot of jobs for people who couldn't otherwise get jobs. .

-9 ( +3 / -12 )

Japan is so advanced in so many ways yet so behind in other ways. I completely agree that the Japanese education system needs a complete overhaul. As other countries change their thinking to keep up with the ever-changing society and the world, Japan will continue to fall behind. Japan will eventually no longer be the Japan everyone knows.

Another thing I want to add is that I think all daycares and schools should have air conditioner! My son's elementary school doesn't have a/c. How can kids concentrate in the extreme heat?! That's torture!

2 ( +3 / -1 )

My view of the problems in Junior and Senior high is that unless a teacher such as an art teacher or music teacher, teachers do not have their own rooms. The students stay in one room all day long unless attending gym, art music etc., and then they still all go together. This is the reason why the rooms look so drab. It is also the reason why bullying can fester, as the students are not supervised for much of the day.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

@ Chazz, yes, I am totally willing to pay extra cost for a/c. I'd rather pay extra than to have him suffer from mild heatstroke again and again. You must not have kids in an elementary school without a/c.

8 ( +8 / -1 )

@ Chazz, I forgot to add my thoughts on English. You are correct - English is not a must-know language in Japan. But if the education system is going to incorporate it into their classes, they should do it right. Not half-assed.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

@Chazz

I disagree with you about bullying. I witnessed it first hand.

8 ( +9 / -1 )

English is the most widely spoken language in the world (as I'm sure we all know). That alone is enough reason to keep the language on the curriculum.

Yes, there are many people and many professions within that don't need English in their daily lives, but, as has been mentioned, leaving things there is the kind of insular thinking and behaviour that will never help Japan grow as a country.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

Ooops, the Roman Empire had compulsory schooling for citizens as per their government.

This was not re-introduced into the world again till Maria Theresia of Habsburg established such a Law.

Public schooling goes back a long way.

-3 ( +2 / -5 )

This is an opinion piece, bottom line, and not at all based on or providing much by way of real facts.

YES, discipline is a problem in schools here, because when corporal punishment was rightfully abolished (though some teachers STILL hit students!) nothing was put in its stead. Kids KNOW teachers can do nothing, and so the only thing silly about the current situation is that teachers expect kids to behave. The ONLY thing PM Abe was good about was that he wanted to introduce a suspension system for kids who refuse to behave, but this has long since ceased to be even an idea here.

Aside from discipline, current problems are: cram schools, teacher testing, and entrance exams to high school and university.

The foremost, cram schools, used to be a faux pas in Japan, but are not required if kids actually want to learn anything. Where public school teachers in the past discouraged cram schools they know resort to "ask your cram school teacher" when they cannot finish the standard curriculum teaching because they're off chasing students who are late or running around causing problems. Teacher testing in Japan is based SOLELY on rote memory, and worse yet it's based on rote memory for subjects they won't ever be teaching as well as those that they will. The two week practicum is a joke. In many Western countries the test of becoming a teacher are based on the actual practica, not some test to see how many Geographical terms they've memorized. Osaka's Hashimoto is going to make things WORSE with his ideas of how to 'improve' education if he has his way, because it will be based solely on monetary motivation -- rewards -- and not actual classroom rapport or performance. Entrance exams are another HUGE problem, because as with teacher testing, it's all how much you can remember, not actual skill.

I don't know much about the whole ALT system, but I DO know that in many places the JET programme has been done away with and ALTs privately hired by municipalities under even lousier contracts. They are forced to make elementary school curricula because J-teachers have no idea and there are no standards set out by the government who made it mandatory that English be taught. Also, in many cases, ALTs are not permitted any longer to teach third year classes in junior high or highschool because, and this is the irony, if the kids have classes in which communication using English takes priority over rote memory training they may not pass the exams to enter the next level.

Anyway, there are a LOT of problems indeed with the education system here, as with nations across the planet -- sometimes the same, sometimes different. There are also a lot of problems with this article as a whole, but as I said -- it's opinion.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Sorry... cram schools are NOW required, not 'not' required.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Chazz: "Most of your comments, I think you are confused with a lot of things. Although English is very important it is not an important indicator of economic success. China will still be the number 2 economy in the world without a single Chinese speaking English. Chinese factories communicate in Chinese. Walmart managers can hire Chinese translators to communicate with Chinese producers."

You forget, or choose to ignore, a few facts: Chinese factories in CHINA communicate in Chinese, or if overseas communicate with people who are largely fluent in both English and Chinese. What's more, you fail to mention that in China alone there are more people studying ESL than there are native English speakers world-wide. For economic reasons or otherwise, the Chinese are more motivated at and apparently better at learning English as a second language, and most of my Chinese-Canadian friends back home had to attend Chinese language school on weekends because they're parents felt it important that their kids learn the language of their ancestors. Not so of Japanese-Canadian friends, whose parents felt it more a priority they adapt completely to the native language and culture that they live in. Not saying either is right or wrong, just pointing out that there are people of Chinese ancestry world-wide who are fluent in Chinese and the target country's language.

Back to education and the problems HERE, though, it's not just English of course, but everything. The system is still based on antiquated notions that people will do what is expected -- teachers and/or kids -- because it was successful 50 years ago, without taking into account that the rules have changed completely and nothing has been put in their place to deal with them.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Anyway, one more thing that I meant to mention but keep forgetting is that English is indeed NOT a must in Japan, but if Japan wants to succeed in the world English needs to stop being seen as some type of Imperialism and instead embraced as the necessity it is in the current world. Who knows, maybe Mandarin Chinese will replace that in the future, but for now it is English that is necessary for global competition. Ignoring that fact won't improve education here. HOW it's taught needs to change, as well as how the education system as a whole works needs to be rethought (and not through the public system being abolished!).

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Reminds of the Pink Floyd,

"Teacher leave the kids alone!"

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

Chazz makes a point by saying that English should not be compulsory and only those who feel the need to study it should do so but at the same time insists that computer science should be thought to everybody. Now, let’s not forget that most young people are probably more proficient in using computers and other IT gadgets than some people in this forum. Why should everybody become a computer specialist? And how will the closing of all public schools improve the educational system? Have you ever heard of why some parents send their kids to kindergartens/junior high and high schools which belong to private universities? According to the parents, they do that, because sending their kids to such kindergartens/schools will ensure that their kids are admitted to that university without having to struggle for it. Ah, and also because the parents take off their hands the burden of having to engage personally in the education of their own kids. Thought that public schools are their to guarantee that even financially challenged families can provide their kids with at least a minimal level of knowledge, not to ensure that everybody is educated so that they can enter Tokyo University (just an example).

0 ( +2 / -2 )

How about starting to teach these kids some analytical thinking, instead of trying to turn them into workdrones?

Students should not be forced to learn English. Japanese students and the majority of the Japanese people do not speak English because they do not see the need for it.

i did not see the need for education when i was young, but i still got it. when i was at school i was also thought morals, right and wrong not just facts i had to cram.

I agree that parents play a great part also but they where also brought up in the same system

7 ( +7 / -0 )

I must strongly disagree. Education is not only a human right - it is a civic duty. As long as a person has the right to vote - which everyone should have in principle independent of geographical or social origin - the person has the duty to be informed and educated about the effects of her decisions. By that I directly say that all Japanese voters who did not oppose nuclear power with their votes share the responsibility of the Fukushima disaster. Just to mention one example. Democracy works iff the citizens are virtuous. Neglecting education is the exact opposite. Children cannot judge this (admtttedly abstract) reason properly, thus adults have the duty of making children want to learn. Which is not very difficult, since children have innate curiosity. Public schooling is an absolute necessity. However, the curricula are outdated and have to be adapted. And the methods of teaching must change. Asian students typically fail at transitional tasks, where they have to apply knowledge to new topics. This should be the focus of education instead entrance examinations.

It can be debated whether English at school at the usual six year level is that important. Since everyone with a modest level of interest (and access to computers) picks up English at a basically functional level (and more is not required for 99.9% of the population), there is no real need for English schooling at the common depth. Two or four years would be enough to enable intelligent children (and adults) to continue learning on their own. It would be better to teach children other languages like Chinese or Spanish, since they have more native speakers around the world than English (if you don't count India) and since they have much higher intrinsic difficulty. Concentrating on English is a typical example of overdoing without seeing the forest between the trees.

Finally, basic intercultural education is becoming more and more important. Japanese school has the task of eliminating prejudices. Not only Japanese school, though. Just thinking of the murder of Trayvon Martin in Florida a few weeks ago...

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Child discipline should only be between parents and their children.

Absolutely disagree with this. Child discipline should be, in schools, administered by the school and supported by the parent. Teachers and admin staff are professionals trained to make a balanced judgement call about the severity of a student's action and will administer an appropriate punishment. Parents should respect and support this. This teaches the child the reality of social expectations and norms outside the house. Yes, the parents should be teaching this any way, but the school also has a role to play in setting and maintaining social boundaries. Parents going into schools to protest against their child's punishment or undermine the judgement of the teachers is merely exacerbating the problem and not teaching the child anything. What are your rights compared to your responsibilities?

Classroom violence happens because children are being force to sit in a class they are not interested in.

Can't agree with this either. Just because you are bored does not mean you become violent. I don't. A reality of school life is that, at times you sit through classes that are less stimulating personally than others. But to respond violently is not normal, or justified, and from my experience in education is usually indicative of problems at home or a specific condition.

Where I come from we have a very successful public school system, however it too is suffering increased incidences of violence. The root cause is almost always the parents - people who are not preparing their children properly for the expectations of school life and who refuse to accept that their children have done the wrong thing at school.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Johannes: There are a number of nations that have officially more than one national language. When that is the case, most require it be taught from a young age. A number of nations among them have changed the age required to be from what was previously around 11 years of age (or junior highschool first grade age, roughly), to that of four. Stats have shown that the overall bilingual fluency percentage increased, regardless of whether the kids were 'intelligent kids', as you say, or not.

"Concentrating on English is a typical example of overdoing without seeing the forest between the trees."

Again, the WAY it's done is the problem, not the fact that it's done. The amount of money spent on ESL is ridiculous, given the result. But that's the one point where this article is correct -- the whole system is at fault, not necessarily the individual facets. I agree with you about basic intercultural education, though, although not sure what Trayvon Martin has to do with it.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

And one more thing - education is a right and it should be provided at minimal or no cost by the state. The provision of this service of the state should be to the highest standard possible with very clear expectations of the students AND the parents, with clear and genuine repercussions if a student and/or parent cannot meet those standards. Privatising all education is simply not a responsible solution.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Your article doesn't explain how abolishing the public school system in Japan and replacing it with a private system will be better than the current situation. Sure, you say let private schools compete with each other, and you seem to imagine that this in itself will drive fees down to levels affordable to - what - the majority of the population?

But then I suppose I shouldn't assume that you think a society benefits from offering compulsory education, and that this is what contributes to it becoming civilized. You say the printing press was responsible for widespread education. In part, perhaps, but only in part. But that didn't stop child labour, did it? It didn't stop us putting children up chimneys, did it? And in developing countries, it doesn't stop families having to put their kids in sweat shops to make the goods we enjoy buying.

So how will free market economics in education solve the problems you mention? The only way I see it solving the problem is that those problem kids just won't attend school. Sure, that gets them out of the teacher's hair, but what will the wider effect on society be if we go down that road?

Your posts have been lengthy here. Don't you think you should have addressed these things in your original article?

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Tama; I agree with most of what you said, but one point needs to be very clear: education canNOT be provided at "no cost by the state". The only way the state can provide something is by taking money from the citizens' pockets and using it. A big problem in society in general is that people fail to realize this one simple fact. Governments don't have a magical money tree that they can pluck dollars from at will.

If there is to be a public education system, every effort must be made to ensure it is of highest quality and best value for the money spent. This rarely happens in any area that government has a partial/total monopoly, though.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

I think the author and most of the posters on this thread have got it all wrong. The purpose of Japanese education is to create future japanese and in this, the system is pretty successful. By the time most Japanese students are 18, they

Are monolingual and convinced that its impossible for a true Japanese to communicate in any other language apart from japanese.

Totally wrapped in nihonjinron and the uniqueness of the Japanese.

Ignorant about anywhere outside Japan.

Fully versed in the required behaviourist cues for the next 50 years of their life.

Devoid of pretty much any cognitive skills.

Xenophobic.

Mentally fully rote trained.

Don't be the nail that sticks out.

I'd go further and say that in my 20 years in Japan, comparing the generations, the Japanese education system is more successful now with its aims, than it was 30 years ago.

11 ( +14 / -3 )

You're echoing my point from earlier, Dog. Learning how to be Japanese is the number one goal of the system.

I think you are right, it HAS been successful. I've been here a while too, and it seems that as time goes by, the youth get more and more conservative. There is an amazing lack of curiosity about the world, lack of ambition to study overseas, lack of desire to do anything other than become a drone. It's impressive, given the easy access to information provided by the internet, low cost of travel, and relative affluence of most Japanese.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Johannes Weber

It would be better to teach children other languages like Chinese or Spanish, since they have more native speakers around the world than English (if you don't count India) and since they have much higher intrinsic difficulty. Concentrating on English is a typical example of overdoing without seeing the forest between the trees.

That's disingenuous. By virtue of having the most native speakers (though the difference isn't large for Spanish vs. English), they have more native speakers 'around the world'. According to Wikipedia, approx 80-84% of all Chinese/Spanish speakers are native speakers and probably the vast majority of those people actually live in China/Spain/Argentina/etc. Outside of those those countries, the presence of the languages and their speakers are limited. Compare that to English, where (approx) only 22% of its speakers are natives and you'll have a more reasonable picture of which language would be most useful to learn.

And why would you consider the 'higher intrinsic difficulty' of the Chinese language a good thing? Are you really calling for a generation of a Japanese children to learn a difficult language which has limited application unless you're dealing with one of the very small number of countries that have it as an official language?

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Vast Right-Wing: "If there is to be a public education system, every effort must be made to ensure it is of highest quality and best value for the money spent."

Wow... can't believe I agree with you, but I do 100%.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

@GaroJ:

I think the rote learning of English is wasted time. It is enough to know the basics of English. The rest is learned by using it. Other languages are more complex and need more time, therefore they have to be started earlier. By that I don't say that "good English" is easy - but almost no one speaks "good English". And no one needs it (except linguists). By "good English" I mean Oxford English. The virtue of learning other language at an early age is that one gets used to the different levels of pronunciation on an intuitive level. Memorizing vocabulary and grammar can be done at any age, but training one's hearing and vocal chords for other languages should start as early as possible.

With fluency in Spanish, communication in South America becomes very easily. Even Portugese is mostly understandable. Thus, with regard to the growing economies there, I is more important to know a bit of Spanish instead of getting five points more on a TOEFL score. That's the core of what I said.

@Smithinjapan:

I know fully well about other nations with multiple official languages and I envy the kids growing up in such environs. Still, by "intelligent" I mean that learning a language on a higher level by self-study requires metal capacitiies, which only a minority has. But - this is the point I wanted to focus on - the majority never needs language skills at this level. The majority needs basic communication abilities (instead of high scores in exams). These abilities are reached in a rather short time if the language is actually practiced. I never intended to criticise "non-intelligence" or judge anyone.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

The problem are the teachers. To be a teacher one needs to take on a leadership role. Most can't lead. 2. The system that gives parents the right to keep their mentally troubled child in regular classes with the normal kids. English or anyanguage can't be taught in a once a week style. It must be on a daily basis. Kids need a real break between the end of year and the beg of the next. Not just 2 weeks.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I don't support any of the traditional school systems whether in this country or another. They mostly fail the children in what is one of the most important periods of their lives. I had the good fortune to work in very different systems of education or learning. I have worked with disable children and gifted children in a Rudolf Steiner structure. I have been involved with various forms of "free schools" and visited the Summerhill School in the UK which was founded by A.S. Neill. I also had the opportunity to meet and talk with A.S. Neill before he died in 1973.

In early childhood I also favor the Montessori system of education. In the early 1970's I lived in the middle of Ashdown Forest, Sussex, England. There was a Rudolf Steiner school for children, and nearby, was the Emerson College based on Rudolf Steiner's insights. I had several American friends who were students there.

I have never been impressed by the teaching in state run schools which try to fit all the children into a single mold, which fails many of them.

When we lived in the Japan Alps, I was surprised to discover a free school in the next village, which had been started by a famous woodblock printer. It took children who were bright and intelligent but unable to cope with the state school system, which had given them up. When I came to live in Kobe City I happened to meet an ex-student of that school who is now a successful artist. She shared much of her life and school experience with me.

There are real alternatives to education based on the needs of the individual children rather than a system. I discovered one in Bali, called the Green School, made from bamboo. It is giving its students a relevant, holistic and green education in one of the most amazing environments on the planet. Some families from America moved there just so their kids can attend.

http://www.summerhillschool.co.uk/

http://www.emerson.org.uk/

http://www.greenschool.org/

2 ( +4 / -2 )

i think different from the author. following the author's logic, we don't need no government for social things. let it all be private and we'll solve all problems. but such a model should be applied to the world, why limit it to japan? no more control by any institution, no institutions, competition will be a kind of "survival of the best". imagine that: best schools, best hospitals, best transportation, all thanks to absolutely no control, all in private hands, anyone can be a teacher, doctor, whatever, and only the best ones will prevail. i think not, actually it's the wort pseudo-solution i've heard in a while.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

The last time I attended a school, it was an art school or university, now many decades ago. Instead of going the usual way of getting accepted and then joining a class and following a laid down course I decided to do it a different way, which was by independent study, which was allowed then. I spent the first three months writing my study proposal, what I wanted to study and how I would achieve it. My proposal was accepted, several tutors were assigned to me who I would meet once a week to discuss my progress. I was given an art studio to work in and had a very enjoyable three years.

Since the very early days of my childhood my parents took a very different direction so instead of getting the usual gifts of toys I was given gifts which enabled me to learn and develop. I made my own toys, by the way, which also made my parents happy.

On my life's journey I have taught myself much and I'm always looking to learn new stuff. We never really stop being students and the learning should never stop.

I didn't realise until I had turned 30, how important those early years had been for my development. The parents of a child needs to be a major part of their learning and self development.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

If I may offer a word of polite criticism.

The purported argument of this article is that in order to solve Japan's educational woes the public education system should be abolished and replaced with a private one. It really fails to get that point across however, for a number of reasons.

First, the writer does not introduce this argument until the very end of the article.

Second, all of the article leading up to that point does absolutely nothing to support the argument. We are introduced to a series of random, stream of consciousness thoughts that the author included for no apparent reason. Instead of introducing the reader to the relative merits of private education over public education we are instead subjected to several paragraphs on child prostitution not being an educational issue (irrelevant), Japanese English teachers not being able to speak proper English but its OK because Japanese don't need English anyway (????) and so on and so forth.

Third the argument actually made (abolish public education) is a rather extreme one, yet we are given no discussion on how such a system would work, where the impetus for such reform would come, what barriers exist to its implementation and how they might be overcome, how actual Japanese teachers, students and families would react, etc etc. We are just told that private education would be cheaper and is only expensive because public education exists. Interesting argument, I would have been interested to see the actual evidence to back it up. But none is forthcoming.

It also doesn't help that the tone of the article is extremely argumentative and gives the reader the feeling he is being yelled at by the author.

10 ( +10 / -0 )

Vast Right Wing

Tama; I agree with most of what you said, but one point needs to be very clear: education canNOT be provided at "no cost by the state". The only way the state can provide something is by taking money from the citizens' pockets and using it.

Yeah, I meant at no additional cost to the people after their taxes and what not. More accurately, minimal extra cost by way of school fees, uniforms, etc. What I am getting at is if schools become privatised then school fees will increace and the very poor may not be able to afford education, which is unnaceptable in my book.

The problem are the teachers.

I absolutely refute this. The teachers operate within the system they find themselves in, firstly. That is bound by overarching mission statements, curriculum requirements, school operating procedures, administration expectations and support etc. Often that is accompanied by wilful and influential parent bodies with varying degrees of power. Secondly, teachers are there to teach, and like all jobs, some are better than others. Some are also better at controlling the classroom than others. But to lay the responsibility with teachers is just way off the mark. In fact, I would say teachers are quite a way down the list when it comes to these matters because they aren't policy makers or curriculum writers, they aren't the parents of the kids, they don't run the schools. They tend to be the meat in the sandwich, which isn't fair.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Here's my opinion on this. Many schools in Japan are failing because the teachers aren't sure where their position is in the school. On the matter of discipline the Right to Learn. Just because all students have the right to learn doesn't mean in my opinion they should stay in class when they are being disruptive. Secondly, no control over distractions. What is with this not being able to take away phones, comic books, or other things students are using when they aren't supposed to. @JapanGal, I agree with you. Students are left too much on their own in which groups get together and pick on some indivisual. One person said just because I am bored doesn't mean I am not... It really only take one kid that other kids follow to do something stupid, Top Dog syndrome. It may even start off innocently enough and end up being something horrible. Having been on the recieving end of bullying I can tell you there are many different ways to start bullying someone but it is much harder to do infront of a teacher. Second, the responsibilities of a teacher here is amazing. Showing up in court, getting calls for police instead of calling the parents, the list could go on of things they have to do. I would also site the long interuptions of school activities that take up a month of teaching time. Should English be taught yes Japan is an Island. If the continue to want to do trade even their neighbors China and South Korea are doing business in English. I didn't have to learn Spanish in school but every job I apply for ask me if I can because that would help my chances. She I spend the money on Spanish classes yes, but what the hell was my mother paying taxes for. Education is supposed to guide the next generation into being ready to start taking over the next position if it isn't doing that it has failed. Cram Schools, quite possibly the worst idea year. If Cram schools were something that were their to help failing students to get on the field I be lest concern. However, Cram schools by many are seen as a necessary step to get students into High School, and College. That is the purpose of School they are making school redundant.

In short how do they fix the school system by examing the schools that are working and bring the derelict schools up to speed. It is not easy and it takes time because education is ever an ever changing beast.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

What's wrong with Japanese education?

I find this a very interesting question. Having attended schools in the US and UK I saw guns, drugs, knives, teen pregnancy, teenage prostitution, delinquency, high drop out rates.

These things simply didn't happen at the Japanese high school I went to for two years. There is nothing wrong with Japanese education.

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

What's wrong with it is that there isn't much right with it...

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Dog: You forgot to mention that the women here are dependent (and live with their parents) until they get married. Then they usually depend on someone else for success. I have a neighbor who is in her late 40s who is not married and is STILL living with her parents. What's the word for people like that "Mental Hermits?"

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Hôjô SôunMar. 23, 2012 - 08:35PM JST

I find this a very interesting question. Having attended schools in the US and UK I saw guns, drugs, knives, teen pregnancy, teenage prostitution, delinquency, high drop out rates. These things simply didn't happen at the Japanese high school I went to for two years. There is nothing wrong with Japanese education.

I think you're confusing societal problems with educational problems and if you can't see, from a global developmental perspective the failings of the Japanese educational system - lack of creativity, lack of originality, an inability to interact in the global arena, a tribal concept (more akin to the stone age) of how the world works, inability and unwillingness to make/take decisions and total passivity - then those 2 years were pretty effective.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

More like what isn't wrong with Japanese education

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Hojo, with the exception of guns, those other problems are all in schools here. Just because you didn't see them doesn't mean they don't exist.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

I work in a U.S. Public School system, so I have a little bit of perspective on this.

Mandatory English in public schools: We don't have something like that (with the mandatory language being something other than English, naturally.) Kids will have an easier time learning a new language if they are taught it early on, but unless they regularly use it they will forget it. Taking a class in English but then never using it until the next class is why learning a language only in the classroom is so difficult. I could see English being an elective, but making it mandatory seems a bit extreme.

Discipline in the schools: The parents set the tone for discipline in the five years before a single teacher ever lays eyes on a student. The couple of hours a day that a teacher sees the student isn't going to really affect the student's behavior much at all. A teacher might get a student to suppress behavior problems during class, but that's only because the student knows he only has to endure it for an hour or two before resuming the bad behavior.

Abolishing public schools would take the already ridiculous situation of middle schoolers "choosing" their high school via multiple exams and apply it to all five-year olds. Instead of kids in their early teens being mocked for their inability to get into the "best" high schools, now you're also having five-year olds receiving that kind of abuse.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

So, how to fix this whole Japanese public educational debacle? Easy. Abolish all public schools.

This solution, in no way, addresses or even solves the "problems" the author mentions in this article.. Student prostitution, discipline, and lack of english skills. I don't even see how he could lump the first two into educational problems.. ridiculous.

what about addressing the need for the Juku in this country? Why in the hell do children need to attend these soul crushers in the first place? To get better at writing entrance exams? What does this say about the education in this country.. is it ill-equipped to prepare children for the next step in their educational ladder?

Why not address the Rote learning that goes on in the schools? Or perhaps I should reword that, address the lack of critical thinking or problem solving that doesn't take place.

or the insistence on standarized tests for everything in this country? The current education system is certainly geared towards this..

Not sure why the author chose to focus on the three problems he picked.. but there are certainly more pressing ones that should be addressed

2 ( +2 / -0 )

"We don't need no education We don't need no thought control"

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Part 1

Wow! Where does one even start?! Asking what's wrong with the Japanese education system is like asking what's wrong with the government of Somalia or the IQ of George W Bush.

First, let's get something out of the way: How in the heck is Mr. Valentine qualified to be commenting on education (let alone educating) when he produces an article like this?! There's a strange parallelism between the article and the topic it sets out to cover: There's so much wrong with both the article and Japan's education system that it's hard to know where to start.

Anyway, let's at least look at two of Mr. Valentine's main points: 1) that English isn't really necessary for Japanese students and 2) that all schools should be privatized.

1) English isn't necessary? That's easy for Mr. Valentine to say, given that he speaks and writes a form of English. The fact is, you simply cannot be a world citizen or even a modern human being without English, and I do not say that just because I'm a native speaker. There is now a global civilization on the earth (for good or ill) and one cannot participate actively in it without speaking English. Almost all major scientific papers are published in English; English is the language of travel; an enormous amount of new information is only available in English; and it's the common language of a huge swath of humanity. It is, simply put, the language of the earth. That's why some people now call it "Globish". It's awfully magnanimous of Mr. Valentine to suggest that the Japanese should just stay put on their islands and remain in an informational void by not learning English. And, let's not even get into just how badly Japan's economy has suffered because they do not generally speak English. How many business opportunities have been lost because of Japan's poor English? Why do you think the Koreans, Singaporeans, Hong Kong Chinese and mainland Chinese are in the process of eating Japan for lunch?

So, what's wrong with Japan's education system? I'll give you a big one: It fails to teach Japanese students to speak English. In fact, Japanese students place last in the world on the speaking portion of the TOEFL IBT test (the best test of real English). Meaning, that Japanese students are being outperformed by countries that have no formal educational system, or, where English is taught, literally, in grass huts.

14 ( +15 / -1 )

Part 2

2) All schools should be privatized? That's a recipe for disaster. It's been shown in study after study that privatizing industries and services formerly managed by the state results in higher costs to the consumer and a decline in services. Just have one look at the dismal and dangerous state of America's private health care system to see just how well the corporate sector handles things that are state-run in many other countries.

And, has Mr. Valentine even considered for a second what would happen if all schools were privatized? Inevitably, the children of the wealthy would get better educations than the children of the poor and the disparity of wealth in the country would spiral out of control (as it has in the States). You want to see what happens when only the wealthy can afford decent schools? Go to Manila. See how that works for you.

Anyway, Mr. Valentine totally failed to answer the question he posed in his article, namely, what's wrong with Japanese education? Dog and Tideofiron mostly nailed the correct answers. The fact is - as I pointed out in a post on JT recently - the Japanese education system serves the very large companies in Japan (the ones who do the mass hirings). All of junior high school and high school (as well as cram school) is spent preparing for exams that will - hopefully - get the student into a good university, from which he/she will be able to enter a large Japanese company and secure lifetime employment. The fact that only a tiny percentage of students will ever achieve this goal is irrelevant. The fact that most students will fail to get into those good schools is irrelevant. The heads of the top companies and their drinking buddies at the Mombusho make sure that the Japanese "education" system largely serves as a selection and training process for workers in the big keiretsu.

But, going even more deeply, what's wrong with the Japanese "education" system is this: It takes young, bright-eyed and lively Japanese children and turns them into dull, passive, risk averse automatons who are utterly unable to function anywhere other than Japan (and even in Japan, one would hardly say they're functioning at full human potential). I briefly taught in Japan. I taught young children and I taught students at one of Japan's most elite university students. The difference in "spark" and intellectual curiosity I saw between the little kids and the "successful" graduates of Japanese high schools was shocking. The little kids had their lights on; the university students seemed to have been lobotomized. In fact, I'd go so far as to call the Japanese education system criminal and the members of the Mombusho criminals. They should be jailed or worse.

The very best thing Japan could do would be to replace the Mombusho with a team of educational consultants from a country like Singapore or the Netherlands. Get some real professionals in there and rebuild the system from scratch. Teach thinking and analysis, not regurgitation. Teach English, not Katakanago. Teach students to develop opinions and to defend them, not to look left and right and try to figure out what the consensus is.

Sadly, none of this will happen. Education systems are really distilled versions of the societies in which they exist. Why should we expect schools to be filled with creative students who passionately defend their own opinions when the society at large is composed of people who desperately try to avoid standing out in any way? Japan's education system will change when Japan changes. And if they do try to change it, they'll only make it worse, because the Mombusho is an echo chamber. The last thing they'd do is look abroad for successful models. No, they'll double down on the same old and failed approaches, believing that it is better to blindly "gambaru" than it is to "work smart." For this reason, you can count on Japan continuing its steep spiral into economic stagnation.

In closing, here's the best summary of the Japanese education system that I've found (it's just too bad that the kids in Japan don't rise up and riot like the English kids in this clip): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lkQzNWgOwhY

9 ( +10 / -1 )

Wow! thanks to all! This discussion had us teachers awake last night... I linked this web page to a virtual educators group I belong, (with another hundred teachers from 3 continents) and this topic instantly became an all night subject.

THX

1 ( +3 / -2 )

While I agree with what Franks shares, I am still impressed when young people do have great English skills, do have dreams (and work their butts off to make them come true!), do have critical thinking skills, and aren't afraid to voice their own opinions. Minor miracle, but there are some wonderful young people in Japan - in spite of the "education" system here in Japan. Makes one wonder how they "escaped".

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Dog & FRizzo,

You two flat out NAILED IT! End of story!

The one thing I have been grateful for is that the mrs & I dont have kids, honestly I could NEVER forgive myself for putting kids into the brain crushing, soul destroying system that is education here! But those of you that do I wish you every success with yr kids, however you wud want to measure that, I imagine most here with kids one parent isnt Japanes so that gives you ALL a HUGE leg up on the rest, keep up the good fight & pls try NOT to send yr kids to those cursed after school juku!

2 ( +2 / -0 )

A lot of ideas and opinions going on here. All interesting stuff! However, there will always be people for and against the issues at hand, not only in Japan but around the world. I have been teaching English in Japan across various institutions for the past 8 years and have seen the dark side and brighter side of teaching and Japanese youths. I try and keep myself positive and informed as I journey towards my PhD. I think a lot of people here could learn a lot about education in history and today by checking out the following link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zDZFcDGpL4U Even though there are many problems in education, there are those of us who still strive to change preconceived conceptions of education one student at a time and the teacher will only ever appear when the student is ready. Bottom line, you cannot force people to learn (in my experience). On the political and institutional platforms, native speaking English teachers do not stand a chance, but we can still make a difference. At the end of the day, that is what it's about! Enjoy!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Japanese education is doing fine in several areas and lousy in others. The literacy rate in Japan, for Japanese anyways, it outstanding. Schools do a decent job for the budget they are given, grant it, the schools are very old fashioned and run down and teachers do most of the administrative work on top of everything else, however, students are also forced to be more responsible and organized. I highly agree that the English education is a joke. English is an international language, a very useful tool for gathering further education and communicating to the rest of the world, however it should not be forced on the students in the lousy condition that it is in. Large classes, lousy materials and once a week/month classes do not work for learning a foreign language, no matter how good the teacher is. Honestly, it is a terrible waste of money. Computers? Well, I don't know how it is happening, but for some reason a lot of people are learning how to use computers before getting into the work force despite not learning it in high school.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

English education being a joke in Japan is really such a small problem compared to many others in the system - the lack of creativity, the lack of constructive thinking, the rote learning method skill being the primary method, the bullying of students and staff, discipline, monster parents... I get that JT is an English website and some will focus on English education but really, when it comes to issues in education here it is just the tip of the iceberg and one that gets focused on too often by the munkasho, the public and others when so much more weds to be focused on instead.

I say this as someone who has taught in public and private here and in native English speaking countries. So much more is rotten than English Ed. Let's focus on that for once!

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Hi Chazz,

ChazzMar. 23, 2012 - 01:38PM JST

What about those professions where it is required? Well, if your profession requires English, the student should pay for their own English instruction. Law students need to study Constitutional Law as requirement to be a lawyer. Do tax payers need to pay for that too? Why English is more important than Constitutional Law that we need to subsidize it? Japan has a very low number of lawyers. I do not see you complaining about that.

Constitutional law is not a core skill required for a lot of careers in the current era. English, mathematics and computer skills are good examples of core skills required in most (but not all) professions.

When one designs a curriculum for school children one asks the basic question, "What skills will these children need for work when they graduate?". Then one designs a curriculum that addresses those skills. Given the current (and growing) trend towards globalisation one does not need to be a genuis to see that English (the international language of business) is a core skill. Constitutional law on the other hand? No.

The idea that "Japanese students and the majority of the Japanese people do not speak English because they do not see the need for it. " is a failing of Japanese society, that they can't see the need for English doesn't mean that they do not need it. What is your right to tell any Japanese individual that they should study English? Who gave you the right to force others the need to do study something? I think you are taking a lot of things for granted. Personal freedom does not only reside in our choices for food and clothes but also in education. Whether they need English is an individual or parental choice. Other people like you should mine your own education.

I don't believe in mining, it results in too many deaths. Perhaps you meant "mind"? If so I would remind you that you were the one who had the temerity to publish an article on education on a major news website, and so perhaps it is a teensy bit hypocritical of you to take this tone with me.

You are also misrepresenting my position, I was very clear in my post that Japanese people can reject English if they want, but they then have no right to whine about their economic woes, so I am not attempting to force anyone to do anything and your assertion is incorrect and offensive.

On to the core issue though, to which I only need refer you to my point above. English is a core skill. Students have the right to skip mathematics or computer skills classes, but schools have an obligation to put these classes on the curriculum because they are essential for student's future success in life.

Even for lower-level careers there is a need for English. The mail boy in your company needs to be able to read English addresses, anyone processing orders from overseas (either import or export) needs to be able to communicate with the people they're sending stuff to or receiving stuff from. One thing you took for granted is the cost. How can you justify teaching someone 6 years of English language instruction just for reading a mail? Is that cost effective? Everybody is paying for something that is totally useless or too much.

Is it cost-effective to teach any mathematics beyond addition, subtraction, multiplication and division? No. I can't remember the last time I used trigonometry or geometry, but it is taught because these skills may be required in a few careers like engineering and it is too late it all at University if the student arrives with just the basics. In short education is a system and there needs to be a degree of continuity from Elementary school to University. How someone who claims a Masters degree in Education can fail to grasp this is simply beyond understanding. English is similar, one cannot simply teach basic introductions and the alphabet in Elementary school and then abandon the subject until University when a student needs to read the latest academic articles on engineering, medicine, the sciences, etc. More than 65% of Japanese Senior High Students continue their education in some post-secondary institution (over 70% in private Universities), so clearly there IS a need for English if Japanese students hope to access international scholarship.

Frankly it is a big part of Japan's financial woes that it has been so slow to accept the NEED for English. China, the fastest growing economy in the world, is also the country with the largest number of English speakers (admittedly most of them second or third language). China's economy is now bigger than Japan. That is fact. However, it is not because the Chinese have more English instruction.

Is English the sole factor in China's economic growth? No. Does it help? Undoubtedly the international research suggests a resounding YES. English is the language, "of trade partners, academics, technical experts, advisers, tourists and popular culture" (Adamson, 2003). Perhaps most importantly it is the language of business contracts and business in general. Japan's economic fortunes would be much improved if English education were markedly improved.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

English is not a core language for many professions that still use German, Latin, Greek, etc as their basis.

-9 ( +0 / -9 )

It"S ME Mar. 24, 2012 - 05:48PM JST English is not a core language for many professions that still use German, Latin, Greek, etc as their basis.

I wrote:

English, mathematics and computer skills are good examples of core skills required in most (but not all) professions.

Note: BUT NOT ALL (in caps for those who have trouble reading)

I admitted that some professions (such s Classics where the majority of the scholarship is in German, Latin and Greek) are non-English based, but these are far outweighed by the number of professions where English is used predominantly in modern scholarship (medicine, engineering, software engineering... in fact almost any computing career which covers a LOT of careers these days, marketing, sociology, finance [try being an investment banker without being able to read English really quickly... impossible to compete on the global market], psychology, international law, bioscience, social work, etc.).

I'm not denying that there are good journals in other languages, simply that the majority of scholarship is either written entirely in English or (in the minority of cases) translated into English because there are sufficient English-speaking scholars to make this financially viable (as opposed to, for example, the cost of translating all the journals into Japanese, which isn't), so English is the best language to learn in the overwhelmng majority of cases if you want to actually be up to date in your field.

That some professions still use Latin, Greek, etc can't be denied, but in most cases speaking Latin and Greek fluently isn't required to practice these professions, for example one can be a fine lawyer or doctor without having taken a single Latin or Greek class. One cannot be a good doctor or lawyer specialising in international law for very long without keeping up to date with the latest techniques and research, and that requires English.

Stop denying what has already been established beyond any shadow of a doubt, English IS NOT optional. It is a core skill for modern life if you're a professional, and it belong in any school that hopes to produce professional graduates. To fail to teach English is to fail one's students.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

The purpose of Japanese education is to create future japanese and in this, the system is pretty successful. By the time most Japanese students are 18, they

Are monolingual and convinced that its impossible for a true Japanese to communicate in any other language apart from japanese.

Totally wrapped in nihonjinron and the uniqueness of the Japanese.

Ignorant about anywhere outside Japan.

Fully versed in the required behaviourist cues for the next 50 years of their life.

Devoid of pretty much any cognitive skills.

Xenophobic.

Mentally fully rote trained.

Don't be the nail that sticks out.

I vote for Dog as our leader...can I get a witness?

-7 ( +7 / -14 )

How is that different from overseas education's? They all want you to belief to their version of History.

But the real history is out there for the true seekers, neither was the history I learned the true one.

-7 ( +0 / -7 )

The sense of shadenfreude I am experiencing in reading this exchange between the author and his detractors is making me feel a little guilty at the amusement I take in watching such a train wreck in progress.

Yet I cannot look away.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

This has been a very educational thread indeed! Thanks to all the posters here.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

still better then 99% of the public schools in the United States.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

Most people worry about paying high tuition fees to private schools. But everybody fails to realize that private schools are only expensive because public schools exist. Without public schools, private schools will get a lot cheaper and affordable.

????????

Not true, in this new system you advocate, they schools will initially start from the bottom to compete against each for prices yes, but there'll come a point when the schools which have proven to have higher academic standards will start charging ever higher prices, and the whole hierarchy will just emerge in another form. And the new 'public schools' will just be the cheapest private schools which have the lowest academic standards.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

The things he talks about are an old idea where as everything in the world should be privately owned and to get this you need the shock doctrine which has been shown to create wider gap between rich and poor and social disorder. When things are privitised you pay for what you get so kids already disadvantaged by being poorer will get education that is the bare minimum and cheapest to provide.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Hojo, with the exception of guns, those other problems are all in schools here. Just because you didn't see them doesn't mean they don't exist.

Sorry, but they're not. I didn't see them at my school and everyone I asked this weekend said the same. There was some media hype about teenage prostitution in the early 2000s, but let's remember this is the same media that broadcasts yarase documentaries and has paid money to women in the industry to act as divorcing moms. The main beneficiaries of this alleged teenage prostitution that is going on in Japan are the left -wing academics who need us to believe it's a problem so they can write about it to build their careers. A bit cynical of them if you ask me.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Now that is fascinating.

Dog makes an excellent point in his March 23rd post. He rightly gets 9 thumbs up.

I post that I agree with him and get 5 thumbs down.

Aww, did I upset somebody? Poor babies.

-16 ( +2 / -18 )

I went away and thought about this for a long time. Japan actually ranks pretty well internationally for education results. If we're going to boil this down to one recommendation then I have two words for everyone,

STOP TESTING.

Finland adopts this approach and it works well (http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=qlOfZL_J5fo&gl=JP .. and because I check things compulsively, this checks out: http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2010/dec/07/world-education-rankings-maths-science-reading , http://nexuscanada.blogspot.jp/2010/12/top-10-countries-has-best-education_30.html , http://scoalafinlandeza.ro/documente/The_Finnish_education_system_and_PISA.pdf . http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/03050060500317810 )

Japan's system of entrance examinations for everything just stresses students out, and is particularly destructive since studies have found that high stress levels and lack of sleep around the end of JHS fall in the critcal range to prime children for higher rates of depression and suicide in their later lives.

Yes, you read correctly. Not only is the Japanese testing system not educationally necessary (Finland achieves better results with almost no testing), but it is also dangerous and destructive to the children's health. Anyone who's seen the "zombie kiddies" (Japanese children who've slept for just 3 or 4 hours prior to a test) knows intuitively that this is true.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Oh, and Finland also banned private schools (public school for everyone)! In fact the exact opposite of what the author of this article is recommending. One has to think there's something wrong with the author's opinion when the author is recommending the exact opposite of what the best schooling system in the world is doing.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Frungy, "To fail to teach English is to fail one's students.".

This guy should be giving away bibles in the street rather than posting here.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

So, how to fix this whole Japanese public educational debacle? Easy. Abolish all public schools. Let private schools and private teachers compete with each other. And let parents and students choose their own education. This way everybody is happy. The solution is very easy but very hard to achieve. The reason for this is that people think the end of public schools would be the end of education in Japan. Most people worry about paying high tuition fees to private schools. But everybody fails to realize that private schools are only expensive because public schools exist. Without public schools, private schools will get a lot cheaper and affordable.

Yeah right - thats the silver bullet. Put a price tag on a necessity and just wait and see what happens. Only the rich will send their kids to school.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

To be clear, there was no real problem to begin with. This is what eventually happens when anyone tries to solve a fictional problem. It just compounds the original problem rather than solving it. Students should not be forced to learn English. Japanese students and the majority of the Japanese people do not speak English because they do not see the need for it. Yes, being proficient in English will be a definite advantage anywhere but it does not make it a necessity.

How can you even vouch for this? Why shouldn't Japanese schools teach proper English?--it's the universal language. Perhaps it is unnecessary for some people, but learning an additional language in school isn't just a problem in Japan then. It would be like taking Spanish/French out of the American/Canadian curriculum simply because students complained about it.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I would like to give my humble opinion regarding English education based on my own experiences. I am Spanish and sadly our English level is one of the worsts in the EU( I remember being taught how to use the verb "to be" till my last high school year). And although i didnt pay much attention in class I was able to communicate with people in English through the internet and enjoyed a lot of entertainment content (movies and such) without subtitles.

Now I realize that what i was doing as a hobby, as just a way to enjoy myself was the key to get the language, as a lot of you people said USING the language on a DAILY basis. I cant stress this enough, DAILY. If you turn on the TV here in Japan the only things you will have in English are a few of educational programs. Not many Japaneses have interest in the international media and they only consume products and services that are already translated and localized. And of course they dont have the curiosity to go online and check on websites in English, although (thank god) I think some of them are beginning to do it.

On the other hand, the people that really know a language (not only English) are usually the people that not only got some education to get the basics correctly, but also used that language as a tool though their lives. Because that is what a language is, a communication TOOL, its not something you have to memorize in order to get good grades. And what happens when you dont use a tool, no matter how its quality is?

a) You wont get good at using it. b) It will probably get rusty and you wont be able to use it as desired.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

The biggest and simplest answer to "what is wrong" is that the tail wags the dog. The entrance tests for all levels of education dictate what happens in the classroom. The goal of the classroom becomes the entrance test, not education, learning, or even following the curriculum. From this initial problem, everything can flow- teaching methodology, discipline issues, teacher training, the entire cram school industry, etc. This is a general fact of all subjects taught, and not just English.

English has it's own stresses other than teaching to the test. The matter of English proficiency of teachers is frankly ignored, in spite of repeated studies and "action plans" from the national Education ministry. The pervasive (and false) notion that Japanese teachers are better at teaching grammar but can't teach 'communication', and conversely native speaking teachers can't teach content English or grammar, but only communication classes. It creates a two tiered system which benefits nobody except those calcified dinosaurs at the upper echelons of power who want to maintain their sinecures.

Solution? Perhaps remove English from being a compulsory subject, and remove it from the Center Test and other exams. For schools that specialize in languages, let them create their own testing system, based on their individual needs. The issue of the Center Test is another massive one- too often, copyrighted material is used freely for these tests without the consent of the creator. Magazine and newspaper articles are put into tests without attribution or compensation, which is often seen as illegal. Since students must pay to take entrance tests, this can be seen as commercial use of such material rather than 'fair use' for non-profit activities, but that is another long issue.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Ms. Alexander Are you prepared to pay the extra cost for the air conditioner?

Why on earth would somebody NOT do that for their own children?

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Vast Right-Wing ConspiratorMar. 27, 2012 - 08:42AM JST The biggest and simplest answer to "what is wrong" is that the tail wags the dog. The entrance tests for all levels of education dictate what happens in the classroom. The goal of the classroom becomes the entrance test, not education, learning, or even following the curriculum. From this initial problem, everything can flow- teaching methodology, discipline issues, teacher training, the entire cram school industry, etc. This is a general fact of all subjects taught, and not just English.

Well put VR-WC. This is what I was getting at when I said to stop all testing. Not only is it sound educationally (see Finland), but it would also shift the focus in the classroom away from grammar and writing only (with an emphasis on perfection) and towards speaking.

Synbiosis makes an excellent point about speaking English on a daily basis being the key to success. I found the same when learning Japanese. At present the testing system means there's not enough speaking.

Of course ALL testing must stop or they will simply ignore English in favour of other subjects, sidelining English because "It's not on the test".

mike-is-in-tokyoMar. 27, 2012 - 12:59AM JST Frungy, "To fail to teach English is to fail one's students.". This guy should be giving away bibles in the street rather than posting here.

This isn't a quote from the bible or even an adaptation of a quote from the bible, so I fail to see the relevance of your comment.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Everybody should do their own research with this matter.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Parents are much smarter because professors did some research and studies and were peer-reviewed by experts who are accountable. And professors think and conclude because of the available data. Totally not in the best interest of the students. Research and studies are nothing. Why anyone in their right mind should believe people who studies these kind of things? I think professors should not comment about anything and let parents dictate what all of us should do. Empirical evidence are so inconvenient nowadays.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

"with first-hand knowledge of the workings of the education system" Yes, I totally agree on that. Professors do not teach at all and do not know anything about the education system. This is because professors are not part of the educational system.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

"STOP TESTING." Not on planet earth. If they do not test how will they know if they are doing better? The fact that Finland is number one in the rankings because they tested the students! This is all very amusing. Logic is a rare flower.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Frungy is suggesting that English should be voluntary. If it is, then nobody is going to learn it! Do not get me wrong, I hate logic and empirical evidence like Frungy does but he is wrong on this one.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

"Perhaps remove English from being a compulsory subject, and remove it from the Center Test and other exams. " Another "no testing" and "no compulsory" comment. This guy is really smart.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

By the way, I am a parent of two bi-racial kids in Tokyo for a decade now. And, I love it when other parents or other people dictate what I should teach and what not to teach to my kids. I do not like the golden rule. Go figure. People should tell other people what to do with their lives. I don't like professors telling what I should do with my kids. People with higher education are so overrated with their research and studies. I would rather have total strangers make suggestions for the education of my kids. From now on, I will only, totally listen and take advice from people from this forum. All the best. thank you guys.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

Privatisation and the shock doctrine which has failed whenever put into place would fail again with education leading to even more lack of social mobility tan now. We need the playing fields closer so poorer kids can thrive not have them disadvantaged further.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Please do not be so obsessed with this topic.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

mike-is-in-tokyoMar. 27, 2012 - 03:06PM JST "STOP TESTING." Not on planet earth. If they do not test how will they know if they are doing better? The fact that Finland is number one in the rankings because they tested the students! This is all very amusing. Logic is a rare flower.

Sorry I missed your other posts, I've been at work. I'll just field this one quickly before I head to bed. The students don't do any testing until 17 in Finland, and then they do testing, when the students have learnt enough to actually have something to test and have had time to form opinions and ideas.

On the other hand Japan has competitive examinations for very young students who are taught towards the test, and have insufficient time and maturity to form their own opinions, with an emphasis on just regurgitating the right answers onto the paper.

This is the difference. Does that make sense? It does to me.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

behavioral problems aren't educational problems

Behavioral problems become educational problems when parents are too busy doing whatever they are doing and allow schools, from day care, and up, raise their children instead of them.

It is rather evident from the article, that even if the author has spent time here in Japan, is unfamiliar with how children matriculate and how society expects schools and teachers to be the focus of how children are raised.*

It's easy to point fingers and say do this or do that. Yes there are plenty of problems in the schools here, particularly with identifying and helping children that have disabilities. Yutori kyoiku was a HUGE part of the problem as well, yet that has been dialed back and seen to be a mistake too. Things are changing, we'll just have to wait and see if it's for the better, or much. much worse.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

"Behavioral problems become educational problems when parents are too busy doing whatever they are doing and allow schools, from day care, and up, raise their children instead of them." I totally agree with you, Yubaru. I am a father of a girl here in Tokyo. Like you said, I am busy with work everyday. I expect the schools to take care of my kid. I expect the school teachers and officials to be the parents of my kids when I am away. They can spank my kid if they want to. Because it is also other people's right to discipline other people's children. My oldest daughter is now 16 years old. I expect her school to teach her everything about sex. This is my right as a parent. Free education is a right. Free food is a right. Free housing is a right. Everything should be free.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

We should tax people more so we can get all these free things and services.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

What's wrong?

Yutori education. Dismantle Nikkyoso.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Yutori education.

First starting in April this year there will no longer be any yutori education. Thank goodness.

Second; and more importantly many if not most of the current disciplinary problems that are happening in schools in Japan today are directly related to the aforementioned yutori education. Hopefully things will settle down.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I agree with what you say in your article and you bring up some good points. I guess I am luck, I have never run into anything like this in my schools (i.e. prostitution, violence, etc).

One point that I have to agree with is that Japanese is nesscessary, not English. However I think it is a good idea to offer a foreign language and maybe what the Japanese government should do is do what most JHSs in America do. Offer a choice.

German, French, English, Spanish...

They allow students to choose in High school, Why not at ES and JHS?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

You said than Japanese are poor in communication in English. But they know high level grammar which even native speaker doesn't know. So, they can't speak English properly, but they can write English properly. English teachers aim to teach grammar ,not communication. But there are also Eikaiwa lessons.And mostly native speakers are there in that classes. So,we can learn English writing with proper grammar and English communication with native speaker. Therefore there are no complaints about English education in Japan.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

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