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Parenting book author says school system, overprotective parents killing kids' creativity

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By Mai Yoshikawa

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cheng long, cheng feng

Doubt that will go down well in this modern gender equality world

-15 ( +2 / -17 )

Her advice is mostly useless for the average Japanese family. All three of her kids graduated from Stanford? How realistic is that even for the average US family?

Just another elite.

-13 ( +13 / -26 )

"They expect them to be a 'good student,' they expect them to score well on tests, they expect them to obey rules. That's not important anymore because computers do better. We have to teach children to be human, so human that robots can't imitate. That's the survival game"

Extremely well put. Japan is still producing automatons 30 years after this formula for success reached it's pinnacle. Nothing has changed.

"Parents want their child to succeed, and they feel that there's only one way: to push them to be elite. A-level grades, art, music, sports, the so-called high culture values. This stereotype has to go away," Chan says.

"This is not the way to teach self-worth to children. They bully others because it's one way to feel their worthiness. Bullying is such a big issue in Japanese schools, and they're always trying to cover it up. It's everybody's responsibility," Chan says.

Also spot on. "It's everybody's responsibility" in particular, which is my feeling about hikikomori.

18 ( +21 / -3 )

Agnes Chan got it right. The Japanese "education" system is designed to stifle any kind of individuality. There is no place in the curriculum for creative thought, discussion, expression and development of ideas. It produces a lot of robots. Luckily there are some dropouts.

19 ( +22 / -3 )

The solution is to break the chains of central command, and let the private market take over education. You will then see an explosion in all kinds of schools with creative curriculum. School diversity will offer parents of all kind choices to enroll their kids in the type of school they want and prefer. Some schools will do better, others not so much, those that do better will be preferred by others, soon more schools will copy them. The good thing is that parents will have a choice, they don't have that right now. The one fits all central approach is terrible for education, it promotes rigid uniformity rather than diversity.

-9 ( +5 / -14 )

They expect them to be a 'good student,' they expect them to score well on tests, they expect them to obey rules. That's not important anymore because computers do better. 

Yes, I keep explaining to parents and teachers here that everything on the test I can google the answer in a few minutes. With all the answers to the tests in our back pocket, it is how to find the information and use it that is important these days ie. 21st Century learning skills.

Parents in Japan need to understand the world is changing and they need to know what 21st Century learning skills are. I hope there is more discussion on this topic in the Japanese media.

15 ( +16 / -1 )

After dealing with these issues, I came to the conclusion that no school is often better than the state schools, if the home environment is supportive and positive. The school system now is a kind of gauntlet, or 12 year slow torture, that kids have to learn to survive. Some thrive, as there are a few enlightened teachers in the system. Others get through and thrive, though they would have done better without that experience. Many others are crushed, or their drive and creativity are dulled for life.

There should be schools、as many parents don't know how or can't provide the necessary guidance at home. But the schools need to adapt to the times and be creative. Now, they operate on 100-year-old assumptions, as though nothing has changed since 1900.

9 ( +10 / -1 )

I don’t necessarily think parents in Japan stifle or foster creativity. Parents will support their children but they don’t restrict them. The education system here is linear. It doesn’t allow flexibility. However, that is what is necessary for this society. It may not translate well in other countries but it’s what works here.

They need worker bees and not individualists to challenge the status quo.

-14 ( +1 / -15 )

School systems kill creativity.

all these useless hours and extra days at school for nothing.

17 ( +18 / -1 )

Agnes Chan take a bow.

She should be listened to, and given a broader platform - but she won’t. She will be given the usual platitudes and the issue will fade away.

Japan needs thousands of Agnes Chans in positions of power to try and sort out the mess that she talks about and absolutely nails.

12 ( +14 / -2 )

"Japan is still producing automatons"

Really? Like us take a look at the " Automations" performance:

In science literacy, the main topic of PISA 2015, 15-year-olds in Japan score 538 points compared to an average of 493 points in OECD countries. Boys perform better than girls with a statistically significant difference of 14 points (OECD average: 3.5 points higher for boys).

On average, 15-year-olds score 532 points in mathematics compared to an average of 490 points in OECD countries. Boys perform better than girls with a statistically significant difference of 14 points (OECD average: 8 points higher for boys).

In Japan, the average performance in reading of 15-year-olds is 516 points, compared to an average of 493 points in OECD countries. Girls perform better than boys with a statistically significant difference of 13 points (OECD average: 27 points higher for girls).

Not bad for automatons.

-16 ( +6 / -22 )

The solution is to break the chains of central command, and let the private market take over education. You will then see an explosion in all kinds of schools with creative curriculum.

Only long after everyone here is dead and forgotten. Only someone who is unfamiliar with the Japanese system would think that this would work.

Free-school's, private schools, etc, here are either for those who cant study in a regular school, mainly because of mental health issues, or study related problems, or the elite.

The "system" is changing, and over the course of the next few years people will see a difference.

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

Not bad for automatons.

Irony alert, aisle 5. Dude claiming they're not producing robots when his examples prove only the limited success of rote memorization and regurgitation on standardized exams, as if that's the only thing 21st century employers are looking for.

If you lack critical thinking, you don't really know what it is you're missing. Thus the constant what aboutism, about as far from intellectual debate as can be offered. I've taught US and Japanese college kids for 20 years. I like both but there's a fundamental divide between even the better educated students in both countries.

Japanese students almost always have a better command of things they memorized in secondary school but little capacity (in any language) to think critically about what they've learned, to offer their own ideas, to draw connections or offer critiques. Americans often manage to graduate from high school without memorizing all the formulas or historical dates, but they can usually (certain drooling politicians notw/standing) think for themselves and engage intellectually.

15 ( +17 / -2 )

Exactly! The Japanese education system's social engineering project inculcating memorization of data to be regurgitated for assessment in ritualistic tests and exams produces walking wikipedias of useless facts while the authoritarian cult of obedience to petty rules and regulations renders Japanese children unable to think for themselves. The joy of learning, the sense of empowerment which arises from the acquisition of reason and logic, the ability to discriminate between the essential and the trivial, fundamental to intellectual and emotional development are all jettisoned to make way for the time-thief of "Bukatsu", the final icing and cherry on the cake that deprives students of whatever free time they have left (after mountains of dry-as-dust homework assignments) to explore their world and their own mind which would allow them to discover creativity, think outside the box and imagine their future, but GOTCHA! It's now too late for most who will be smoothly packaged and be prepared by university to be slotted into positions for a lifetime of drudgery. The present unreconstructed education system poses an enormous threat to the country's future and the spiritual well-being of the Japanese people. But how can change happen when schools are staffed by so many overworked and stressed-out zombie clones caught in a vicious perpetuum mobile of self-reproduction? How does one translate into Japanese, "LEAVE THEM KIDS ALONE!"?

10 ( +11 / -1 )

Well, finally some words of wisdom. Students are discouraged from being creative and by the time they finish senior high they are the perfect drone bees with no imagination and ready to join Japan.Inc as an empty shell, just as the labor ministry has requested. “The nail that stands up must be hammered down.” TIJ!

7 ( +8 / -1 )

I love this woman. From my most recent observations and experience, though, in spite of the fact that the parenting trends she describes are still going strong here, I can see that some parents realize that they need to teach their kids to be as human as possible, creative, unconventional. The number of such parents is still small but the society needs to start somewhere.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

Black, white or Asian, anyone can learn to think critically if it's part of their schooling. That few Japanese college students are able to do so effectively is a result of an outdated education system that still fails to prioritize such learning. This inability has nothing to do with their Japanese students' aptitude and certainly nothing to do with their race. I know several recent Japanese grads of a prominent international school here in Kobe. They're as adept as their fellow grads from around the world. Likewise, I regularly meet former students who have studied abroad and return awakened.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

What she says is possibly true, but it's ridiculous blaming a school system for something that is a product of the Japanese way of being, like in England where politicians blame some absurd notion of "football" for hooliganism as if it were somehow a separate entity to society itself. The "school system" is the tail, not the dog. There are numerous problems within the Japanese way of child-rearing, but to change them necessitates changing some fundamental values of Japanese society itself before you're going to get anywhere solely with the school system.

-6 ( +3 / -9 )

I wish this article was more about her thoughts and recommendations and not about her as a person/celebrity. Most of the things she says are correct. As for her own children, unfortunately most people can't afford to send their kids to the seventh best boarding school in the United States. Her child-rearing methods and everything her own children have "achieved" has to be viewed in that context. It would be more value to hear of childrearing experiences from people of more normal means.

I'm all for changing Japanese education. I had to walk out of a class observation at my daughter's JHS because it was so boring that my blood was boiling. However, I would warn against assuming that some better form of education would produce no hikikomori or no disaffected kids. That goes against the common sense observation that you can't please all the people all the time. By all means improve interaction in Japanese schools, scale rote-learning to the only thing that needs it, kanji, try to eradicate sempai-kohai in clubs (remove kohai are ballboys, bag carriers, nonstarters type rules), etc. but do not expect this to eradicate all of society's problems. That is not going to happen.

8 ( +9 / -1 )

Obviously Ms Chan is quite well educated and clever I imagine, but I think she is so entitled and privileged she can not see her own hypocrisy or even understands how out of touch she is with the average Japanese person.

They write.

She never sent her sons to after-school cram schools, a lucrative private tutoring business in Japan, but transformed them into self-driven individuals.

Okay cram schools are not for everybody. I do not like them as well. And then she says this.

"Parents want their child to succeed, and they feel that there's only one way: to push them to be elite. A-level grades, art, music, sports, the so-called high culture values. This stereotype has to go away,"

Pushing children too much is bad, but a little is okay, right? But sport, music and art are bad for kids? If they are doing these things then they are probably not on their phones. In my opinion these are useful skills to have and they can be useful for their entire life. She is starting to lose me a little bit.

But then later in the article she says this.

"After junior high, I made my children believe they are capable of making their own decisions... When my eldest son picked the No. 7 school instead of the top-ranked U.S. boarding school, I hoped he would realize it was a mistake."

Now I am confused.

I do not know how this woman has not had an aneurysm given the cognitive dissonance regarding the above quotes. You should not push your children into elite activities, but she sent one of her children to one of the best boarding schools in America (only number seven though). That is as elite as you get, but that was his choice. It must be wonderful having the luxury to choose.

Japan's education system is far from perfect, but it is nowhere near as bad as people make out here and is actually quite good at producing creative people.

-6 ( +4 / -10 )

Whatever else, Agnes Chan is dead right about the Japanese schooling system. I've worked it. It is stifling and totalitarian and creativity is not on the table. Whatever the kids did learn in their junior and senior high schools is wasted at university. University is the place to expand one's creativity and critical thinking. But by that time students are burned out. They sleep in class, escape, talk, text and do homework. English majors like English when it is fun and games but hate it when it requires reading and critical analysis. The result is that they learn little. When they become teachers and professors a good many become anti-English English instructors. They fake their knowledge of the English language and its literature. And they hate "native speakers."

10 ( +11 / -1 )

A native of Hong Kong, Agnes Miling Chan, who took her singing career to Japan in 1972 when she was 17, started as a teenage pop idol and ended up as an advocate for children in her 40 on-and-off years in Japan.

She married her former manager, a Japanese man, and is a mother of three boys who all grew up in an unconventional home and went on to Stanford University, the same institution where she entered a Ph.D. program in education while working and getting ready to have her second son.

So, Chan is yet another bien pensant upper middle-class liberal.

Pass.

-8 ( +1 / -9 )

> @alwaysspeakingwisdom -

"Japan is still producing automatons"

Really? Like us take a look at the " Automations" performance:

*In science literacy, the main topic of PISA 2015, 15-year-olds in Japan score 538 points compared to an average of 493 points in OECD countries**. Boys perform better than girls with a statistically significant difference of 14 points (OECD average: 3.5 points higher for boys).*

*On average, 15-year-olds score 532 points in mathematics compared to an average of 490 points in OECD countries. Boys perform better than girls with a statistically significant difference of 14 points (OECD average: 8 points higher for boys).*

*In Japan, the average performance in reading of 15-year-olds is 516 points, compared to an average of 493 points in OECD countries**. Girls perform better than boys with a statistically significant difference of 13 points (OECD average: 27 points higher for girls).*

These statistics reflect test scores only. Tests that the students are prepared for by memorising answers. There is a huge difference between test scores and general intelligence and creativity. The rote style of learning in Japan is solely to produce test scores and results and curriculums are fudged to accommodate for it. It does not produce knowledgeable, free thinking and worldly minds that can function autonomously. Every part of Japanese society is about being told what to do. Even the bath tells you when to get in it. Then, let's move on to compare the amount of hours Japanese students spend under instruction every week. The vast majority also go to juku (cram school) for further dumbing down of their creativity. For the amount of time they spend in education they should all be raving geniuses, but the reality is very different. Then, let's look at school sports. The amount of time they spend practicing snd rehearsing sports should put them at the top of the world in every sport, but again, the reality is very different. The only thing in those statistics that is correct is, the girls always excel over the boys by a far mark. Perhaps it is the women who should be running Japan.

10 ( +11 / -1 )

@jcapan Today 09:10 am JST (and also the reply above)

Here's the problem though. The Japanese are winning in the testable area, so you say they are losing in the untestable area. But if it is untestable, how can you be confident they are actually inferior?It is a lot easier to repeat a few anecdotes or even rumors than having statistics and being able to determine the inferiority vector.

-3 ( +4 / -7 )

In science literacy, the main topic of PISA 2015, 15-year-olds in Japan score 538 points compared to an average of 493 points in OECD countries. [SNIP ... ]

Not bad for automatons.

No. This is based on a misconception.

The PISA test items are well-structured problems. That is, the answers are deducible from the elements inside the problem space. Teach the elements and relationships and children can learn to do well on well-structured problems.

Twenty-first-century skills, on the other hand, are of the ill-structured problem type. The skills required to respond to 21st-century problems include the abilities: to conceive problems; to isolate relevant and purposeful elements and relationships; and to assess and evaluate between solution contenders. None of these skills are actively taught in Japanese middle- and high-schools.

10 ( +12 / -2 )

@jcjapan

I agree fully with the general tenor of your post, but I'd like to qualify this statement a bit.

Japanese students almost always have a better command of things they memorized in secondary school but little capacity (in any language) to think critically about what they've learned, to offer their own ideas, to draw connections or offer critiques. 

The ability to draw inferences, then assess the origin and rationality of these inferences prior to evaluating if the inferences are plausible is entirely missing from (the printed rubrics in) Japanese middle- and high-school texts.

Inference building is a necessary but insufficient precursor to higher-level thinking, including critical thinking. However, in language arts, in history, in social science in schools, the output desired from children is at the level of opinion. Typically, and unless a particular teacher has a more enlightened pedagogy, opinion-level statements are not assessed nor evaluated epistemically. The result is that university-level students believe that there are fixed and absolute answers in the physical sciences and mathematics and that the other disciplines are a collection of opinion-level statements, which can be taken or left.

In my own research, I've found very few university-level students in Japan have a conception of how theory operates and how knowledge is created, justified and refined.

In many Western countries, the pedagogy in these disciplines (including the physical sciences) centres on producing children who are aware of the need to provide justifiable evidence and rationales for any truth claim they make. They are also trained in reading texts for subtext and contexts. Not all children do a great job, but generally, the level of critical reading in the university-age and adult populations is of a categorically more sophisticated level than what is observed in Japan.

9 ( +11 / -2 )

And in the process you would see a decrease in suicide rate, hikikomori and other types of mental illness.

8 ( +9 / -1 )

We need national conscription to enhance patriotic behavior like Taiwan or Switzerland. Both are safe, wonderful and great countries.

Bizarre logic. Taiwan and Switzerland have conscription for completely different reasons. In Taiwan's case, it's due to an actual military threat from China that has existed since the end of the civil war that resulted in the KMT establishing itself (and the so-called "Republic of China") in Taiwan.

In any case, for some years now it has been Taiwan's intention to phase out conscription and move to an all-volunteer system. Obviously it wouldn't be attempting to do that if it considered conscription a necessary means of instilling patriotism (and as only men are conscripted, your idea applies to only half the adult population).

What is the purpose of comparing Taiwan and Switzerland to Japan anyway? You can make the same safe/wonderful/great claims about Japan, or any wealthy country. Taiwan in recent decades has been prosperous, but it was never an especially orderly place - it's as beset with social problems as Japan, if anything rather more so. A very poor safety culture - reflected in shoddy building practices, terrible fire safety, airline incidents and disasters, serious industrial pollution, low driving skills, and an absolute disregard for traffic rules. There has been (much needed) progress in many of these areas, but it's often insufficient, and it's all very recent.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

8/10 people still give more favor to higher educated people than the failures. This is happening all over the world. It's hard to stop.

Some people never get A or B no matter how much they keep trying all their life.

In developing countries, when two girls or guys go abroad for study.

Girl A (degree holder) - when she is invited by the society, she is welcomed properly with all the good arrangements.

Girl B (without any qualifications) - when she also attends the society, she is given food on the ground or even asked do u want food or not?

But in reality, Girl B is much more helpful to the society whereas Girl A is quite arrogant and doesn't care about the society but herself and her family.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

The education system is designed to mould kids into entering a life of servitude. The only reason to have national conscription would be to wake the kids up after the education system has turned them into emotionless, opinionless, non critical thinking drones. Why would the government want to undo what the education system had achieved?

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Caledonian, great comment.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

"Here's the problem though. The Japanese are winning in the testable area, so you say they are losing in the untestable area. But if it is untestable, how can you be confident they are actually inferior?"

Exactly! The west always say the same thing. For example consider this

"They (western students) are also trained in reading texts for subtext and contexts"

and

"The PISA test items are well-structured problems. That is, the answers are deducible from the elements inside the problem spacewell-structured problems. "

But all the test including the pisa test shows  western students can not even answer " well-structured problems. That is, the answers are deducible from the elements inside the problem space."

How can western students do higher level work when they can even do the basics?

So in reality you have  no data  to support your conclusion . Only an opinion supported by nothing. In comparison, we have test scores showing Japanese students blowing right  by their western peers.

What data point do have?

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

And how did Chan’s kids get into Stanford-through hard work, right?

Tell me another one because I ao t feeling it!

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

Why doesnt she start her own school and enrol students who want to be individuals and escape exam hll? She seems to have enough money for a private school.

On a similar note, wonder why no cram school is used exclusively as opposed to after regular school? If they are so good, why not just drop regular school and go to cram only?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

A lot of interesting comments here. Personally, I put considerable value in her words, "If you're a dreamer, you're always happy."

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Which is better? Giving people aid by dropping food parcels or teaching them how to make food?

The same could be applied to education. Which is better, giving young people data, facts, things to learn and remember or bringing out their ability to observe, evaluate and think for themselves?

I would go for the latter any time.

If you know how to till the ground, plant seeds and get a bumper crop, it will do you for lifetimes to come.

If someone gives you some sandwiches, one lunchtime and they're gone.

So, working on that analogy, I'd say that the ability to look at something and see through the bullsh*t is far, far more important than memorising a few stupid facts.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Bertie:

That could be applied to her too. She can talk or write about problems with the schools, or she could make her own school to solve the problems.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Blame the parents... Not the State education system ... right!

If the state Cared so much, it'd look towards investing in its future - namely Kids.... but that's Japan's problem isn't it ?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

In this discussion it’s important to remember that Japan is a group oriented society at its very core. The individual is not prioritised in Japan. Simple example, but look at names. Family name first and your first name is far less important and almost irrelevant in the public sphere. Compare that to western countries where the complete opposite thinking is the norm. The education system is simply a reflection of the society that it is preparing children to participate in.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

*But all the test including the pisa test shows  *western students can not even answer " well-structured problems. That is, the answers are deducible from the elements inside the problem space."

How can western students do higher level work when they can even do the basics?

So in reality you have no data to support your conclusion . Only an opinion supported by nothing. In comparison, we have test scores showing Japanese students blowing right by their western peers.

What data point do have?

You're right; there is no internationally-recognised comparison of cross-country ill-structured problem solving. All we have at the tertiary level are university league tables, which tell us little about the educational content and abilities of students.

But we do have more than opinion. At least four sources exist that can inform us of probable levels of higher-order thinking skills.

1) Educational psychology theory

The logic goes like this; if students do not practice the relevant lower-order cognitive processes that are necessary for well-structured problem solving, it is unlikely that the latter can develop well. Cross-cultural comparisons of Western and Japanese school textbooks do indicate that inferencing and predicting skills are missing in Japanese texts. Even in Kokugo (where some inferencing is taught), generally the questions centre on meanings and understanding that are directly based on non-inferential aspects in the given text. School-age children are not encouraged to question textual truth claims and not to find text-external relevant evidentiary bases to support their arguments. In such an environment, children are enculturated into non-questioning and into expecting that all relevant information is present. When information is not directly observable, the resulting ideas are opinions and can be accepted or dismissed without consideration. However, opinion-level discussions are not high-level discussions, if they can even be called 'discussions'.

2) Japanese higher educational researchers

Many Japanese higher education researchers also bemoan the level of critical literacy exhibited in Japanese university students. They have recognised that the well-structured nature of middle- and high-schools has stifled creative and critical reading skills. The Osaka University Academic Literacy Research Group regularly study and report on this problem extensively, for example.

3) Cross-cultural studies in related cognitive processes

In personal epistemology, for example, Hofer (2010) compared undergraduates from Japan and the US in terms of their acceptance or questioning of the printed text finding that the Japanese cohort were more believing of authorities. Such direct comparison studies are rare, but when the same valid instrumentation is used in different cultural milieu, some idea of the cognitive differences becomes possible. Boku and Mercier (2017) report on weaker argumentation skills in Japanese undergraduates and refer to earlier studies that support the same position.

Other fields that investigate related issues include Reflective Judgment, Argumentation and Epistemic Cognition. It's interesting to note that research in these fields is remarkably underdeveloped in Japan. Western countries are rapidly and extensively finding out about their children's/students' higher-order thinking abilities, but not here.

4) Anecdotal evidence

The famous qualitative research theorist, Michael Quinn Patton once noted that 'The plural of anecdote is data', meaning that all data is the collection of single pieces of evidence. Arguably, the vast majority of Western educators who have experience in the Japanese higher education system agree that the level of higher-order thinking exhibited by Japanese undergraduates is low. Some of this will be due to language difficulties, but we're not so silly as to forget that. Western teachers don't come here and say 'Wow! The students' thinking is so impressive'. There is something missing in the educational experience that leads us to our conclusions. And--as per point (2)--many Japanese educators also agree.

How can western students do higher level work when they can even do the basics?

The psychological concept of 'good enough' is relevant here. It's not that Westerners cannot do 'the basics'; it's that they are done well enough to allow them time to practice the higher skills. If there's no higher skill practice because all you're doing is 'the basics', it stands to reason that those higher skills will not develop.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

Pity but true. We’re worried too much about the constitution, the Olympic, Rugby, hosting G20, etc. to think of the average person. I don’t see kids excited about life. I only see long stress filled faces. You can say that about other places in the world also, though. Our youth has little interest, as a whole, to excel. Other than to make money, few have any idea why they’re going into the world other than to pay for phones and clothing. Little thought exists as to why they’re alive. Then we worry about the declining population, and other social issues. Make education fun and interesting. Kids will blossom automatically.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

"it's that they are done well enough to allow them time to practice the higher skills. If there's no higher skill practice because all you're doing is 'the basics', it stands to reason that those higher skills will not develop."

That is my point, western students are not doing the basics "well enough" to practice let alone master higher skills. Studies after studies have shown students in the west have not master the basics moreover colleges and universities in the west are spending enormous amounts of money on remedial courses for their incoming students. If Universities in the west are spending money on bonehead class for college students, the universities themselves are saying -with their money- that the student's skills are not "good enough " for higher level work.

In comparison, not only have Japanese students master the basics but they quickly mastering higher level work. Moreover, since Japanese students foundations are stronger it follows that they will have a stronger grasp of higher level skills and knowledge.

-5 ( +1 / -6 )

@ alwaysspeakingwisdom

If Universities in the west are spending money on bonehead class for college students, the universities themselves are saying -with their money- that the student's skills are not "good enough " for higher level work.

You are right about the existence of these classes, but I'm afraid that you have misread the reasons in the reports about why remedial classes exist in Western universities.

Two reasons exist.

1) There has been a serious drive towards inclusion (of lower-classes, of non-native-English-speakers, of various races, etc.) in Western universities. The result of this has been the affirmative action policies that give non-traditional students university places. The corollary of this has been the need to provide remedial classes.

2) Exit standards for university are high. There is a perceived need to maintain high standards of graduating students. As universities are often huge in numbers (as compared with Japanese institutions), there is going to be a bell-curve of abilities. Hence the remedial classes.

In Japan, for (1) stratification is done through the university entrance exam (and Centa Shiken) and no affirmative action is done; for (2), once matriculated, 95% of Japanese undergraduates will graduate irrespective of their actual development or ability. This phenomenon is widely understood.

In comparison, not only have Japanese students master the basics but they quickly mastering higher level work. Moreover, since Japanese students foundations are stronger it follows that they will have a stronger grasp of higher level skills and knowledge.

You have not provided any evidence, theoretical arguments, nor reasons for your claims. They remain at the level of opinion. You are, I'm afraid to say, personifying the very stereotype that you claim does not exist!

4 ( +4 / -0 )

@TheCaledonian Today 07:21 am JST

Hmm, I see. But it doesn't really defeat alwaysspeakingwisdom's basic point. For example,

if students do not practice the relevant lower-order cognitive processes that are necessary for well-structured problem solving, it is unlikely that the latter can develop well.

That sounds reasonable. However, we might then expect that they'll be able to use these better developed "well-structured problem solving" skills to resolve the relatively simple, static, fixed problems on the PISA. The statistics suggest this is not happening.

The other question is whether even if there is a superiority whether it is more useful in the vast majority of cases. Here's an example:

https://www.scmp.com/news/china/society/article/3014155/gaokao-maths-question-leaves-us-teacher-stumped

In this example, the American teacher shows off his edge in problem-solving skills - he at least tried something, over the Chinese (China and Japan are close in their educational strategies) teacher, who threw in the towel when she realized she cannot recall the algorithm drilled into her years back.

If they were students under a teacher's eye, Teacher might have lamented the Chinese's passivity, lack of "can-do" and "critical thinking" skills and thought positively of American's enthusiasm and his attempt to solve the unknown problem.

However, it is important to note that the American teacher did not solve the problem, so the extra creativity was not useful. Further, he had managed to delude himself he had. If this was not a gaokao question where the answer is known and can be compared to, this delusion in a real life problem might just have become dangerous.

Third, if nothing else, the Chinese schooling system did solidly teach people to solve at least that problem (most people would blame Chinese teacher for forgetting), and the American system did not. Probably it is one of those problems that are really too hard for all but the most mathematically talented to "really get". In that case, is it better to throw the masses an algorithm so at least they can solve it at some level, or not to in hopes of squeezing out another 1-2% in the population who might really "get it"?

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@ Kazuaki Shimazaki

Thanks for the Chinese example. The mathematics question is, actually, a well-structured problem, not an ill-structured one, so I'm not entirely sure that using 'critical thinking' skills is applicable here. Furthermore, it's not clear that the majority of Chinese maths students would be able to answer the question either. Indeed, you hinted at this result in your last sentence.

But your point, if I understand it properly, addresses the purposes of education at the level of personal values, asking What kind of citizenry should a nation-state aim to produce: those with a fundamental grasp of many algorithms and can apply them (perhaps) mechanically when needed, or those who can critically analyse propositions for bias and truth? Empirically, it does seem that the ideal of pursuing both aims simultaneously is not possible.

Responding to this question brings up issues of culture, of history, of methods, but most importantly, of deep-seated beliefs about notions of how each person should interrelate with their nation-state and globally. My own position is firmly based in the Humanist tradition. By this, I mean that I feel that education should be about developing the single person to the highest level possible. I do not believe that people are primarily workers or instruments of the state (purpose of education). I believe that the mechanical focus of education is based on a mistaken metaphor of the human mind being similar to a computer (method of education). Also, I'm not convinced that memorisation of mechanical rules is effective in helping people understand their relationship with themselves (development of the person).

Much of the previous paragraph is due to my Western upbringing, for sure. But I retain an open mind regarding the cognitive, affective and psychomotor processes in human learning, irrespective of regional setting. And in my professional life in Japan (teaching and research in a university), I do not see much evidence of higher-order thinking being employed consistently. This experience and research leads me towards the conclusion that much more can be done to improve the lives of Japanese people through education.

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Much of the previous paragraph is due to my Western upbringing

You sure are fixated on the Western thing. Why not just stand up for the country you're from, or those you were educated in: it's not as if all Western countries are the same when it comes to education, or as if you've experienced them all.

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You sure are fixated on the Western thing. Why not just stand up for the country you're from, or those you were educated in: it's not as if all Western countries are the same when it comes to education, or as if you've experienced them all.

Scotland (hence my nomiker 'TheCaledonian').

Of course I haven't experienced all Western education systems and of course there are local differences. But there are some generalisations that hold for the West, in the same way that we are partially justified in talking about East Asian education. If you're doubtful, I suggest Richard Nisbett's excellent 'The Geography of Thought' that explains the historical basis for these generalisations. It's a compelling read.

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TheCaledonian:

If you're saying your country, you can say the UK. Scotland is a state within the UK, just as Texas is a state within the US.

Scottish pride and Texas Pride...go for it :)

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" And in my professional life in Japan (teaching and research in a university), I do not see much evidence of higher-order thinking"

Except that Japan has won more Nobel prizes than anyone ,except the US, and has overtaken the US and West in many science and technological fields.

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Japan is in sixth place for the Nobel, not second which would be the UK.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Nobel_laureates_by_country

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."This experience"

Purely Anecdotal

" and research "

Peer Reviewed and published?

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"Japan is in sixth place for the Nobel, not second which would be the UK."

For total Nobles you are correct, but for the hard sciences Japan is second.

and 27 Nobel prizes is a lot of evidence of "higher-order thinking"

Is it not?

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If you're saying your country, you can say the UK.

He can also say Scotland. Frankly, it sounds better than UK anyway, which either as an acronym or in full is about the dreariest name imaginable.

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