I had my undergraduate degree from America and now a graduate student in a national university in Japan.I think many comments are misplaced.
During my undergrad in the States,there was much emphasis on critical thinking and the ability to understand ,explain and discuss various theories.Less emphasis was on attendance.
I am a Teaching Assistant for 3 undergraduate classes in my university,so let me share some light on it.First there is emphasis on understanding what is been taught. Secondly,you are required to attend classes and that alone qualifies you for a pass.Without attendance ,you can not pass the course no matter how well you pass the end of semester exams. Thirdly,you are required to submit a report or take an exam at the end of the semester depending on the choice of the Professor.
I should say there is no discussion in the class,though occasionally it happens, because the culture here is to learn by doing.So,they believe that what the teacher is saying is the best.So,I would say graduation is not a free ride here as many posters assume.
On the question of sleeping in class,there is a reason to that.Many of their Physical Education(PE) classes are held during the first and second period of classes.And PE classes are compulsory ,at least for most national unis.Thus,most students get exhausted.Students in PE clubs are required to attend training 5 times in a week.The Professors know that,so they don't disturb such students when they are sleeping.
At graduate school,Professors place much emphasis on research. They provide laptops,research grants and anything you need for your research.They don't care much about classes.Their goal is for you to achieve results from the research.So,your supervisor takes direct supervision on your work and requires results form you. Your course grades plays no role in your graduation.Your final thesis determines that.There are students whose graduation are even extended for 6 months- 2years ,if the department feels it is not enough.
Since,I have not been to a graduate school in other countries ,I cant say much.
However,I think universities in Japan is not bad at all.The research is excellent. The system is different and there is more other countries can learn from Japanese educational system.I think the support at graduate schools in Japan is better than most countries.
The educational system reflect the culture of the said country.None is bad.
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