Tim Camin comments

Posted in: Osaka to reintroduce Saturday classes for elementary schools See in context

I think we are all forgetting what the purpose of education in Japan is. As slumdog has hit on, the role of education in Japan is creating a person who can fit into society. The education bit is an extra. I can't tell how many times I've been told that work or society will do the parenting and enforce the rules of society.

If you want education you send your kid off to juku because regardless of the title we hang on Japan, it is a class society and you pay to move up in the rankings. Status, pedigree, hierarchy. Why does one need creative thinking when everything is decided for you? Even the doctor will tell you what you need and what to do. My doctor does and is offended if I ask too many questions, or at least was until he got used to the crazy foreigner. My child had surgery, the surgeon was more than happy to pontificate on the how to's and what for's. I felt more than comfortable that he was a professional.

Remember all children are guaranteed the right to an education, and due to lawsuits, it is impossible to remove problem children from the school or tailor education because it would be deemed to be unfair or illegal. As a result, the school system is a one size fits all system. The Japanese system does an adequate job in the basics, and the curriculum is changing to add creative thinking and reasoning. Slowly. In a society that never questions, any movement in a new direction will take time. Newer teachers are adding it to their tools. Not as fast as is we hope for, but it is happening. We decry wrote memorization, but at some level it is necessary. You need to have a base or scaffolding on which to hang on different bits of information. It is as necessary to ask why as it is to know why. One of the biggest problems with the current system is that is relies on linear teaching. There is no review or repetition in many cases. You learn to accept the data to pass the test, which is in the end in Japan, all that is necessary. Look at the plethora of tests out there. Until the uni's start to change their system, the educational system will not change.

And yes, the elementary texts are silly, but call me old fashioned, there is still something to be said about having books. There is a warmth and a feeling to them. They allow you to measure your accomplishments and creatively doodle in the margins. Yes, there is no depth to them, but they serve a purpose, which is to educate the basics.

I've taught in the system and I have a child in the system. I am not thrilled and I supplement a lot. Some of the kids I have met who have gone through international schooling systems do not impress me as being any better educated, with one exception, they are willing to risk asking why and to admit that they do not know. The human being is not static and can continue to learn through out life.

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