Japan and her Standardized Test Based Education System
For some positives in Japanese education, one need look no further than the
local kindergarten or the local elementary school. For everything other than
English education, they are doing a good to great job of educating the children of Japan.
Classes are creative, teachers are caring on the whole, and students are happy and learning.
Were the whole education system to be like this from kindergarten to the end
of university, the Japanese people would be happier, healthier, and more productive, both in
GDP and creative terms.
Unfortunately this all ends at age twelve. Those are the years that exam
hell starts and students never really recover. The standardized test based education system
of Japan that starts in the junior high school years kills any kind of initiative, creativity
and especially thinking outside of the box. Unfortunately, these last three are what Japan
especially needs in the 21st century; perhaps Japan`s most challenging 100 years
For many years now Japan has employed this test based education system and
passing the all important tests is what educators and students―not to mention parents,
are focused on. The result of all this test taking and stress, is a nation
of order takers who have trouble making decisions, let alone stating an opinion.
Don`t believe me? When you next meet a Japanese, just for fun, ask them
their opinion on something. If they are able to give an opinion then do this:
Ask them why?
Why do they feel that way? In many cases, they will be stumped.
In spite of this standardized test hell that most Japanese find themselves
in during their school years, a few would be Michael Angelos manage to slip through. Most
however have their creative thoughts stripped from them or numbed into oblivion.
Recently, one of my bright, light Japanese students returned from North America to
once again study at his old university in Japan. He was shocked at the passivity of the
students. He hadn`t realized how passive, non-responsive, and void of opinions Japanese
university students were.
He said that in America, he studied with students from all over the world
and he enjoyed hearing and expressing his opinion with others. He couldn`t
understand how the students of Japan were so passive and quiet. He expressed the desire to
go back to America as soon as possible to study there. Many Japanese who have lived
abroad have said the same thing.
In the news, Japan`s prime minister Hatoyama has been dubbed "loopy," by the
American press and his lack of decision making on the Okinawa bases issue.
Once he made a decision, he then turned around and reneged on it, and apologized to
Okinawans for his backslide. The lack of decision making ability is not restricted to
the general populace, it occurs in all ranks of Japanese society. Hatoyama of course is
a product of this education system.
It is not only the students who are having a difficult time, the teachers
are too. Many have to be off work due to stress, the stress of having their students do well
on the test. Many teachers teach to the test, in order to keep their jobs,
but they create a life of drudgery for their pupils. Many Japanese seem to have lost their love for
education and learning once they enroll in junior high school. Indeed too
much test taking may result in shallow learning and a negative feeling towards
For the future, Japan needs to ask herself:
Are we creating the people we need to solve the problems of the future?
If the answer is: No!
Then this is a recipe for disaster.
I feel that Japan needs creative thinkers, people who can think outside of
the box. These will be the people who will solve Japan`s problems of
immigration, an aging population, unemployment, off-shore employment, trade,
and of course the environment. However,
perhaps the most pressing problem is the psychological health of her citizens.
For this latter, and the other problems mentioned above, I think there are
valuable lessons held in kindergarten.
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