Japan/US Education

Wed, 13 Apr 1994 20:40:48 EDT

RE your query "WHy is Japan the best in the world for education"?
It depends on what you mean by "best"---certainly Japanese students
test very well---probably best in the world---on science/math questions
especially at the elementary/middle school level. BUT: is Japanese
education the best in the world? Probably not. The Japanese themselves
are concerned about these issues: 1)the tremendous pressure put on jr.high
and especially high-school students to do well on university entrance exams,
which results in rote learning/cram courses (some paid for by the students'
parents) and enormous psychological pressures; 2)the tendency to completely
relax after arriving at a college/university and just party for four years;
3) the stifling of independent inquisitive thought.
The Japanese system has worked very well FOR Japan, and could not
be duplicated here---at least in part, as some previous Anthro-L folks have
noted, because of the cultural homogeneity in Japan...and lack here.
Some things that US education--esp. at K-12--COULD adapt from the
Jpnese. system include: 1) longer school year and/or longer school day;
2) greater parental involvement in children's education [BUT NOTE greater
involvement in Japan comes about mostly due to the "education momma" who
stays home and does NOT work outside the home, let alone have a career]
Assume you are familiar with the work of Merry White; if not, a
good begining is "The Japanese Educational Challenge: A Commitment to
Children" [1987]. My comments are based mostly on residence in Japan
(1985-1991) and working with Japnse. students attending an American
university in Tokyo......plus experience with Jpnse. students in USA.