Jan Balac and Kazuyo Mori
This chapter helps to get behind the somewhat surprising statistics in Chapter 12. Who has most influence on your learning? Clearly it is parents, who encourage, cajole, nag, set high expectations or more unobtrusively, provide an environment in which you are allowed to grow for yourself.
In the first three extracts we see three different kinds of relationships between students and their parents. In their own ways all illustrate the power of parental expectations and support. Ulf, driven to achieve more than his parents, recognises this and acknowledges his debt to their continuing interest, despite the background - they are both too busy. Ironically they do not see themselves as influential. Hans' parents, by contrast, see themselves as important in his motivation but Hans himself is more ambivalent. He relies on his parents at times of trouble but wants to be his own person. Gaby wants an even more hands-off relationship, finding her parents at times too intrusive and irritating. But in the sub-text there is a clear acknowledgement of their importance.
The four accounts from Japanese parents and their children that follow illustrate some of the same tensions despite the quite different cultural setting. The same themes are there, universal themes of parent and child relationship. Parental ambition for their children comes through very powerfully, confirming some of our preconceptions about Japanese cultures, although we can easily recognise these scenarios as applying in our experience or in our own context. A surprising insight comes from the case of two of the students whose parents encourage them not to go to juku because it gives them a false sense of achievement.
We find at one level a recognition by students of parental influence and a gratitude for their concern but this is overlaid by a frustration and irritation that is seen as nagging. These young people resent the 'benchmarking' of their achievements against those of their brothers or sisters and want to be treated as individuals and allowed to develop in their own way. In Rie's case the decision to leave the juku, promoted by her parents, leads her to find a new motivation and a learning style which suits her best.
This is a very important chapter in its unravelling of one of the complexities of parental 'involvement' which tends to be treated so superficially by policymakers and politicians.