Windows on Japanese Education

Windows on Japanese Education

Windows on Japanese Education

Windows on Japanese Education

Synopsis

The fact that Japanese students consistently outperform other nationalities on international tests of educational achievement has made the Japanese educational system a leading topic for media attention and evaluative study. This volume is a collection of essays by both Japanese and American scholars in the field of Japanese education which presents an updated overview of this system, its strengths and its weaknesses. Each contributor writes both within his own specialty and with a view to those political, social, and economic factors which affect the Japanese educational climate.

Excerpt

In recent years American interest in Japanese education has grown by leaps and bounds. Japanese education has, indeed, become a growth industry not only among academics, but also in the popular and mass media. Almost without exception articles, books, and television talk shows and documentaries have focused on the strengths of Japan's educational system which can, perhaps, best be summed up in the title of Ezra Vogel best-selling book, Japan as Number One.

We have been told that the performance of Japanese students on international tests of educational achievement is the highest in the world: 99.5 percent of all Japan's youngsters successfully complete the nine years of compulsory education through grade nine, and almost 95 percent actually go on to complete the noncompulsory three years of upper secondary school (as opposed to only 78 percent of their U.S. counterparts); at least 35 percent of Japanese high school graduates go on to some form of higher education; Japan's national curriculum ensures that all pupils are exposed to a rich and challenging curriculum no matter where they live in Japan, and equality of educational opportunity is substantially assured to all; and Japan's smaller population produces approximately twice as many engineers as the much larger United States. One could go on to talk about the diligence of Japanese students, their willingness to attend special after school classes at significant economic costs, and their success in passing through the famous "examination hell."

Early in the Reagan administration, Japan's minister of education visited Washington, D.C., and was told by our then Secretary of Education, Terrel Bell, that the United States "must have juku [cram schools] because the Japanese are so productive. What we need is a continuation of your magnificent example. . . ."

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