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Japan: An Insider's Educational Experience (ranmagazine.co)
32 points by mattm 1520 days ago | hide | past | web | 9 comments | favorite



While I'd like to avoid doing the same sort of generalization as the author has done, it can be difficult.

Japanese & Western (aka, American & Canadian) cultures are very different. A great number of people who come over here (to Japan), regardless of how long they stay, never really absorb themselves in the way of thinking & doing things here. They continue to live a sort of "dual life", where on one hand they are happy enough because of all the wonderful benefits of this society, but on the other always expect things "should be like back home" and are somehow less developed with regards to individual "rights" & the like.

I have two children in the school system here. I have found the system to be far more creative than any foreigner who moves here could ever anticipate, and quite honestly, much better than what I was exposed to in America in any category you'd care to name.

Society here teaches people to think of everyone else first before taking care of your own needs - a lesson that wouldn't be a bad thing to rub off on Westerners a bit more.

Aside from that, I echo all the existing posts on this guy's choice of using a single student's experience with a single (possibly bad) teacher, despite saying he has 15 years experience in Japan & has spoken to hundreds of students about this.


I went to school there, also as an outsider. I completely agree, however there is one thing he missed.

Another very large difference is the focus on memorization vs creativity. This happens physically, aswell as mentally. In Japanese "art" classes for example, students strive to copy what the teacher created, those who come closer, are better. In other classes, it is mostly a work of memorizing vocabulary or formulas. Very little goes towards thinking, at least in the early stages of education. This trend is encouraged by their third character set, of which you are required to know about 2000 ideograms before graduating high-school.

That being said, realize that all these traits have advantages too, sometimes more so than in the western world, sometimes less.

EDIT: Oh, and a another important thing I would like to add. Public shaming is used quite effectively because of these traits. Grades are for example hung out in the hall, in a leader-board kind-of fashion.


Yes, Japan has its own way of developing members of society. CBC (Canadian Broadcasting) did a very cool mini series on Japanese schools called "Children Full of Life"[0]. At the very least, I highly recommend everyone to watch part one.

[0] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=armP8TfS9Is


really really great video. It made me recall each moment of my life, I mean seriously... sometimes we can learn from small kids, what we haven't throughout our lives. Being Happy is all its about. You made my day man.


The Japanese have a different style of teaching, yes.

though, I agree, that your particular student did felt what I would feel, but as I would say, it is essentially, how you see it.

DONT ASK WHY ISSUE: As a curious kid, I used to ask many questions as well, which I still do, and I'm still doing. But it is the timing that matters, the teachers are humans afterall, if you interrupt too often, it hurts others as well, specially, when exam time is near, and you have just joined, and its no-ones fault&pain basically, that you are a bit behind. Personally, I have been called less annoying/curious ever since I established good timing to address this curiosity.

WE not ME Issue: Yes, we should be taught, how to think for ourself, and also for others, so, its not a bad thing. Basically you have to be thinking for yourself & everyone else, and make a judgement, where the first part is understood anyway, so no one will tell you to do so, unless you are super selfless.

NOT Japanese Issue: The teachers adapt for years, not a particular batch, of course, over time while they are getting old and rusty, they have to economize, they can't adjust forever. Though their approach towards 'outsiders' should be careful, they after all have built their teaching methods, based on some pre-requisites, which in this case had been those children story/shows references, which forms a big part of childhood for anyone.

Its an illusion Issue: Its a question of judgement. Suppose I want a apple, and my mother says to rethink, they know that I'm having a rare disease, and if I eat apple(which has xyz in it) I may choke/go into seizure or something. But since I'm 4, I can't understand that, so she says, "rethink"

Trips can be in mountaneous areas, or mostly in unknown parts of the country, the teachers are responsible for safety of students, they can't allow you to take a track, that leads into a unsafe environment, say one where a lot of snakes are found.

the System of DO issue: I'm part of one of the Do systems, Karate-do. My teacher is one of the best teachers in whole of asia, a lot of times I run into techniques, or ways, that might deconstruct the old for new and better ways. But that is actually not true, 90% of times.

The system of DO, emphasizes on the fact, that if you want free will, drop out, and do it; No one is stopping you. The Do system are like rivers, that flow continously, in the same way, for hundereds of years, and the marginal occasional geographical shift (change) occurs over a longer period of time. Its a tight ship, with tight roles, and it is to provide opportunity to keep alive a certain way of doing things (DO) , over a longer period of time, without much changes.

ITS the system, not the Individual Issue: The case you quote, is insufficient in my view to say, what you want to say with the title. It happens, even in west, injuries, for not following a proper procedure. Its a harsh reality, deal with it.

Teachers are AFRAID Issue: yes, we have police for that not teachers, its not necessary that all teachers in Japan, keep themselves out of personal disputes, which is a good thing, as long as it doesn't turn into bullying, or injury causing event. Great Teacher Onizuka Comic, is a worthy read for you, if education is as of real interest to you, as you say.

Failure Teaches Success Yes, you know it my friend, that you have not quite well integrated into the Japanese way. Your failure, has taught you the benefits of being a "Outfit" in Japan, at the cost of knowing benefits of living by the Japanese way. The point is, how can you live both lives, and achieve greater * ENLIGHTENMENT*

Failure teachers you success, but not every success, you have to go back, fail, and learn, fail and learn.. like Yin and Yang in a circle.

PS: No offense, but I find it ironic, that you call yourself a Insider, yet you feel like a Outsider in Japan. But yes, I appreciate that you shared your experience. Much appreciated.


"The" "quotation" "marks" "are" "driving" "me" "insane" "!!!!"

A lot of the things he points out are not specific to Japan. For example, American schools have the same requirement to show work and not just the answer for a math problem. The other examples can also be chocked up to the specific teacher or environment, or basic tenants of modern education systems (ex. making students obedient to authority)


Half his examples start with "my student", which also makes me highly suspicious - one student does not make a representative statistical sample.

One can also just look at the media being produced in Japan to see that they too value and admire characters that rebel, go against the grain and question the status quo in their books and movies. They're obviously a different culture, but you can't abstract away their difference with some high-level statement like "more obedience"; it's subtler than that.


The article is titled "An Insider's Educational Experience" so it is mostly based on one student's experiences.

Living here in Japan now, I sometimes wonder how my life and beliefs would be different had I grown up and gone through the education system here. Since it's impossible to go back and re-do that, the next best thing is to get the impressions from people that have gone through another education system and the Japanese one because they can easily compare the two systems.


Of course most of the things can be found everywhere. After all, humans are humans everywhere. However, different cultures place different emphasis on different things, and it’s the overall picture that is interesing.

I must say I find most things in this article very strange.

I went to school here in Belarus. I can’t imagine a teacher asking which road should be taken and asking to re-think it. Teacher usually just said what we should do, and never pretended to give them choice when there is no choice. (In fact, I think such behaviour would be considered lying.)

And if we were expected to solve a math problem in a specific way, the way we should use was always stated. (Though I must admit, this applied only to match or exact sciences, much less to literature, and never applied to history, where ‘correct’ answers were always given.) And I can’t imagine that arguing about the mark can make it lower either: in fact, I've resorted to it quite a lot.




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