Problems in the Japanese Educational System
The Japanese educational system, though, is not without its own problems in relation to discipline and student behavior. Although not seeing anywhere near the level of violence American schools see, Japanese schools face problems ranging from students not attending school through bullying.
Due to the amount of material in this section, I have broken it up into separate topics.
Discipline in the schools
Ijime, or bullying
General violence in schools
Elementary School behavior
The problem of poor behavior in elementary classrooms seems to be continually growing and has spread down to even first year classes. In one survey of elementary teachers over one-third of the teachers said that they had trouble conducting the class due to poor student behavior.
In the book Japan Unbound: A Volatile Nation's Quest for Pride and Purpose, 2004, the author writes about middle schools he viewed and he noted that:
"The striking difference was the teachers' restraint: behavior that would have banished an Amerian junior high school student to the hall or to the principal's office-talking to a friend across the class or exchanging notes or wandering around the room-was either ignored or gently reproved with a look or a comment that had no effect."
The same author did note that, in his opinion, the major of Japanese schoolchildren still have the "earnestness and the innocent that have always distinguished them."
Lessening of Respect for Teachers
According to the book .The Japanese Self in Cultural Logic:
"Teachers no longer command respect, either among their pupils or among the students' parents, who otherwise would support the teachers' authority."
The Japanese Response
The Education Ministry of Japan has responded to some of the problems with various reforms. According to Japan Unbound: A Volatile Nation's Quest for Pride and Purpose, 2004,, the Education Ministry in 2002 eliminated 30% of the content of the core curriculum in elementary and middle schools. They introduced group learning, in which the student picks something that interests them and then they learn more about it (independent study, in effect.) In the high schools, all subjects but physical education have become electives.
This would make the pressure on the students somewhat less and give them a greater sense of freedom in making choices, but at the same time the question arises as to what effect, in any, such freedom of choice will have on the examination scores.
There are a variety of questions to ask in relation to these developments.
1. What is the cause of the increasing problem with student behavior? Is it an educational system that does not need the needs of the students? It is from a gradual breakdown of the traditional multi-generational family system? Is it the influence of Western ideas? Is it the economic downturn that has resulted in the end of the "great education = great job" equation?
2. What can be done to prevent the situation from getting even worse? There is still a considerable gap between these problems in Japanese schools and the extreme violence, shooting deaths and attacks on teachers found in many U.S. schools.
3. The educational system has been built on the importance of passing certain tests. Those tests determined the type of school the student got into (as far as status goes), and that determined the type of company that would end up hiring the students. With the economic problems and the alteration in practices of many businesses (such as ending "life-long" employment), what effect will be seen in Japanese schools?
So, in essence, the Japanese educational system is still one that is safer (in general) than the U.S. system, and still produces students who beat their American counterparts on comparative tests. Whether or not this will continue, though, remains to be seen.
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