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The Right School vs The Right Education

kokusu

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I have read and studied that getting into the right school in Japan can have a huge impact on one's life, including but not limited to career options, employment pay scale, social networks, and even marriage prospects.
In the case of college, acceptance and eligibility is determined through entrance examinations given once a year. In the cases of pre-school, elementary, junior high, and high school, I have learned that eligibility is determined via interviews, tests, and previous academic performance (except in the case of pre-school, of course).
Given that which educational institution one attends has such weighty consequences regarding one's life, it is no wonder that competition is stiff to get into the more prestigious of schools. This has led to a critique of the Japanese education system both from within and from outside Japan as being too stressful on students and families (watch the Japanese movie called the "Family Game" for a darkly humorous take on the pressures of Japanese education) and also for being concerned more with image and test scores than actual quality of education.

However, I tend to think that their are similar conditions existing within the U.S. education system that are often just as strenuous if less formalized and openly supported. For example, I wonder what would happen if you compared the overall quality of life for a minority student graduating from a public high school in the Bronx versus a student graduating from a private prepratory school in say the Hamptons. Do you think that the opportunities in life facing those students are based totally and simply on their academic merit?

Which brings me to the real question(s):

1) Which do you think is better - the Japanese system of education where a competitive rat race is openly acknowledged and accepted and compensated for, or the U.S. system of education where the entire system tries to stuggle for an equality that does not nor has ever truly existed?

2) Which education system did you go through, be it U.S., Japan, or other? Did you find your education to fit the general descriptions above, or was it something wholly different?

3) Do you think the U.S. and Japanese educational systems are about equal in strengths and weaknesses, or is one better than the other? What is the reasoning for your opinion?
 

Mandylion

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Good topic - glad to see someone using thier noggin' :)

kokusu said:
Which do you think is better - the Japanese system of education where a competitive rat race is openly acknowledged and accepted and compensated for...

What do you mean by "compensated for?"

To throw my two cents in -

I would disagree that the Japanese educational system is more equal than the one in the US. Instead of looking simply at the surface of the testing structure, we need to look at how students are prepared to take the exams and how that impacts their over-all performance.

The quip that you don't learn at school what you need to know for the entrance exams, and that is why Japan has a juku industry, is something you will often hear in talking to parents, students, and even teachers. Enrollment and participation in juku is not free and open to all. If you parents have money, you will go to a good juku, score better on the entrance exams, go to good schools, get good jobs etc. But if a child has to work after school at the family business or is only well-off enough to afford a lower-ranked juku for test prep, they stand a larger chance of not doing as well on exams and not having as good a life as their richer peers. I assure you your points about the educational environment of a US inner-city and a rich suburb and the impact it has on student performance is equally applicable to Japan.

There are other criticisms about the education system and its dependence on meritocracy - (I'm not current on my figures, sorry) females are still less likely than their male classmates to go on to the top universities (lots of factors at play here), the kids of successful kids will probably be successful while others might face considerable difficulty in achieving academic parity (socio-economic argument above), and -this one is a little out there, I find it the least convincing, but people bring it up so here you go - the end result of the meritocracy produces elites who marry each other and produce a "brain trust" of children who are not subject to the same set of limiting factors as their peers by virtue of their genetic predisposition to be smart (add on the benefits of having rich parents for test prep classes and the playingfield looks a lot less level).

So in response to your specific questions

1) From and equality of opportunity standpoint - since that seems to be what the question is about - I would say both have significant factors influencing the overall success of their students. Both at socio-economic, but manifest themselves in different ways because of the different structure of the educational system and each country's theories about what education should achieve.

2) I went through both, but much more on the US side. I also worked in a Japanese public school district attached to their board of education for two years. I think both need to learn from each other. Japan is where the US seems to be heading - a lot of emphasis on testing and the result being that what teachers teach is how to pass the test. At my Japanese high school, all the 3rd years kids did was work both in and outside of class to get ready for their college boards. I admired their discipline and ability to soldier through material, but it was so bor i....n....g...ZZZZZZZ. (on a side note, this endless test prep is what my wife blames for her lack of familiarity with post WWII Japanese politics and history. Granted WWII was not in the textbooks to begin with, but her teachers were forced to focus on the material to be covered in entrance exams (the Meiji Ishin, Heian-jidai stuff etc.) - one could almost postulate that this has had a direct impact on Japanese voter apathy, but that is a different thread).

On the other hand, I saw lots of my US classmates get left behind because their school didn't take a disciplined approach to learning and make students responsible for the basic skill sets they were trying to teach. Both sides need to adjust - Japan needs creative young people willing to take a risk and innovate and use knowledge, not just repeat it back. On the other side, the US needs to focus on creating basic competency in many of its failing schools.

3) I don't have time to answer this - class in 15 - but in general yes, but it is almost like looking at apples and oranges. Both are fruit, delicious, will fill you up, but have different properties and appearances. The Japanese education system is not the rising tide that floats all boats - plenty are left behind.

I'll get back to this later if I have the time.
 

misa.j

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Money seems to have much involvement in education in both countries.

They have not only juku in Japan but also something like a distance tutoring, which is pretty common for kids in lower grades. You get study material mailed to you, you send it back to the company, and people who are hired by the company(usually home stay moms or college students) score it. I remember there was always advertisement on tv.

In the US, I have a friend who makes questions for standardized tests for grade schools. He told me that the process for creating one test has so many steps which requires high cost. For example, to score one constructive answer, they have to go through someone who has Phd in the feild.

I'm sorry I didn't really answer your questions, but your post reminded me of those things. FYI, I went to public school all the way up to the college in Japan.
 

wonderpt

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The only thing I know is that the portuguese schools and education really stinks! Our teachers are always making strikes, we have to pay almost 500 euros for school books (remmember that 500 euros in Portugal is much more money than in other EU country). I have to travel 2,5 hours per day in two diferent buses to go and come back from school, and I live in a populated region. Students are lazy. We have the worst marks in Europe. Oh my god! Portugal is in the tail of europe!

We need to jump to the really developed countries side!

I think both US and Japanese education systems are very good.
 

kokusu

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Wow! And I worried that I had picked a boring thread to post and no one would reply!

I wish I had the time to reply in depth to all of your comments, but . . . 😊

With what time I do have, I guess I will add another question:

What do you think the point of education is, and are either the Japanese or U.S. educational systems carrying that out?

Oh, heck, since I am here I might as well spend a little time actually giving your comments the at least some of the attention that they deserve, sleep be damned.

Mandylion said:
What do you mean by "compensated for?"

Well, I meant that the Japanese education is openly embraced as being bloodthirstily (is that a word?) competitive and accepted as such. While many people (both inside and outside) Japan disparage the effect such open competition has on the quality of education and the intellectual growth of the students, very few people seem to deny the fact that the Japanese education system functions the way it does.
Therefore, you have things such as the juku industry development, tutors, students cram studying, prep books, etc. It is as if the the Japanese have accepted that their education system is a brutal contest to establish social pecking order and have 'compensated' for it by developing auxilliary support structures to help students compete therein.
While there are certainly tutors and study guide books and the like here in the U.S., it isn't any where near as ubiquitous as in Japan. I think that wher you end up in the education system in the U.S. and the educational path you follow has analogous consequences in the U.S. as to those in Japan, yet I don't feel the level of social 'compensation' for this level of pressure equals the level of 'compensation' that the Japanese have developed. I think the U.S. likes to believe that it really is creating equality in its education system, but as you pointed out, socio-economics make certain that the playing field isn't anywhere near level.

I use compensate not in the financial sense, but in the offsetting or balancing action sense.

Did any of that make sense? So . . . sleep . . . py . . . 😊 :sorry:

I did like your points about the gender differences in education, though I remember some of that when I went to school. For example, female students were required in Junior High and High School to take Home Economics courses, where as it was optional for mal students. I don't imagine schools are quite so brazenly sexist in the U.S. anymore . . .

misa.j said:
Money seems to have much involvement in education in both countries.

Boy howdy, you aren't kidding. As Mandylion pointed out, socio-economics already places students into hierarchies. And for every person that gets to the top, someone is left at the bottom.
Which makes me wonder . . . is either educational system just a rubber stamp for those already with financial means and something of a 'lottery ticket' chance for those with no other means to ascend through the ranks of society?
And do we really need the high priced tests that you mentioned in your post? It is kind of darkly amusing that we are trying to standardize something (tests, education, students?) that ends of being inherently differentiated by that process of standardization. Maybe standardization is a way in which society can turn to those who do not do so well and say, "Well, it was all equal so you must have deserved what you got!" And of course, anything that costs a lot has greater legitimacy, don't you know? (That's sarcasm, BTW)

wonderpt, I wish I knew more about Portugal so that I could say something useful. But, that lack of knowledge on my part aside . . .
Do you have a desire to reform your educational system, or do you just want to survive it? Does education in Portugal have a big impact on social standing after complete?

Well, I am sorry this was such a disjointed and non-sensical reply. Oog . . . must find pillow. I will try and return to this again when I can be more productive . . . love your comments, everyone . . . thanks . . .
 

Mandylion

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kokusu said:
What do you think the point of education is, and are either the Japanese or U.S. educational systems carrying that out?

While there is evidence suggestion this is changing, the point of education in Japan is to create people who can process (internalize and reproduce) large amount new information quickly and without error. Since companies train their new employees, they are not looking for people with specific skill sets or talents, but rather seeks bright, malleable freshmen who will adapt quickly to company demands. Additionally, studying for exams demands dedication, focus, and delayed gratification - those who are successful are assumed to posses these qualities which are in themselves desirable in new workers. If this is a true representation of Japan's educational goals, I would argue the system has been very successful. The larger question is - is this the type of system Japan needs? It worked great for postwar recovery, but what about the next half-century....

With that in mind, I want to address one of your other comments -

kokusu said:
Maybe standardization is a way in which society can turn to those who do not do so well and say, "Well, it was all equal so you must have deserved what you got!"

Exactly! If we subscribe to the meritocratic myth that everyone has the same opportunities because everyone takes the same tests to get into different universities (etc), any social, economic, or political stratification that emerges from success or failure is justifiable and should be simply be accepted. Put another way, society/race/gender didn't make you fail that test, you own lack of dedication, focus etc. made you fail.

Of course this ignores the gender and socio-economic factors we have been discussing.

As far as my personal opinion on what education should achieve, that really is the big question people have been asking for centuries. I don't know if a balance between practical learning, the fine arts, creativity, and pure memorization can ever be struck. The goals of education and what students need are highly dependent on a particular historical moment -

For example, Japan at the start of the Meiji Restoration trying to work away from Confucian learning and focus on practical (math, economics, physical sciences etc.) to modernize. The US is a different picture and much harder to define since education has always been rather decentralized and left up to different local entities (school boards vs the Ministry of Education type setup). Also, I haven't really studied US educational practices, but maybe someone who has can chime in...
 
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