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Would you stop going to live in Japan mainly because the education system is not good for your kids?

mickael28

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Hi all,
I'm currently living in the UK with my Japanese wife and my 4.5y old daughter. At the moment we are in a situation where my wife is not getting to life in the UK and she wants to go back and live in Japan.

Apart from the problems we'd have to get a job (as I don't speak any Japanese and my wife would need to take care of the finances via a job that she hasn't got yet), my main concern is about the education system.

I don't really know any of these 2 education systems, as I am not from the UK either, but for what I can gather by reading and watching documentaries, the UK seems to focus more on the kids, teach them how to think by themselves, being critical, having freedom, and things which I see more valuable in the future live of a person whereas Japan seems more orientated in teaching them how to follow rules, how to not ask question, how to work more in a team (without taking so much responsibility or proud about their own work), and basically it sounds all too robotic to me.

I'd like to hear if there's anyone who maybe has experienced both education systems and have an opinion first hand about them, rather than just by reading about it like myself?

With the main question being, which education system do you think would be better for your kids: Japanese vs UK (or western)?
 

musicisgood

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My daughter went through the whole school system from kindergarten to 12th grade. " 2 words" is all I can tell you. "No problems". Both academically and socially. I believe there are many here on the forum that probably will agree with what I just said.
Also, about work. Seems like it is much easier to find some kind of job these days even if you are a foreigner with no real job skills, just a desire to work, but try to stay away from the 3 D types of jobs. The pay, I don't know, but I was able to find something part time for around 1000 yen an hour and this was not really in a big city either.
Good luck anyway. I had the same situation, wife wanted to move back to Japan after quite a few years living in my country. I'm not going to say it's been all that easy, but then I moved here when I was in my late 30's and no real Japanese job skills.
 

Lothor

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I'm British, my wife is Japanese, we live in Tokyo and have two sons are going through the state Japanese system and are 11 and 8.
I've got no major complaints about the system so far and haven't seen a progressive increase in my sons' roboticness since they started school! My older son is certainly more numerate than many of the 16 year olds I used to teach GCSE maths to in Britain, which is a reflection on the thorough maths teaching here rather than his intelligence.
From what I've heard about the micromanaging that teachers at British state schools are subjected to these days, it may be a happier system in Japan. My sister in Britain thinks her 8 year old daughter is subjected to way too much pressure at school. I've heard things get worse from junior high school (age 12) but don't have any experience yet.

As for jobs - the big question is are you a native speaker of English with a degree? If you are, then it will be relatively easy to get a job as an English teacher and you should look into doing a teaching English qualification before you come here.

As musicisgood suggested, your wife will have no problems getting a job, I'm sure you've heard about Japan's labour shortage. The difficulty will be getting a reasonably well paid job because until your daughter starts school at the age of 6, if you both work, she'll need to be looked after (does your wife have helpful parents?) Without knowing much about your situation, if you're not strongly attached to the UK, then I think you should give your wife the chance to return to Japan.
 

Majestic

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Beware of assuming things like "Japanese schools teach how not to ask questions", or "how not to take responsibility". Or, conversely, western schools teach how to "have freedom". These statements sound almost cartoonish. Japanese schools produce fine scholars and scientists and citizens. If there is an emphasis on group harmony, I would say that is not necessarily a bad thing. Academic excellence, excellence in sports. excellence in the arts... are all celebrated here in Japan. There is often pressure to get into "good" universities, and parents inevitably find it hard to resist this pressure. This leads to parents pressuring kids to achieve test scores, and test-taking skills, that will help them pass university entrance exams. So it might be worth having a long talk with your wife about what you expect academically from your kids, and how you see their progress from primary to secondary, and secondary to tertiary education.
Also, don't completely discount your job prospects. Your income determines your range of choices in Japan. If you have the skills to demand a high income, you probably are able to arrange for your kids to go to international school - which isn't necessarily better or worse than Japanese school, but it is an option that may give your kid a more international outlook (and therefore open doors to overseas universities).
 

johnnyG

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Keep in mind that you've chosen a person as your spouse--your significant other, your life partner--who is a product of that education system.

Is she a robot, does she lack critical thinking skills? Did you marry her for that and because she follows rules, and does not ask questions?

**

To add a couple bits of data to the above, we have two kids, now well into their 20s, who went thru "the system" here from daycare to university. They are completely normal (and I would say successful) human beings.
 

mickael28

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Is she a robot, does she lack critical thinking skills? Did you marry her for that and because she follows rules, and does not ask questions?
Actually, yes, she does. Big way!, which is what really worries me. As I have a 1st hand experience. She barely asks a single questions, even when she doesn't understand things to me or to other. And regarding the thinking, she usually has a single idea learnt somehow in the past, and there's no way to make her see that there are hundreds of different ways to make the same thing and a lot of them are more efficient, quicker, cleaner, etc than her way to do things. So from my point of view, whatever my wife's learnt in life/education has not contributed to make her better, more sociable, easy going, happy in general, just more stubborn and difficult to deal with (from my point of view).

Which is part of where we are now, that she thinks (and we don't quite know yet) that most of her problems would be fixed when she goes back to Japan.

My main concern at present however was how education would affect my daughter though, and by reading you guys it seems things are ok and not as bad as one could think by reading articles online. I read things like:
  • "I live in one of the New England states in a town of about 30,000. I lived in Japan for a total of 12 years (1987-1992 and 1996-2003) and have been back here in the US since 2003.
    I was very glad to get my daughter out of Japanese school and into public school here. Although she only attended kindergarten and first grade in Japan, from what I saw it was all about rote memorization and doing things the same as everyone else. Kokugo homework was usually something along the lines of: read the essay out loud to your parents 10 times and have them grade your performance. She was also given an assignment to “make friends with a tree” in the school yard. what? There wasn’t even a glimmer of anything like critical thinking being taught, as far as I could see. When she got to the US and started second grade at the end of the school year here, her class was learning about process writing, something I had to teach my univ students in Japan. Also, she was sometimes teased and ostracized by classmates in Japan because she is “half” but in the US it’s not really an issue, except for when people tell they envy her bilingual abilities."
Or studies, such as PISA, the world’s largest assessment of teenage students, suggests happiness is crucial to learning — Quartz, where in the part of motivation/being ambitious they rank Japanese students the lowest in the shown list, so far being of many other countries. I've related this to the fact that my wife has been in UK for 8 years now and I don't see her making any effort to improve her life here (either meeting friends frequently, doing sports, trying to get a job - even if just for the social element, ...), basically nothing, thing which I couldn't picture in any Western wife. But she protects herself saying that all her Japanese friends are mums and just stay at home with a similar lifestyle, or sometimes she tells me that she's looking for a job (even though I've never seen her, or she has just told me she's sent 2 CVs -to Japanese companies here- like in 3 years), or when being a housewife like she is at the moment, the house is always dirty and she doesn't seem to care much, I don't want my daughter to become so passive in life :(.

It's difficult to explain in writting and for me to understand as I don't know other Japanese women/families to see how they behave, but at the moment I think I was imagining my daughter to become in adult life with the same character as my wife, which would not be good for herself, her family or friends. I think she might be depressed here, even though she doesn't want to admit it, she just says that she's like this (lack of motivation and happiness in general), because she wants to go to Japan. Thing that I'm currently taking with a grain of salt as I'm not sure if going to Japan will fix any problem or she'll be the same there.

And then we'll have the extra issue of me not being able to get a job (or a good job, at least for a matter of years), not being able to talk to my daughter properly (due to the language barrier), help her with education and life, ...

Tricky. In which language do you guys communicate with your kids? And were you always able to communicate with them when you lived there?, are conversations normal (vocabulary wise, complex subject, etc)?

Sorry about the 'rant', there are so many things going on simultaneously that it's difficult to focus on just one...
 

Mike Cash

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Isn't this really all about you and not your daughter?
 

mickael28

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Me, as in? ie, which part specifically? I was trying to point out that my Japanese wife is a perfect example of what I don't want my daughter to become...

I don't want my daughter to behave in life in a similar way to my wife when she grows up, which will not contribute to her happiness. And, from my point of view, part of wanting to improve in life, learn by yourself, question how things work and think about how to do things or change the way you see the world is taught in school and at home.

By the way my wife behaves and talks about her Japanese mums, that's the way women are brought up there. And I fear that if we go and I cannot teach my daughter other ways to do things and see the world it won't be good for her.

Thinking about her future, then I do worry about the Japanese working system (where women are discriminated against men, and there's a massive salary difference between both genres, plus how the system seems to work over there - where they seem to compensate more to the older rather than to the brighter).
 

bentenmusume

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I hope this doesn't come off as confrontational, but it seems to me you've already made up your mind and are just looking for validation.

I've met plenty of intelligent, motivated Japanese people (including women, of course) and plenty of vapid, intellectually lazy Westerners, and vice versa of course. It's a simple enough task to find anecdotal evidence to support either side of the argument.

Honestly, I've always been a bit mystified by this idea that simply putting a child in the Japanese school system will turn them into a mindless, soulless robot, as if the parent(s) have no control over the mental and emotional growth of their child.

I'm also baffled by this idea (and to be fair, I've heard it expressed by Japanese acquaintances as well) that Western schools are this paradise where every child's individuality is treasured and everyone is nurtured to think critically and express their opinions. I went to both private and public schools in the United States, and while I did have a couple great teachers here and there, I was also bullied and had a generally miserable time until I got to college.
I consider myself to be a rather thoughtful and intellectually curious person (at least I try to be), but I don't in any way attribute that to my American/Western schooling.

As an aside, I feel quite bad for your wife, who you repeatedly describe in most unflattering terms. I also have to say I find it a bit contradictory that despite being in a relationship with a Japanese woman for as long as you have and having made no attempt to gain a reasonable degree of proficiency in her native language, you're the one accusing her of lacking motivation and intellectual curiosity.

If you're so worried about not being able to have "complex" and "meaningful" conversations with your daughter, why not take the opportunity to learn a second language? It would also allow you to converse with your wife in her native language, not just your own—and you might find out there's more to her personality than you thought.

Just something to think about.
 

mickael28

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I've not made up my mind just yet, but it's good to read you guys not seeing such a big difference between both education systems.

I was getting my worries from reading other articles, forums and documentaries about the subject, and comparing my wife with other people I know. Most of them non-Japanese, a handful of Japanese people we've met here and a couple of Japanese women quite driven, successful, passionate, etc who coincidentally were educated in UK or US, not Japan. The native Japanese people we've met in UK do not behave like that. It just seemed to me too much of a coincidence that let's say 10 people plus my wife behave one way and the rest behave another. Which way it's better, I guess people might argue, but from my point of view, it seems the Japanese way might be good inside Japan, but it is not if someone decides to live outside.

Of course there would be motivated Japanese citizens and lazy Westeners (on benefits and similar) but I think both types are the exception rather than the rule, and I was trying to find out how most people act, rather than the bounderies.

As for the rest, there are too many details to understand the whole situation, but summarizing the story a lot. I would feel bad for my wife if I didn't know her as well, as one could not believe the level of passiveness we are talking about here. I think if you guys know us and see how things work (like friends and family see here) would understand how patience and supportive I'm being to her, how little thankful she's been to me and how's making all effort in the relationship and the family.

I had the idea how learning some Japanese, but again, I had the idea that she was going to help with anything in our life (workwise, or cleaning, or organising family activities with our daughter for hte weekend, or organising holidays, or dealing with daily life tasks - insurances, car repairs, etc etc), but no, she doesn't help with anything, even when one asks her to do stuff, she will complain that I shouldn't be telling her what to do. I've not known a single Westener with this kind of behaviour, and in fact, she was not like this before we got married, and possibly before we had our daughter.

Add to that that I've got a 3-4 hours commute each day, plus I need to learn new things for my IT company often as technologies avance quite quickly, plus I've tried a few businesses in parallel after work, plus I'm doing trading to help with the finances after work, plus I'm playing with my daughter the single hour I can see her a day, plus I tend to sleep 4-5h a day. I don't see where you'd fit the time to learn a new language.

And more so, when I can see my wife with so many free hours daily (whilst my daughter is at school, and even when she's at home as a lot of times she's either drawing, playing with her toys or watching TV/tablet) and she's not make any effort to either learn a little of my home country language (which she said she'd do before we got married) or even English, which she'd need for her daily life. There's a massive imbalance and unfairness here.
 

bentenmusume

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I'm afraid it sounds to me like you and your wife have relationship issues that may have their roots in cultural differences, but have unfortunately developed into something quite deeper than that.

I've not known a single Westener with this kind of behaviour, and in fact, she was not like this before we got married, and possibly before we had our daughter.
Well, then it stands to reason that it's not just her Japanese upbringing or schooling to blame, yes?

You seem quite resentful of your wife and how little she appreciates you and does for you. I'm not going to make any value judgments about two people I've never met, but you might want to consider (or reconsider) what a huge mental, emotional, and even physical burden it's been on her to live in a country where she clearly doesn't feel comfortable.

Did the fundamental issue of where you wanted to live and raise your child not come up when you first got married or decided to have a kid? You keep mentioning how poor your wife's English is, but you've also said that you speak no Japanese at all. How do the two of you communicate? Is there not a chance that you've been misunderstanding each other for quite some time now, and that she resents you as well for forcing her to live in an environment that's foreign to her?

Or, to put it another way, how comfortable do you think you'd feel (even with your free and enlightened Western upbringing) expressing yourself and going about your daily life in Japan? There's a good chance that your wife's passivity and submissiveness isn't simply "the Japanese way" but rather a product of the near-paralyzing stress and pressure that any human being would feel living in a foreign country where they're dealing with constant culture and language barriers. (Even if she herself has suggested otherwise, as she may very well be unaware and/or too ashamed to admit the degree to which this affects her.)

Again, I'm not trying to be accusatory, but I think it's worth considering.
 
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mickael28

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Any comment is really helpful, as it's really helpful to read other people's points of view, even with the limited information we've got here. But it does help, thanks :)

As for my wife, her character was the same before (regarding avoiding questions or thinking), but the laziness was not. We had problems due to language and cultural differences at the beginning which I thought would improve little by little when she lived more in the UK.

The thing is that her English is good, as in, good enough to talk about everything and understand 'most' things. But it's as good as it was 8 years ago, as she stopped learning at the time and I've never seen her doing anything to improve the English, either by learning new vocabulary, new expressions, new ways of talking (where things do not mean literally the same of what they are supposed to mean), etc. Hence that the issue we originally had and I thought would go away, it is not going anywhere.

We did talk about the future before getting married and she was happy staying in the UK or going to my home country, however, now those two options do not seem a possibility for her. She's just thinking about how/when she can go back to Japan.

I know myself and I know what's to live in a different country with a different language (if less of a different culture), as I came to the UK without being able to speak English and I had to make my way here. In my case, I am the opposite though, the harder it is, the harder I work (not the lazier I become), hence that I am having more problem understanding what's going through her mind and if going to Japan is going to fix her problems (and as part of that our problems) and it's not going to create larger future problems (mainly concerning about how our daughter is brought up).

I think all is a risk, but I'll have to talk to my wife more extensively about everything. And I think I might be more opened about the Japanese idea as you guys say have experience it 1st hand and do not seem too concerned, so good to know.
 

mickael28

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Spain. Ideally, living in any of our countries would be easier due to family support and closer friends, etc. But I'm usually looking at the bigger picture of where it'd be better to live from a practical point of view for all of us.

So, I'd like to go back as well, but I'm happy and thankful here as well rather than just bitter and resentful. This country is giving us a great chance that I cannot see us having anywhere else.

Nevertheless, my wife now doesn't want to go anywhere else other than Japan, and the job situation for all of us as a family is a lot better here, we all can speak English and do things in this country, and I can see our daughter benefiting more here (language and culture wise) than in Japan.

I was mainly considering the possibility to go back for my wife. To give her the chance to be happy again (as I don't see her making any effort to achieve just that here and one cannot help much if the other person is not receptive). But I doubt that's going to really fix any problem and I fear is not a good idea for our daughter.
 

jt9258

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Spain. Ideally, living in any of our countries would be easier due to family support and closer friends, etc. But I'm usually looking at the bigger picture of where it'd be better to live from a practical point of view for all of us.
How can you dismiss Japan as not being an option if you have no experience?

Nevertheless, my wife now doesn't want to go anywhere else other than Japan, and the job situation for all of us as a family is a lot better here, we all can speak English and do things in this country, and I can see our daughter benefiting more here (language and culture wise) than in Japan.
You need to consider the bigger picture and not assume that Japan does not have anything to offer.
You also need to listen to your wife, because most Japanese will return to Japan at some point.

I was mainly considering the possibility to go back for my wife. To give her the chance to be happy again (as I don't see her making any effort to achieve just that here and one cannot help much if the other person is not receptive). But I doubt that's going to really fix any problem and I fear is not a good idea for our daughter.
If you decide to move to Japan do it for the whole family not just your wife.

I have sent a private message.
 
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Shibui

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Hi Mickael
With regard to schooling I can only speak to Japanese students coming to live with us her in Oz and attending our state school system. Generalising here - they tend to be far more respectful and compliant of the rules compared to western kids and they tend to be less inclined to comment negatively about the system. However, they are just as funny, intelligent, clever and social as any western kid, just not bubbling away at the surface. School is a big part of their life but no bigger than their parents interaction and direction is.
With regard to your situation there are a couple of alarm bells. One is you are married to a Japanese person, and have a child with her, and you speak no Japanese. Being blunt that's pretty selfish. At some stage in life your wife, not to mention your child, will want to connect with their heritage and you have effectively precluded yourself from involvement. It also makes it way more difficult to find work and assimilate if as a couple you decide to relocate to Japan, even for a short period.
My suggestion is engage in your wife and childs culture, learn the language, at least to the basic conversational level, and see if things improve. Your wife may be much happier and content if you can engage in her language together.

Good luck in the future.
 

marley'sghost

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You mentioned your wife has been in the UK for 8 years. Just curious, when was the last time she went back to Japan for a visit? I've lived in Japan for nearly 20 years now (time flies), and I know that if I don't get back home every few years or so, I start to get a bit nuts. Would a good, long visit help her re-charge and re-focus maybe?
This is not to belittle your situation, or try to offer a quick trip home as a solution. It looks like the honeymoon is over and you and your wife have some real grown-up stuff to work out. I think jt's comments are spot on. Do everything you can to keep this from becoming a battle.
 

DragonAsh

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The thing is that her English is good, as in, good enough to talk about everything and understand 'most' things. But it's as good as it was 8 years ago, as she stopped learning at the time and I've never seen her doing anything to improve the English, either by learning new vocabulary, new expressions, new ways of talking (where things do not mean literally the same of what they are supposed to mean), etc.
....says the guy that says he doesn't speak any Japanese. Sheesh. Don't know that I'd be throwing around the 'lazy' label that easily.

I had the idea how learning some Japanese, but again, I had the idea that she was going to help with anything in our life (workwise, or cleaning, or organising family activities with our daughter for hte weekend, or organising holidays, or dealing with daily life tasks - insurances, car repairs, etc etc), but no,
Sounds like you didn’t want a wife, you wanted at live-in maid.

Add to that that I've got a 3-4 hours commute each day, plus I need to learn new things for my IT company often as technologies avance quite quickly, plus I've tried a few businesses in parallel after work, plus I'm doing trading to help with the finances after work, plus I'm playing with my daughter the single hour I can see her a day, plus I tend to sleep 4-5h a day. I don't see where you'd fit the time to learn a new language.
So you’re spending all your time with everything and everyone *but* your wife…and you wonder why she’s a bit withdrawn?

My wife and I spent the last 9 years in London. We *loved* living in London, but moved back to Japan last summer to be close to her in-laws so we could nearby while they're still healthy and active, and they could see the grandkids regularly etc. I'm from the US, wife is Japanese. What I'm trying to say is, I am very familiar with your general situation. There are major differences, of course, perhaps the main one being that I'm fluent in Japanese.

Everything I’ve read from you paints a picture of a husband spending little time with his family, and a housewife in a foreign country where she doesn’t know anybody and is stuck at home. Does she have friends? Do you have family friends that are all your friends?

Are you aware of the stress she likely feels having to deal with the UK school in her second language? Japanese schools also expect a considerable amount of parent involvement, but for my (and your) wife, it’s harder in the UK because a) it's an entirely unfamiliar education system, and of course b) it’s in another language.

The whole ‘education in Japan vs the UK’ question is irrelevant, the issue is the relationship between you and your wife. I’d focus on fixing that first; you – and I mean YOU, not your wife - have some serious issues to address. The way you describe your wife does not portray you as a loving husband, to say the least.
 

musicisgood

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If you do move to Japan, you really might consider being self employed or work for your wife.
 

bentenmusume

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""Loving Husband"" Where did this come from? Is there really love in marriage here in Japan?
Wow. And just when I thought this thread couldn't get any more depressing.

I thought your post above was fairly on point, but now I'm honestly a bit concerned about what advice you may have given the OP by private message.

The all-consuming, all-encompassing nature of some people's stereotypes about Japan will never cease to amaze me.
 

jt9258

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The all-consuming, all-encompassing nature of some people's stereotypes about Japan will never cease to amaze me.
Are you actually married to a Japanese woman?

I have not actually given the OP any information, but I have asked a few questions, but he has not replied. Basically I do not want to get involved in a debate about the culture.
 
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