Schools – are they good enough ?

In the past few months, there have been a lot of discussions about the merits of the education system in Japan. On the one hand, Japanese school children score high marks in math and science. On the other hand, preschool age children are known to be attending cram school in order to get admission to the ‘right’ preschool.

In another situation, a distraught mother whose child did not gain admission to the preschool of choice, killed another preschooler who did gain admission. Of course, these situations should not be generalized as the norm, but they do make headlines. In addition, Japanese government officials are now concerned that most Japanese lack good command of the English language. Apparently, they anticipate this to cause problems in our internet savvy world. In Japan, all children attend 6 years of elementary school starting at the age of six.

After elementary school, they attend middle school for three years. All Japanese children are required to attend school through the ninth grade. Even though, high school is not compulsory, more than 97% pass tests to gain admission into high school, and complete high school. After three years of high school, Japanese students must pass tests to gain admission to junior colleges or universities. Over 48% of high school graduates continue their education after high school. Education is valued highly in Japanese culture. In addition to learning Japanese, arithmetic, science, social studies, music, crafts, physical education and home economics, in elementary school, Japanese school children start learning English in middle school.

Research has shown that children can learn a foreign language more easily when they are younger. Since there is a concern that most Japanese people are not conversant in English, even though they are studying it in school, it might be better to start learning the language at a younger age. As part of learning Japanese, there are about 1,945 kanji that have been specified for daily use. By the end of elementary school, the children are expected to have mastered 1,006 of them. So most Japanese acquire a common level of literacy by the end of the ninth grade.

The children wear school uniforms, eat school provided lunches with their classmates, do extracurricular activities, and also have cleaning duties during their school day.

Moreover, they also attend school on some Saturdays. In order to prepare for the exams, the children attend cram schools. In short, the school children in Japan, have very demanding, disciplined lives. As part of any school system, there will be critics. But it seems that the current system is successfully producing future workers who are literate, possess some command of the English language, and disciplined with a strong work ethic.

All this does not sound like a bad track record.

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