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Japan Essay, Research Paper

Education in Japan

Education is very important to the success of any country. Japan is a country that has an effective educational system. Through selective borrowing and reforms from the American occupation after World War II, Japan’s educational system has created one of the most highly educated society in the world. In this essay, I will describe the evolution of the Japanese educational system and compare modern Japan’s system with the United

States’. Japan always had a strong emphasis in education. Pre-modern Japan had many examples of the strong interest in learning. Unlike the knights in feudal Europe, the

Samurai in feudal Japan possessed fighting skills as well as literary skills. By the late Tokugawa Period, samurai youths and well as some children of commoners were able receive an education.

Many countries influenced modern Japan s education system s structure over time. Its high regard for education stemmed from the Chinese’s testing system for choosing government officials. Although Japan did not adopt this system, Japan realized the importance of education. Buddhists monasteries began teaching and became centers of learning during the feudal period. The educational system changed during Tokugawa period by having official domain schools for samurai; there are tens of thousands of village institutions for commoners, and over a thousand private academies. A Ministry of Education to centralized and uniform the school system was created during 1871 during the Meiji government. A new educational system was created, while all domain schools and a great majority of private academies disappeared. Based on the French model, a system of nationwide education was achieved. In 1907, a system of free and mandatory primary education was established. Above primary education was a system of schooling

similar to the German gymnasium and the French lycee. They boys and girls went to separate schools after elementary school. After World War II, American occupation restructured Japan’s educational system once more into six-three-three-four system. The numbers corresponds to the number of years each student has to take for elementary school, junior high, senior high, and university. The system was made coeducation throughout, and was made free for the first nine years.

Japan’s educational system did not borrow everything from other countries. There were some significant differences that were very progressive. Instead of involving religion in early education like the West, the educational system was of secular and egalitarian nature during Meiji Japan. Also unlike the western countries during that period, Japan emphasized elementary education more than higher education. This gave the overall Japanese society a strong educational foundation.

Besides the university level, modern Japanese education is intense. Children attend an extra half-day of school per week compared to the United States. The vacations are much shorter and there are fewer breaks during the school year. Homework is assigned daily. The students are very disciplined and study very hard.

Success in career and life is determined by success in education. Top positions in companies and government are recruited directly from top universities. It is very difficult for a person to get a successful career with limited education. Because the educational system is based on merits, students need to take an examination in order to be admitted into top schools. Competition is very tight to get into distinguished high schools and universities. Therefore, entrance examinations are very important.

These examinations place a tremendous amount of pressure on students and

There families Preparing for the exams may start as early as kindergarten for some children. Some students also have extra tutoring. The family would pay extra for these services. Children are given adequate room to study even though much family live in small sized apartments. Because these exams are considered to determine a person’s entire career, family life is greatly affected when exam time draws near. Life in the family would be centered on helping the student study.

When a student is not accepted to the top universities, they may either take a cram school or enter a less prestigious university. Public universities like Tokyo University are ranked as the top schools. Unlike the prestigious universities in the United States,

Prestigious universities in Japan costs less money than the poorer rated private universities Japan. Some wealthy students may buy their way into less prestigious private universities.

The United States’ educational system is not as uniform as Japan’s. Unlike Japan, the United States’ educational system is not based completely on merits. Some schools have social promotions. Some students graduate high school without even learning basic algebra. There are students that go directly to the workforce after graduating high school.

Standardized tests like the SAT exist in the United States, but admission to colleges and universities does not solely rely on it. Universities in the United States rely on a number of factors; weighed differently for each school and possibly for each applicant. Brown

University, a top university in the United States, seeks high grades and standardized tests scores as well as diversity. Because of the variation in admission methods, there are fewer pressures on students in the United States.

The most prestigious universities in the United States are not public. Schools in the top-ten ranking include Harvard, California Institute of Technology, and Princeton, which are all private schools. Tuitions for these top schools cost more than public

Universities. Students in Japan can relax after they get accepted in a university. The reputation of the university matters the most because companies and government only invite graduates from certain universities to take their exams. The work that students do at the university does not matter as much. Graduate schools are also not important.

Schoolwork at the university level in the United States is more important and vigorous than Japan’s. At top universities, there is a huge emphasis on research. Students at universities like California Institute of Technology spend so much time studying and doing research at the expense of a social life.

Creativity in Japan is weak because of the rigid “one-shot” entrance examination system the training in high schools is geared toward passing the exams. There is little room left to study other subjects. Michio Hasimoto of Nagoya University said, “Many students are interested in science, but they have to spend all their time preparing for university entrance examinations.”

Inadequate universities also weaken creativity in Japan. A lot less money and resources are devoted to the university system than elementary and secondary education. Researches are mainly conducted in business rather than universities. Universities’ neglect of basic science is apparent by most school’s run-down engineering and science facilities. Senior professors controls grants for research and would not allocate money to exotic research project proposals. Paperwork for all equipment purchases are repetitive and time consuming.

Japan’s education emphasizes on practicality rather than creativity. Rather than spending time and money for research, Japan rather learn and adapt to the technologies from other countries. Japanese business leaders have an effective strategy of buying patent rights from other parts of the world.

Japan’s educational system is standardized and uniform. Even without an

Adequate university system, the Japanese educational system produced one of the most highly educated populations in the world. Because of the strong emphasis on education in Japanese society, Japan is now a country that has a high literacy rate and advanced technology. The advanced technology that Japan possess are comparable and in sometimes, better than that of the United States.




Carolyn Kleiner “A Peek Behind Closed Doors,” US News and World Reports 30

August1999: 70.

“Best National Universities,” US News and World Reports 30 August1999: 88.

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