The Japanese Education System

by Yasuhiro Nemoto


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This comprehensive study of the Japanese education system follows the Japanese child from the kindergarten, through the progressively more arduous and competitive environments of the elementary, middle and high schools, to the relative relaxation, even hedonism, of university life. Drawing on numerous surveys and on the author's personal experience, it provides a wealth of information on teaching methodologies, discipline, class sizes, the school day, assessment and the national curriculum. It also examines the role of the central Ministry of Education and the local boards in administering education throughout the country, and outlines and assesses the government's recent programs of educational reform. The behavior, attitudes and expectations of pupils and parents are discussed in detail, and placed within their political, social and historical context, revealing the complex cultural assumptions determining learning and socialization in Japan.

This study thus contributes to the efforts of educators and sociologists to understand and evaluate different approaches to education in diverse cultures, increasingly important in the global information age. It shows how the American and Japanese education systems are based on fundamentally different concepts of society: democratic individualism and hierarchic collectivism respectively. While discussing the positive and negative effects of each extreme, it suggests that American educators might learn from a system in which truancy, insolence, violence and drug abuse are comparatively rare. However, the study shows how the traditional ideals of Japanese education - unquestioning acceptance, self-sacrifice, and respect for superiors - face serious challenges in a time of globalization, and moral, social and cultural change.