Under the current education system, Japanese students devote most of their effort to memorizing facts needed to pass exams. Even kindergarten students sometimes go to afterschool cram schools to prepare for elementary school entrance exams.
They have little opportunity to think critically or develop their own ideas. Faced with crushing stress and monotony, students often act out. While outside observers tend to think of Japanese schools as academically successful, the Japanese themselves have long understood their educational system's shortcomings and tried to fix them-albeit unsuccessfully.
In the early '70s the Japan Teachers Union, alarmed by a surge in classroom violence, bullying, truancy and suicides, began to push a new system known as yutori, or breathing space. It aimed to reduce school-related stress by giving students the freedom to freely exercise their imagination, develop intellectual curiosity and grow into valuable talent.
That was a noble goal, but the result was quite the opposite. Many teachers demonized competition, suppressed individuality, punished intellectual rigor and encouraged mediocrity in the name of egalitarianism. At school sports events, students who could sprint faster had to stop and wait so that everyone could cross the finish line hand-in-hand. Textbooks were dumbed down-the mathematical constant pi was reduced to just "3"-and classes trudged at turtle pace, adjusting to slow learners.
In order for the yutori reform to succeed, teachers needed to establish an environment where students could freely ask questions, express their opinions and explore new ideas. But many teachers failed to do so because they did not know how to encourage individuality while avoiding favoritism. Their solution: force everyone to act the same.
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A global framework for trademark registration will be changed to permit the use of Chinese and Japanese characters, making it easier to protect Japan's brands as its culture takes off in Asia and beyond. (Nikkei)
A report released Wednesday by the International Narcotics Control Board revealed that Mexican drug cartels have extended their reach to Japan, where methamphetamine seizures have doubled compared to the previous year. (UPI)
Japan's idol world is quite…expansive, for lack of a better word. Even with the wide variety of groups running around, it can be hard to really tell them apart-though we have to say there was no mistaking Osaka's Obachaaan for any other group. (rocketnews24.com)
Microsoft Corp. cofounder Paul Allen said on Twitter Tuesday the Imperial Japanese Navy's World War II battleship Musashi has been found at the bottom of the Sibuyan Sea off the central Philippines. (Jiji Press)
The world's oldest person says 117 years doesn't seem like such a long time. Misao Okawa, the daughter of a kimono maker, made the comment Wednesday, at a celebration a day before her 117th birthday. Appropriately, she was wearing a pink kimono decorated with cherry blossom prints. (nydailynews.com)
The Tokyo High Court rejected Wednesday an appeal filed by a former senior member of the AUM Shinrikyo cult against a nine-year prison term handed down by a lower court for his involvement in three crimes. (Kyodo)
Osaka Prefectural Police on Friday announced the arrest of a late-shift taxi driver from Joto Ward for allegedly raping a number of intoxicated female passengers, reports the Asahi Shimbun. (Tokyo Reporter)