Japan's bad education
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.

Oct 01
The death toll from Japan's volcanic eruption rose to 48 on Wednesday, the worst in 88 years, after more victims were discovered on the ash-covered summit. (Reuters)
Oct 01
Fukuoka prefectural police continued cracking down on the Kudo-kai crime syndicate with the rearrests Oct. 1 of its two top leaders along with the arrests of seven other members in connection with the stabbing of a nurse. (Asahi)
Oct 01
A Japanese man who allegedly kicked a fellow diner to death in a fight over seats in a ramen eatery calmly returned to his food as the other man lay dying, media reported Tuesday. (Japan Today)
Oct 01
Japanese swimmer Naoya Tomita was given the green light Tuesday to leave South Korea after paying a one million won ($950) fine for stealing a journalist's camera during the Asian Games. (Japan Today)
Oct 01
Of a total of 110 active volcanoes in the nation, the Japan Meteorological Agency's Coordinating Committee for Predictions of Volcanic Eruption identified 47 volcanoes in June 2009 that have the possibility of eruption within about a century and therefore need stronger surveillance and supervision. (The Japan News)
Oct 01
Tokai Mayor Osamu Yamada joined others in prayer Tuesday for the victims of a criticality accident at a nuclear fuel processing facility in Tokai village 15 years ago. (The Japan News)
Sep 30
Police in Ichihara, Chiba Prefecture, said Tuesday they have arrested a 37-year-old man for kidnapping and assaulting a 12-year-old boy. (Japan Today)
Sep 30
Lava bombs that rained down in the immediate aftermath of the eruption on Mount Ontakesan likely killed many of the climbers who were trapped in the disaster, according to experts. (Asahi)
Sep 30
Tokyo Metropolitan Police last week raided a cabaret in the Roppongi entertainment district for licensing violations, reports TV Asahi (Tokyo Reporter)
Sep 30
Saitama prefectural police said Monday that a 54-year-old police officer has been arrested after he assaulted two train station attendants. (Japan Today)
Sep 29
Japan's entertainment industry has become so filled with idol groups that some call this the age of the "idol war." (Japan Times)
Sep 29
Miranda Kerr was a Victoria's Secret model, and she teased us with just a hint of her bra while out in Paris earlier today. (mirror.co.uk)
Sep 28
A Japanese climber attempting to scale the world's eighth-highest peak slipped and was killed, becoming the first casualty of Nepal's autumn climbing season, an official said on Sept. 27. (Asahi)
Sep 28
Police in Tokyo said Saturday they have arrested a 24-year-old clerk at the Tokyo District Court and a 39-year-old employee of the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ on suspicion of molesting a woman in her 20s on the subway. (Japan Today)
Sep 27
Police in Kobe said Friday they have found a rucksack belonging to Mirei Ikuta, 6, in the apartment of the man being held on suspicion of abandoning her dismembered body. (Japan Today)