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.

Sep 16
A car was partially buried due to small mudslide and three people sustained injuries after a magnitude-5.6 quake hit a wide area of Kanto region in Japan around noon on Tuesday, according to local report. (shanghaidaily.com)
Sep 16
Five Japanese citizens arrived at Pyongyang Monday to visit graves of their family members who have died in what is now North Korea around the end of World War II. (Jiji Press)
Sep 15
The government had lifted a vehicle ban on National Route 6 through the area where residency is restricted due to the crippled Fukushima No. 1 plant, the first time that stretch of highway has been open to automobiles since the nuclear crisis began in March 2011. (Japan Times)
Sep 15
The number of people aged 65 or older in Japan comes to a record 32.96 million as of Monday, accounting for an all-time high of 25.9 pct of the nation's total population, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications estimated Sunday. (Jiji Press)
Sep 15
The Asahi Shimbun, under fire for erroneous reports on Japan's wartime military brothels and the testimony of the late chief of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, revealed Sunday yet another scandal, saying it fabricated an interview with the president of Nintendo Co. (Kyodo)
Sep 16
Two women died and a third woman was injured after the car they were in went off a mountain road and plunged into a river in Hyuga, Miyazaki Prefecture, on Monday. (Japan Today)
Sep 15
Police said Monday they arrested a man by mistake after incorrectly measuring the size of a folding knife he had with him during a fight with his father. (Japan Times)
Sep 15
Police in Tsuchiura City, Ibaraki Prefecture, have arrested a 47-year-old ryokan manager for killing her husband. (Japan Today)
Sep 15
About 180 police officers on Monday continued their search for a fifth day for a 6-year-old girl who went missing while on her way home from school in Kobe. (Japan Today)
Sep 15
US Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy has participated in a cycling event in an area that was severely hit by the massive earthquake and tsunami in 2011. (NHK)
Sep 15
Yasutomo Ihara, a former stuntman known for his participation in the Kamen Rider franchise, has since turned his training to nefarious ends. (rocketnews24.com)
Sep 15
A grilled saury festival drew around 30,000 people near JR Meguro Station in Tokyo on Sunday. (Japan Today)
Sep 15
A ceremony for the second "Cool Japan" awards was held at the Consulate-General of Japan in Los Angeles on Saturday. (NHK)
Sep 14
A centuries-old festival has begun in Osaka, western Japan, with spectators flocking to see massive carts being pulled through the streets at breakneck speeds. (NHK)
Sep 14
Police in Sayama, Saitama Prefecture, have arrested a 43-year-old man for fatally abusing his 4-year-old daughter. (Japan Today)