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.
The organizing committee of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics on Friday showed the original design of Kenjiro Sano's Olympic and Paralympic Games logo embroiled in a plagiarism dispute, backing the Japanese designer's claim that he did not copy a Belgian theater logo. (Kyodo)
The Diet passed a bill Friday aiming to promote the role of women in the workplace, along with greater female participation in the economy at a time when the country's population is expected to shrink further. (Japan Times)
Japan criticized China's official Xinhua News Agency on Friday for having demanded an apology from Emperor Akihito over Japan's wartime acts, saying such a claim was "extremely discourteous to His Majesty the Emperor." (Kyodo)
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is likely to be reelected president of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party as early as Sept. 8, as no one apparently plans to challenge him, it was learned Thursday. (Jiji Press)
A bogus smartphone tip spreading through tweets is causing a headache for the National Police Agency as users have been tricked into dialing the emergency number 110 in at least 22 prefectures. (Japan Times)
An American man arrested earlier this month in connection with the death of a Japanese woman whose body was found off the coast of Miura, Kanagawa Prefecture, is expected to face another arrest warrant shortly, this time for killing the woman, an investigative source said Wednesday. (Japan Times)
Koji Yamada, the 45-year-old man who was arrested in Osaka Prefecture last week for abandoning a girl's body, was questioned by police in Tokyo before committing the alleged crime, it was learned on Wednesday. (Jiji Press)
Police raided the headquarters of Japan's largest yakuza syndicate Yamaguchi-gumi on Tuesday after 14 workers at a waste disposal plant in Kobe, western Japan, became sick after treating waste from the building early this month. (Japan Times)
Toyama Prefectural Police on Tuesday arrested a 56-year-old woman for allegedly dumping the body of her father outside their home in Takaoka City. Investigators are now working to apply murder charges, reports the Asahi Shimbun (Aug. 26). (Tokyo Reporter)