A native of Sasebo, Japan. Yuko Kawaguchi graduated from Kwassui Women’s College with a degree in English Literature.
Yuko Kawaguchi was employed by the Commander US Fleet Activities Sasebo in 1999. Currently serves as official translator for the Commander/command’s Community Relations/Civil Affairs specialist/Protocol advisor for Japanese and American VIP visits and Liaison officer between the Commander and the representatives of the Japanese government including Japan Self-Defense Force, advising the Commander Fleet Activities, Sasebo, on matters of civil affairs.
Her hobbies include reading, studying foreign languages, and watching traditional Japanese drama ‘Kabuki.’ She is married to Mr. Todd Chen.
Education in Japan
written by Yuko Kawaguchi (pictured on the right)
The original modern Japanese education system was established in 1872 after the Meiji Restoration (a chain of events that restored practical imperial rule to Japan in 1868 under Emperor Meij.) Until 1945 (WWII), male and female Japanese students studied in different classrooms. The new School Education Law was established in 1947, and this law enables all children to have an opportunity to study regardless of their sex or their parents’ social status (rich or poor).
Currently in Japan, children are required to attend Elementary and Junior High schools. (Elementary: Grades 1-6, Junior High: Grades 7-9) According to the Ministry of Educations, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT), the percentage of Japanese high school graduates who go on to Universities is 63.2% in 2014.However, High school is not compulsory. Junior High graduates must take entrance exams to go to high schools. The existence of high school entrance exams may be the reason Japan has one of the largest number of cram schools (Juku) in the world. There are even cram schools for passing the exam for prestigious private kindergartens. Those kindergartens give children better chances to be accepted to affiliated universities without taking the difficult entrance exam for the universities (it’s like Harvard University having different affiliated Harvard elementary schools, junior high schools and high schools…)
Due to its’ heavy emphasis on achieving academic success in a highly pressurized environment, Japanese society experienced some major educational problems between the 1960’s and 1980’s. The number of bullying, violence, truancy, and drop-outs increased during that period. As a result, the MEXT introduced in the 1990s a new curriculum with less strenuous education, which is often called ‘Yutori Kyoiku (pressure-free education)’. But due to some extreme versions of yutori education, the students who received it experienced problems such as a decline in academic performance, failure in social adjustment, and lack of common sense, especially after they start working in society. (They are called the yutori generation). In 2007, Prime Minister Abe started working on changing the Japanese educational system to get rid of ‘Yutori’ education. (Japanese children) In Japanese schools, children study in the same classroom with the same classmates for the entire year. Each class has its own teacher and an assistant teacher.
From junior high school to high school, all students are required to wear the designated uniform, school bags, socks, shoes, and gym clothes. Each school has similar rules and regulations in regards to the students’ appearances, such as hairstyle and the length of jackets and skirts.
Even at school events such as sports day or field days, teachers strictly monitor children to ensure they abide by the rules. (i.e. the total amount of snacks that children bring must not exceed 300 yen) It is often pointed out that academics in Japanese school are mostly ‘rote memorization’ and do not give children the opportunity to express their own opinions. In Japanese schools, students always have to follow the rules and do the same as their classmates. That is probably the main reason Japanese are shy and hardly express their opinions.
In most classes, only teachers speak and children have to listen very quietly. The traditional Japanese way of thinking is to respect senior people or elders. Teachers have a lot of power over children.Students clean their classrooms and bathrooms after classes. There is no hired cleaning person at schools. That may be why Japanese people try to keep the public places clean. During lunchtime, students take turns in groups to serve lunch to other students (the food itself is cooked by hired people).
Students always have to be polite and behave themselves at schools. Even after a school day is over, students have to go back home without stopping by any stores or restaurants. Sometimes, local adults report to schools if students are doing something wrong. Students are always wearing a uniform, so people know which school they belong to.
In Japan, most schools have no school bus, so students have to walk to and from school in groups.Teachers used to have lots of power even over parents and have the same level of respect as a medical doctor or lawyer). However, it is changing now due to the increasing number of parents who have the higher academic background. These parents are called ‘Monster Parents’ because they tend to disrespect the teaching profession. This is becoming a social problem.
Japanese people can perform effectively when working together as a group because of the Japanese school system. If one student performs extremely well, other students may try to make him fail (often unconsciously). Japanese people feel more comfortable by doing the same as others.
For Japanese students who participate in after-school sports, they stay at schools until around 1800 every day. Even Saturday and Sunday, they go to school to practice. In addition to regular classes, students must take additional classes before and after regular school hours (inside the school itself, so it’s not considered as cram school). These classes are taught by the same teachers in regular school and require students to pay a little bit. Most students have to attend these classes to pass the entrance exams for universities/colleges.
This may be the reason many Japanese adults are workaholics and tend to work long hours in their jobs. Also, the school system may be the reason Japanese workers always have to say “yes” to their superiors at work.(Education and discipline at Home) Japanese parents discipline their children to be polite, to have good manners and common sense so that children will not trouble others. Japanese parents tend to spoil children by making them the center of the family and letting them have more decision-making power (this is opposite in school). Adults in general also indulge children in public when they do not behave. Most parents make children decide where to go or what to eat. Some Japanese parents, especially mothers, care more about keeping up their children’s appearances (such as having academic success and high-paying jobs afterwards) than developing children’s personalities, interests and curiosities.
Below is an article from the Huffington Post that challenges us to compare Academic Achievement in both countries