Why do foreigners think Japanese education is wonderful?

There are plenty of good English language sources telling us the real good and bad of Japanese schooling, and still we regularly get news stories telling us that “Japan’s School System Tops International Rankings while Spending Little by Investing in Top-Notch Teachers“. Oh, come on!



  1. alexcase said,

    October 6, 2010 at 12:00 pm

    Well dealt with by Let’s Japan


  2. gaijinass said,

    October 6, 2010 at 8:37 pm

    Statistically they do very well because what they are asking of students is absurdly low level. At both the Highschools I currently work at, the passing percetnage is 28%. Yes, a student only needs 28% to pass. In addition to this, I have been told in NO UN CERTAIN TERMS: “Make sure all the students pass.”

    These are “good” schools with very recognizable names.

    Like so many things here, appearances ie Statistics, are what people see. People in the know, know better however.

  3. crella said,

    October 7, 2010 at 4:46 am

    That wouldn’t have flown at the junior high or high school our son went to, but then again in every district there are superb schools and then all the way down to trade schools and others where all you have to do is show up to graduate…

  4. crella said,

    October 7, 2010 at 4:49 am

    Not knocking your school, by the way, just saying that there is a huge variation in educational level from the top school to the bottom one in each district. Our son went to the third-ranked school out of 7 or 8 in our area, (7 I think) and as you looked at the schools as the levels got lower you had more kids with dyed hair, shoplifting priors etc.

  5. alexcase said,

    October 16, 2010 at 4:26 am

    Here’s a nice explanation:

    “The details Americans cite as the merits of the Japanese system actually reflect their ideal of the mythical ‘real world’ where people must work hard- long hours, the emphasis on discipline and basic skills, the tough competition among peers. These people admire the Japanese school system because they see it as a samurai version of their own fantasies about the American work ethic”

    Polite Lies by Kyoko Mori, page 163

  6. gaijinass said,

    October 16, 2010 at 5:26 am

    Both schools I am talking about, these would be considered “Good schools”.

    Strict dress codes, no “yankee” type outfitting or styles. I honestly can say I don’t have single “bad” student. But the overall level is low. I have worked in some capacity at over 25 different schools over the last 7 years and consistently, people just go through the system. Nobody fails. They don’t do that in Japan.

    It is all a dog and pony show.

    And the above quote from Mori is just wrong.
    The reasons I think Americans have this fantasy regarding Japanese educaton are 3 fold. 1. The media. Before coming to Japan I saw several shows detailing the grueling education system in Japan. Oh boy! 3 different alphabets etc etc etc. 2. The entire Asian American community plays up the “Asians are smart and study hard” myth and this is another prop for the Japanese education legend. 3. The Japanese who actually are innovators and are intelligent by and large DO NOT STAY IN JAPAN to do research or innovate. They go abroad to the freedom and financing of American universities. What people see in PhD programs in the USA is the absolute cream of the crop from Japan intellectually, yet they cannot stay in their own country because frankly, they are TOO smart. They have to go abroad to pursue their goals.

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