The Japanese educational system has long been both admired and criticized for its rigorous yet stifling way of teaching their children. But whichever way you look at it, it cannot be denied that Japanese children are the best in the world when it comes to mathematics and literacy, and it has also led to Japanese adults topping the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) study in both sets of skills as well.
Children in Japan begin “formal and intense” learning in mathematics and the Japanese language as early as 6 and up to age 15, the earliest that a student can actually leave school. For those who will continue on to senior high school up to age 18 when they graduate, they also have to study several subjects which includes Japanese literature, English, and yes, another three years of math. When it comes to reading kanji, Chinese characters that are used for Japanese modern writing, children are expected to learn 1,006 characters when they finish primary school, then 1,130 characters when they end compulsory education by 15, and then more than 2,000 if they continue on to senior high school. This has led to a literacy level of almost 99% in Japan, something that is unheard of in most countries.
But not everything is always positive about this kind of system. A good foundation in math and literacy doesn’t always lead to good communication skills in English, even if they also have a good grasp of English grammar rules and basic comprehension. And because they are constantly pushed to memorize information and pass exams, some say this has led to too much pressure on children as well as no sense of independent thought among adults. There is a huge number of cram schools (“juku”) where kids spend most of their evenings studying more in order to get better grades and get into a prestigious university afterwards.
For some, the benefits of this educational system outweighs the bad. A study conducted by the OECD among its 22 member states, plus Russia and Cyprus, show that Japanese adults are way ahead when it comes to math and literacy skills. Those between the ages of 25 and 34 who only finished secondary education were still ahead in writing skills than those from the same age bracket who graduated from university. Just 4.9% of the Japanese adults tested 1 or less on a scale of 1 to 5 which indicates difficulty in reading simple texts.
[ via The Guardian ]
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