It is also important that educational reformers and governments understand the difference between what has been good in the education of Japan and what can be termed as self defeating. To understand the difference better, given below is an understanding of the Japanese form of education and the various ideals that shape it.
The Japanese system of education
While official education in Japan begins from the first standard up till the ninth standard , unofficially preschool is an important part of education too. A vast majority of Japanese children attend preschool after which the official education framework provides for free and compulsory schooling from grade one to grade nine. The syllabus is balanced, extensive and covers varied subjects like mathematics, sciences, social sciences and languages. Grades ten to twelve are known as upper secondary school. Though these grades are not compulsory, 94% of students do complete lower secondary schooling. One third of the students from upper secondary go into post graduate studies where universities offer complete four-year education and junior colleges offer two-years of education. Women’s education is also given equal importance and opportunities are rendered to women through special universities or co-educational institutions.
Japan’s educational ideals
The Japanese system of education has been influenced by various factors and ideals through its history, from the ancient, to the medieval and modern times. Even though foreign ideas have influenced the education system at times, and have rendered Western ideas of liberalization, it has gone back to its age old ideals. After the period of Meiji Restoration, study missions were sent to US, France and Russia and a national education system based on Western ideas was established. However, in a little while, some Western ideas like individualism were found unsuitable (Beauchamp, 1985) and soon most of traditional Japanese education was restored. What remained about the foreign influence was just the structure of grade school, junior high and high school. Coeducation and compulsory education up till the age of 15 were also retained. Japanese tradition gives importance to respect for society, team goals and hard work, factors that reflect in its education system as well. Academic excellence is stressed upon and statistics reveal that Japanese school children, begin to earnestly study right from kindergarten. The society of Japan is highly education-minded, disciplined, and morally inclined. While such a system has its benefits, over the years these ideals of education have had their negative impacts too. Here is a critical examination of the educational ideals that shape Japan and the benefits and ill effects the system has had on individuals and the society at large.
Academic achievements are an important ideal in Japanese education. Students work hard to score well starting from the stage of kindergarten onwards. From childhood, students have to constantly cope up with learning, memorizing and passing examinations, a necessary prerequisite for admissions into college to pursue higher education. In many cases where student miss classes due to illness, parents take notes of lessons missed in class. Parents take serious part in parent-teacher meetings and also send their children to private tuitions2 so that they can score well in studies. A student's competence is tested in competitive college examinations, where high grades are vital