Japan and its standardized test-based education Part 5

by Kevin R Burns

Imagine what would happen if, instead of requiring cookie-cutter curriculums, we gave all teachers the freedom — and trust — to fulfill their calling as educators.

“When you’re in a situation where teachers feel trust and autonomy, then they have a big investment in making it work,” –

Gabrielle Howard

(Kanagawa, Japan)

Japan and its standardized test-based education system Part 5

More Comments on the article from Japan Today:

tkoind2 states:

“Working in Japan I see three huge gaps in education. 1. Critical Thinking and 2. Problem Solving. 3. Independent Thought.

My work spans technical and business worlds and I far too often see Japanese colleagues lacking the capacity for critial thinking. The ability to re-engineer something seems to be a very strong trait here, yet the ability to work though an abstract problem using critical thought processes seems to be lacking in far too many people I meet in business.

Second. Problem solving. I have to wonder how students are trained to address problems. Perhaps it is a collective approach which stunts individual capacity to resolve problems quickly. Trial and error approaches seem equally lacking. Often my western colleagues will arrive at several quick potential solutions to a problem, while our Japanese peers are still working the details, often collectively.

Independent thought. Getting someone to take the risk to posit an opinion or go out on a limb with a solution is like making rain in the desert here. I know these young workers are smart people, but without someone directing them, they stop moving. If they hit a problem they stop and wait for instructions rather than exercising critical thinking, problem resolution skills and independent thought to move past it.

Japan is doing a disservice to the people here by teaching them to answer test questions rather than teaching them to use accumulated knowledge to develop these three critical life, technical and business skill sets.”

“I completely agree with the lack of creativity, independent thinking and problem-solving skills. But it is not only due to the standardized tests-based system, although that most definitely is a factor.

No, another big factor is hierarchy. People HAVE opinions, people ARE able to work out solutions on their own, but they are extremely reluctant to make themselves heard. Not stepping on the toes of a superior, and not standing out / drawing attention to yourself in general, are of such overwhelming importance that frankly business efficiency becomes secondary. “Conformity” is Prime Directive A1 in Japan.

I have had many discussions with Japanese businessmen in their 30s and 40s who know that the Japanese must become more assertive, outgoing, independent-minded, creative etc to compete successfully on the global stage, particularly when it comes to China and North Korea. But the powers that be—ie the older generation—cannot adapt to this reality and demand, and get, conformity simply because of seniority.

Another problem is the obsession with details, the idea that “perfection” (whatever that is) lies in making every single detail of something, no matter how trifle, perfect. In my field, publishing, that means focusing obsessively on making sure terminology is absolutely consistent, not a single comma is missing anywhere—while at the same time completely losing sight of the overall message of a publication, how it reads, if it is interesting/inviting/engaging and whether it is actually communicative or not. This approach, while admirable up to a certain extent, wastes huge amounts of time and resources.”

–Tranel (Japan and its standardized test-based education system,Japan Today Comments)

Japan and its Standardized Test-Based Education System to Japan Living (home)

Japan and its Standardized Test-Based Education System to Daily Life in Japan

Mike Guest on the Education System in Japan and his son

“All the students in the elementary schools I work at take four standardized tests a year: One test is taken at the beginning, middle, and end of the school year to gauge academic progress and a different test is also taken at the end of the school year for State and Federal evaluation of acceptible yearly progress. The one complaint I repeatedly hear from the teachers is that all this testing locks the teachers into a strait-jacketed lesson plan. There is no time to allow for deviation from the plan because too much course material must be covered before the end-of-year State test.” –Fadamor (Japan and its standardized test-based education system, Japan Today Comments)

“I’ve been teaching English full-time in Japan for 20 years, and I the author of this article is spot on. (I’ve also taught music most of my life.) Japanese have a terrible time expressing themselves, in Japanese or English; it doesn’t matter. And I agree; things start to deteriorate from junior high school when testing becomes the focus of education.

I recently asked some third year high school students whether or not, given the opportunity, they would like to live abroad, and why or why not. Most who said yes gave simple reasons like, “because the people are kind in that country”, or `because I like the food there.`

I think most of us move to other countries for the challenge, for new work opportunities, or for a better future. When asked their opinion, most Japanese have difficulty expressing themselves at a deeper level–answers tend to be very obvious or superficial–without substance or support to back it up.”

–Aspects (Japan and its standardized test-based education system, Japan Today Comments)

On St. Anne’s School in the USA:

“But standardized tests were never given at Saint Ann’s — they don’t even give grades. Instead, the teachers are given free reign to create their own curriculum based on the things they want to learn more about.”

About kintaro63

Writer and teacher in Japan
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