Friday, March 10, 2006

The Entrance Examination

This morning was an early day for the troops at AEON as we arrived at the office at the break of dawn (for us 1 to 9ers, the break of dawn is approximately 9AM) for a promo activity.

Today was a special day in the lives of Japanese Junior High School students and their families, and the weeks leading up to today were no doubt filled with stress and worry. This morning, at 10AM, the results of High School entrance exams were posted at schools everywhere in Tochigi. (or Japan?)

One major component of the Japanese education system is the infamous entrance exams. There are entrance exams for Junior High, High School and University, and some private schools even have tests for kindergarten\elementary students. The purpose of these standardized (in the public system) tests is to rank the students from best to not-so-best and assign them to the appropriate schools. The school system in Japan is still very much reflective of the class systems of the past, with the top students attending top schools, the average students in the middle level schools and the rest relegated to the bottom tier. Since the school a student attends has major weight in his\her future employment, this is a rather stressful time for many parents and kids in Japan.

This morning, we were there to witness the unveiling of the results... along with the corresponding cheers and cries of pain. Immediately after the numbers were shown from a second floor balcony at the school I was at, the gaggle of students erupted into a cacophony of shouts, and it was immediately clear which of those did not do well. Some students and parents erupted into tears upon seeing that the score just wasn't good enough to get into the top tier schools, no doubt (in their mind) relegating the kid to a life of servitude as a janitor somewhere. While I do not agree with putting this much stress on kids at such a young age, that's the way things are here and I can accept that. What I refuse to accept is the reaction of some of the parents whose children didn't do well. I saw several cases of parents immediately turning their backs to their kids in shame and strutting off to their cars leaving their whimpering 15 year old to follow behind them. The worst offenders were the fathers in the crowd, at least the mothers attempted to comfort their children in most cases with a pat on the back. (while their husbands' backs were turned of course) I certainly wouldn't want to be at the home of some of these folks for dinner tonight.

Sad really that the system puts so much stress on the family. It's especially sad considering that grouping lower level students together has been proven to negatively affect their learning. In a mixed class, the stronger students often help to motivate lower level students to do better and the higher level students learn useful skills by helping their peers. It seems that Japan focuses on the best of the best and tries to hide the rest under the carpet and pretend they don't exist. The sad part is, this whole charade will happen again in 3 years with the University entrance exams. Quite the interesting place this is.

So today turned into a 12 hour day, I am bushed and turning in soon. This week also saw the latest chapter in the Alts Bandai Ski incident saga with an insurance investigator coming to interview me to get the facts of what happened. This guy apparently goes around and gathers the facts from all the parties involved and then presents the facts to an insurance adjuster who assigns a certain percentage of guilt to all parties. The corresponding insurance companies then have to pay out according to that percentage. This is what happens when a country doesn't have good national health insurance... anything that happens you have to figure out who's gonna pay. Makes me proud to be Canadian. The highest percentage of liability in cases like ours usually goes to the upper skier\boarder, which would mean me. However, in this case, since the boarder cut me off while running perpendicular to the slope, the liability will likely be his. Either way, I don't really care since the insurance company will handle anything that comes down the pipes... it's just ridiculous that this is still going on two months later...

Tomorrow promises to be a long day with Scott off sick (minor case of the flu) and us left to take up the slack. But I do have a great day trip to Tokyo to look forward to on Sunday... should help me get through the day alright. AND, I am getting older soon... March 20th is the big day when I officially get closer to 30 than I am to 25...

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