Thursday, November 02, 2006

How do you say "messed up" in Japanese?

What's messed up you ask? The Japanese education system apparently. If this isn't the proof that entrance exams are a bad idea, I don't know what is.

Basically, high schools across the country have modified their curriculum with the goal of getting their students higher marks on University Entrance exams. This means that more of their students would enter the top Universities, which would of course improve their reputations. In Japan's intensely competitive environment, test scores as early as elementary school will put you on track to a good job at one of Japan's powerful conglomerates or a job sweeping the trains.

Some schools eliminated courses on such "useless" subjects as World History and other soft-sciences and focused on science and math. Yeah, that's exactly what this country needs... LESS information about the outside world. So what does this mean? It means that current and past students at these schools do not meet the standards required to graduate. The discovery of these shenanigans has of course left school officials scrambling and they've come up with a plan to ensure that this year's seniors are able to graduate... they'll just have to take on an extra 50-70 hours of work (depending on which plan ends up being picked)... fun! Past graduates? They'll be left alone since it wasn't their fault.

The scary thing here is, as with most scandals in Japan, just how deep this thing goes. We're not talking about a few schools here. 540 high schools, or 10% of those in Japan, have so far been identified, the tally a few days ago was 7%. This scandal is affecting over 80,000 current students, who already have a stressful enough time going through school and cram school and language schools without the added pressure. How evil is it to have this done this to them? At first, I thought this wasn't really being taken seriously... but I now read that a principal in Ibaraki has taken his own life over this... There seems to be an institutionalized corruption here which, while not unique to Japan, certainly seems to have ingrained itself quite solidly.

Anywho, enough of that. Nice weather these days, Halloween party was great fun and tomorrow is a National Holiday, so that's something to look forward to. Yoshiko and I will be going to her hometown of Imaichi and hitting the Soba Festival with her mother, hope the weather is nice.

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