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Japanese School Systems Vs. American

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Japanese School Systems vs. American

For years, people have always felt that the Japanese school system was superior or more effective than that of the United States. Although some feel this way, others feel that the Japanese system is too strict and not flexible enough for those who may need extra help along the way. Through researching two different case studies, and also reading other materials, I have found many similarities along with many differences between the two, including teaching methods, overall emphases, and student involvement. Both countries have developed very effective and intricate systems of teaching, which compliment, and clash against one another. The Japanese system is not in all ways superior to that of the United States; however, there are a few different reasons why people may feel that the Japanese are in fact "smarter" than us. To begin with though, one must have an understanding of both systems and a basic knowledge of how they work.

The United States federal government virtually has no control over our education system. As result, neither a national curriculum, nor a national education system, has ever been enforced. Instead, according to (Hume. "International students...) each state has its own Department of Education. This department sets guidelines for all


the schools in that particular state, decides from where the school's will get their money, regulates the licensing of teachers, and also decides on a minimum required amount of days that children need to be in school. Each school district also has a school board, who helps with all the major decisions within the school district. The members of these boards are elected in, and usually serve for a few years.

Most of American school's funding comes from local property taxes, and state taxes. Due to this set up, many people complain that equal educational opportunities are not introduced to all children. They argue that the level of education a child will receive is directly reflective of the type of economic area they come from. For example, a child that comes from a rural, less wealthy part of the state will not receive the same opportunities, or the same value of education as a child who grows up in a rich suburban town. These people feel that all children should be given the same opportunities regardless of the social or economic environment that they live in.

Often times, American education systems are compared to those of others around the world, especially to Japan. As a result of this, the system is constantly receiving criticism concerning the quality of the American system. (U.S.D.E. The Educational System in the U.S...) In fact, a recent study done by the National Institute on Student Achievement, Curriculum, and Assessment, states that in fourth grade math, Japan ranks third out of twenty-six countries while the U.S. ranks only twelfth, and that in eighth grade math, Japan keeps the ranking of third out of forty-one, while the U.S. drops to twenty-eighth. As result of these criticisms, sets of voluntary guidelines and standard achievement tests have recently been introduced as an effort to "catch up" to the other


countries of the world. National standards in math, science, and history have all been published, and have influenced many different states, and their schools, to change and somewhat conform curriculum. These standards are designed to promote the improvement of school standards, make school districts more equal, and make it easier to see where we are as a country in regards to education of young people. Some, however, feel that these national standards, though voluntary, may bring schools which are already thriving down to the minimum level suggested. They also fear that these standards will allow local governments to become lazy in funding and in concern for the schools. Regardless to the arguments, simply the idea of enforced nation standards has raised more discussion and communication between the government and city schools and teachers. ( U.S.D.E. The Education system of the United States...)

Japan, on the other hand, has a much different type of education system. This system is ultimately controlled by the national government. The Japanese Ministry of Education or the Monbusho, oversees the entire academic system. It certifies textbooks, develops national high school entrance exams, and regulates training of teachers. (U.S.D.E. The Educational System of Japan...) The Monbusho also develops national education standards in which all school are required to follow. This committee is formed of educational officials and nationally-recognized education authorities. (U.S.D.E. The Educational System of Japan...)

The Monbusho is also in charge of publishing curricular guidelines, and usually makes these guidelines readily available. Textbook publishers use these guidelines when developing books for school districts. Also, education authorities, school, and teachers


use these guidelines when in developing curriculums which conform to those issued by the Monbusho. After these guidelines are published, workshops are set up where representatives of region boards may come and receive training in the new ways. These representatives then return to their districts and in turn train teachers.

The Monbusho "makes clear the content, the desired order, and the duration of instruction for all subjects and all grades," (U.S.D.E. The Educational System of Japan...) however, they do not closely monitor how much each school actually conforms to them. Local boards of education and school officials are allowed to make slight adjustments in the nation curriculum in order to make it more appropriate to that of the school's education level. Primarily, though, all curriculums must be conformed mainly to that of the national standards. In addition to these guidelines, instructional plans are either personally developed by the teacher, or taken from teachers' manuals. These plans direct the teacher as to what will be taught and how much time should be devoted to that one topic.

Every ten years, the Monbusho revises, and re-publishes the national standards. After taking a survey about the old curriculum, looking at new curriculum goals, developing the new proposal, and presenting it to an in-service group of teachers, the final curriculum is approved. By changing the curriculum ever 10 years, the Japanese feel that the system will continue to become more modernized and more effective. The first curriculum mainly focused on life experiences and practical knowledge. Progressively, the second release had a larger focus on basic education skills on subjects such as



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