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Us Vs Japan's Education

Essay by   •  February 15, 2011  •  Research Paper  •  1,864 Words (8 Pages)  •  1,281 Views

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Education is the foundation of a strong and productive individual as well as being the foundation for a strong and productive country. Any country that keeps its' people uneducated or does not help to educate them cannot hold them entirely responsible for their actions that result from their lack of education. The United States and Japan both feel very strongly about education and that they need to have well educated people. Both of these countries have educational systems that are similar in some ways and yet very different in other ways. Both the similarities and the differences of these two systems give light to how each of these countries go about educating its' people and how much each of these countries value education.

The educational system in Japan has not always been the way it is today. In fact it went through the very drastic changes in the end of the eighteen hundreds and then again in middle of the nineteen hundreds; right after World War II. The Meiji government was the first imperial government and it came into power in 1868. This government had a relatively nonrestrictive textbook policy. Then in 1872 it passed the School System Law, but it still did not include a Textbook Compilation Bureau. In the 1880's, there was a surging of nationalistic sentiment among Confucian scholars and this group was led by Motoda (1818-91). Due to this feeling sweeping the country, Mori Arinori (1847-89) became Education Minister and under his leadership state control on what was taught and what was in textbooks tightened. Then there was the Imperial Rescript on Education of 1890. This document had three themes: that the foundation of the nation is Confucian Values, that the role of education is perfecting 'moral powers', and that the duty of the subjects is to respect the national polity headed by the emperor. In 1903 the government instated the national textbook system which compiled all pre-collegiate textbooks. The history books made during this period were super nationalistic and described the imperial family as direct descendants of God.

During the pre-war education period, the curriculums showed how nationalistic one country's schools could become. In addition, the fact that during the pre-war period elementary school (grades 1-6) was the only compulsory and free schooling in Japan. This shows that at the time school was not there for the purpose of enlightenment, but for creating machines. The curriculum for elementary school consisted of citizenship (morals, Japanese language, Japanese history and geography), science (science and arithmetic), physical training (physical education and the martial sports of Judo and Kendo) and the arts (drawing, calligraphy and handicrafts). During the higher levels of elementary school, domestic science was added for girls.

After a child goes through this level of education, it was very difficult to move on in school, especially for girls because they were rarely let into male middle schools. Another thing that hindered children making it further in school was that it was no longer free at the middle school level. In fact, only about ten percent of the males that graduated elementary school made it into middle school (grades 7-11) and only eight percent of girls went on. Most of those that did not pass the exam to get into middle school were sent to technical school. The curriculum at the male middle schools furthered the mind bending and machine making. The curriculum extended all things that were studied in elementary school and added Chinese Classics, practical work (woodworking, gardening, etc.) and above all; military training. This military training included drills, target practice, how to handle grenades, and machine gun usage. The military training received in school is similar to a washed down version of American boot camp. The female middle school was there for the purpose of "necessary and cultural education for girls, with special emphasis on national morality."-A, p.47. The middle school that girls attended seems to be very similar to the finishing school that a girl can attend in America. These schools were very demanding and pushed the children very hard. Along with the help of parents, who generally pushed their children harder than the schools, many kids buckled under the pressure, some even committed suicide. Past these middle schools were Universities. These Universities were even more selective than the middle schools. Although they were all private the government still wrote all textbooks and lesson plans.

When one looks back at the late eighteen hundreds to the mid nineteen hundreds of education in America one finds that there is really blemish after blemish. Americans were not educating to make machines like the Japanese, but we were educating only those who we felt deserved an education. The Japanese did not discriminate by skin color like was done in the Americas. The Japanese system was actually fixed before the system in the Americas, where minorities didn't even get the chance for a good education until 1954 with the court decision in Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka. There was one thing that was done in America that is much better than was done in Japan during the period. All school through the twelfth grade in the Americas was compulsory and free. The curriculum was much the same without the morals courses, and specialized gym and art classes. The same goes for the higher level classes. The other major thing that will change in the educational system in America is that in this pre-war era the teachers were allowed to discipline the children to point. This declined some and was almost gone by the end of the era, but not completely.

The post-war era in Japan brought about a lot of changes, most of which were at first pusher upon them by the Americans that were now occupying the country. There was a series of legislation that was put into effect to help to rectify the nationalistic feelings that ran through all textbooks and teachings. The first of these was "... American-imposed, liberal constitution, which, promulgated on November 3, 1946 and taking force on May 3, 1947, established a democratic system of government of the ruins of a failed militarism. Unlike the American Constitution, there are specific references to education in the Japanese document. Fr example, all forms of discrimination- including gender discrimination- are outlawed and academic freedom is guaranteed." (B, p.119) The second piece of legislation governing postwar education was the School Education Law. This law was passed on March 29, 1947 and set up a 6-3-3-4 education ladder; six years in elementary, three years in lower secondary, three years in higher secondary, and four years in a university. Also it raised the age of compulsory attendance from twelve to fifteen years old to ensure at least finishing lower secondary.

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