My posts have been describing the difference of the educations but now I am going to explore the ideas and concepts behind the scenes. In Japanese society, academics are considered to be the most important aspect of kids’ growth. There is no doubt that academics are very important, but Japanese parents see it in a difference way. Parents see it as an absolute obligation and they need to push their children as hard as possible to achieve the goal, which is to get in the top ranked high school and university.
Why are parents so much more concerned? I think it mainly because of they were raised that way as well. Asian society in general has an idea of study as more important than anything else. One can only succeed if he/she scores high on national tests and works in government agencies. Now it’s different because there are many private corporations to work for; however, the gist has not changed. Only by excelling in academics more than others can people succeed; hence the rising of cram schools numbers. Cram schools have increased rapidly because of the number of students who were “forced” to attend by their parents. Regular schooling now is considered to be insufficient. The rudimentary courses provided by the public schools only establish basic background information, so parents feel the obligation to send their kids to cram school. Most parents do it because they hear it from a friend or a relative that the cram school’s system is working really well. It’s like spreading news about a restaurant with delicious food. Personally been to different cram schools myself, I found cram school sometimes helpful but other times didn’t. The reason that it could be helpful is that cram school teaches the materials that have been taught at school with a different approach. While sometimes students might not understand what the teachers at school are talking about, they might apprehend the concepts in the cram school. Different students learn in a separate way and some students would excel under cram school because they are learning at their best. However, not everyone is suitable of the education of cram school.
On the other hand, some kids don’t need to go to cram school. They are perfectly content with how the teachers are teaching them in class. In most cases, as long as these kind of students are excelling at a certain level, their parents won’t force them to go to cram school with no purpose. However, children like this are extremely uncommon because of the amount of subject that students learn at school. In general, Japanese students normally learn six to seven subjects a day and parents expect them to excel in every single of them. If the student fails in one subject, the student will most likely be sent to cram school to work on that specific area.
In some cases, if students are doing well in every single subject, parents might still send them to cram school. It’s not because parents want the students to excel even more in the subjects that they already studied, but letting their children to learn ahead of schedule. Learning ahead has become more and more important for some parents because it will give their children advantages over others who don’t study ahead. Moreover, the areas are most likely to be mathematics or sciences. There are many reasons behind this preference. A major cause maybe what Japanese consider as an ideal job. Jobs such as a business or executive of a company are generally considered as an ideal job and these job all require high levels of analyzing ability.
In addition to academics, Japanese parents also let their kids learn instruments. Especially the parents nowadays intend to let their children learn at least one instrument. The most popular instruments are piano and violin. Why are these two instruments most popular? No one knows the exact answer. An explanation could be that everyone is just following the trend. Plus the piano and the violin are not as loud as other wind instruments. Since most people live in an apartment with many other people, it would be rude for some to play an loud instrument at all times. Parents generally are not expecting their children to be the next Beethoven, but they see it as a way to diversify their children and perhaps let them take a break from academics when they are tired. Although academics are seen as the top priority of Japanese children, parents don’t expect them to study all the time. Music is an extracurricular activity that parents can ensure the children’s safety. Of course not all of the children would continue their music studies as they grow older, but music is commonly seen as a minor aspect of a child’s life.
Sports are often encouraged by parents as well, but they are nothing but another minor activity. Japanese parents seldom send their children to summer camps for a month. During vacation, children often go to cram school to study extra materials or learn ahead. Sports camps are unpopular especially in the city because of the lack of facility and interests. Japanese children often just play basketball or baseball on their own without any coaches. It’s leisure for children instead a potential job opportunity in the future. One might ask what happens if a Japanese student is excelling in a particular sport? There are two possible scenarios.
The most common scenario is the parents would not support their children to play in college. Generally, Japanese parents don’t see the possibility of playing professionally because of the lack of attention from the society. There are professional sports team in Japan, but it’s extremely competitive and studying seems to be easier than competing sports nationally. The situation however differs due to the sports and families. For instance, baseball is one of the most popular sports in Japan and thousands of kids want to play in the league. Only the top tier players could get the chance of playing in it, so parents are generally unsupportive due to the low odds and high expectations in academics.
Another possible scenario is the parents would support their children by sending them abroad instead. Japanese parents see the limited potential of advancing in Japan, so parents desire to send their children to an appropriate place to develop their sport skills properly and professionally. However, the cases are fewer compared to the first scenario because the amount of money that they parents need to invest is very high.
Overall, the academic expectations from the parents still dominate the lives of Japanese students. Although the trend has shifted a little bit towards the diverse side, the public is still not comfortable to change. Perhaps there is no need to change because this system maybe more suitable in Japanese society, but one never knows whether American education system would work in Japan without trying. In my opinion, a mix of the two educations will be reached in the next twenty years. Japanese education system and parents’ attitudes will definitely different from now.