[book review] Japan's education is not bad & Do what you love and love what you do!




日本の教育はダメじゃない ――国際比較データで問いなおす

Japan's education is not bad - international comparative data shows


I picked up this book because I have recently been involved in several Japanese high school students' activities. As a result, I found it the most exciting book I have read in the last 12 months. And at the same time, I wanted more people to read it. Unfortunately, the book is only available in Japanese.

The title of the book, "Education in Japan is not bad", is entirely irrefutable. The book results from a seven-to-eight-year study conducted by two researchers at Kyoto University. It compares education in Japan with that of other countries by quantitatively analysing PISA and other educational data. There is no such thing as a perfect education, and no matter how good an education you have, there will always be something to fault. However, this book analyses Japanese education relative to other countries rather than an absolute perfection measure.

As the title suggests, Japanese education has always been one of the highest globally, and it is surprising to think again that a country of over 100 million people can maintain equality in education, unlike smaller countries such as Hong Kong and Singapore, which are above it.

All in all, the two things that struck me in the data-based analysis that I didn't expect and that have stuck with me are as follows

  1. The standard of education in Japan is high, regardless of the consequences of changing educational policies.

  2. Japanese school teachers work more than one full day longer than teachers in other countries.

Two points of interest from the individual analyses are as follows

  1. Japanese children may not enjoy learning, but their grades are good.

  2. Japanese children are highly creative and their education has been already designed to encourage creativity.

The book goes into more detail about these things, but here's what I can deduce with my own opinions. Education today may look old-fashioned, but it is already highly creative, so there is no need for the outside world to tinker with it too much, nor should they. If anything, I would say that we need to improve and support school teachers' working environment, who are overworked.

The story of Japanese children not enjoying and celebrating but performing well leads to professionalism. I once heard an interview with Ichiro Suzuki, a top professional baseball player of about the same age, who said he never enjoyed playing baseball after becoming a professional. I've heard similar stories in interviews with other athletes. There is also a similar interview with Jim Lee, the famous American comic book illustrator. At fashion shows such as the Paris Collection, designers sometimes come out with cheap clothes. Why is that?

Does becoming a professional mean that you can't have fun? Going to a higher level means that you have to go further than your comfort zone. I don't think it's always fun.

I used to say this to my colleagues at work.

Do what you love and love what you do!

At any rate, when you do art or sport on a professional level, it seems that you can no longer enjoy the activity itself. I suppose it's a similar thing with learning. Studying a new discipline is just as hard as studying professionally, so Japanese children do not enjoy it. I am still searching for the best answer to "love what you do!"

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