Given the popularity shown for the previous year’s animation courses at the Kawasaki Art Center in Kanagawa (with easy access from Tokyo-Shinjuku) the center has expanded its range of workshops this year, offering a smorgasbord of theatre, musical as well as its hugely popular film-making and animation courses for the young (elementary school grades onwards), see workshop details below, as well as contact information (scroll to the very bottom)
While most people associate the professional Sumo sport with Japan, and most Japanese regard the sport as an indigenous sport, not many are aware that Sumo is also an amateur sport, with participants in college, high school and grade school in Japan. It remains extremely popular although its popularity took a hit following recent scandals in the Sumo world.
The most successful amateur wrestlers in Japan (usually college champions) can be allowed to enter professional sumo at makushita (third division) rather than from the very bottom of the ladder. This rank is called makushita tsukedashi, and is currently makushita 10 or 15 depending on the level of amateur success achieved. Many of the current top division wrestlers entered professional sumo by this route. All entry by amateur athletes into the professional ranks is subject to them being young enough (under 23) to satisfy the entry requirements, barring qualification as a makushita tsukedashi (under 25).
In addition to college and school tournaments, there are also open amateur tournaments. The sport at this level is stripped of most of the ceremony seen in professional Sumo tournaments.
The monthly salary figures (2006 data Wikipedia source) for makuuchi (in Japanese Yen) were:
- Yokozuna Asashoryu performing the distinctive dohyō-iri of his rank
- yokozuna: 2,820,000, about US$30,500
- ōzeki: 2,347,000, about US$25,000
- san’yaku: 1,693,000, about US$18,000
- maegashira: 1,309,000 or about US$14,000
- jūryō: 1,036,000, about US$11,000
Notwithstanding the above figures, monthly bonuses and lucrative advertising contracts are also substantial income. Needless to say, Sumo wrestling is a viable professional career.
Because of its association with Shinto, the Sumo sport has also been seen as a bulwark of Japanese tradition. However, as with most icons of Japanese tradition, as the Shinto religion has historically been used as a means to express Japanese nationalism and ethnic identity, especially prior to the end of World War II, promoting such tradition in the national educational curriculum tends to embroil the sport activity in controversy over reviving nationalistic sentiments or militarism.
Historical origins of the sport
The Shinto origins of sumo can easily be traced back through the centuries and many current sumo rituals are directly handed down from Shinto rituals.
Children and infants are often dedicated at sumo shrines, with the hopes that they grow up in strength and health, and babies are entered in popular Naki-zumo tournaments or contests officiated by sumo wrestlers … These Naki-zumo (“cry-wrestling) are literally tournaments where the crying babies win depending who is first to cry when held up high and swayed by the presiding sumo wrestlers. One particular shrine, Ikiko Shrine, according to its ancient legend, established since 736 AD, has it that the Naki-zumo originated after a pair of parents prayed for their child at the shrine, who died of smallpox, but miraculously came back to life again on the third day (Source: Naki-zumo: A battle of sumo without physical contact”)
Sumo was originally performed to entertain the gods (kami) during festivals (matsuri) to ensure a bountiful harvest and honor the spirits known as kami. In addition to its use as a trial of strength in combat, sumo has also been associated with Shinto ritual, and even certain shrines carry out forms of ritual dance where a human is said to wrestle with a kami (a Shinto divine spirit. Sumo wrestling contests were originally performed on the grounds of a shrine or temple. Sumo as part of Shinto ritual dates as far back as the Tumulus period (250-552).
Wrestling was also one of the forms of entertainments for early chieftains and at court since the Kofun period, i.e., it is a two thousand year old sport. Excavated tumulus haniwa terracotta and bronzes display sculptured depictions of scenes similar to sumo wrestling.
In modern times, the canopy over the sumo ring, called the dohyō is reminiscent of a Shinto shrine, and is still considered sacred. To begin with, the sand that covers the clay of the dohyo is itself a symbol of purity in the Shinto religion. And the canopy above the ring (yakata) is made in the style of the roof of a Shinto shrine. The four tassels on each corner of the canopy represent the four seasons, the white one as autumn, black as winter, green as spring and red as summer. The purple bunting around the roof symbolizes the drifting of the clouds and the rotation of the seasons. The referee (gyoji) resembles a Shinto priest in his traditional robe. And kelp, cuttlefish, and chestnuts are placed in the ring along with prayers for safety.
Each day of the tournament the dohyō-iri, or ring-entering ceremonies performed by the top divisions before the start of their wrestling day are derived from sumo rituals. This ceremony involves them ascending the dohyō, walking around the edge and facing the audience. They then turn and face inwards, clap their hands, raise one hand, slightly lift the ceremonial aprons called kesho-mawashi, and raise both hands, then continue walking around the dohyō as they leave the same way they came in. This clapping ritual is an important Shinto element and reminiscent of the clapping in Shinto shrines designed to attract the attention of the gods. The yokozuna’s ring-entering ceremony is regarded as a purification ritual in its own right, and is occasionally performed at Shinto shrines for this purpose. Every newly promoted yokozuna performs his first ring-entering ceremony at the Meiji Shrine in Tokyo.
Yokozuna are dressed in mawashi with five white zigzag folded strips of paper on the front, the same as those found at the entrance of Shinto shrines. On the front of all mawashi are sagari, which are fringes of twisted string tucked into the belt, and they represent the sacred ropes in front of shrines. Numbers of strings are odd, between seventeen and twenty-one, which are lucky numbers in the Shinto tradition. Salt is tossed before each bout to purify the ring and this is one of sumo’s best known and most visible of the rituals. The officiator is dressed in garb very similar to that of a Shinto priest, and the throwing of salt before a bout is believed to purify the ring.
Sumo wrestling never really flourished as a professional spectator sport until the early 1600′s or Tokugawa period, and much of the grander costumes accoutrements and rituals emerged during the Edo Period. Also only the higher ranking rikishi perform the pre-bout ceremonies steeped in Shinto tradition. Professional sumo (大相撲 ōzumō?) can trace its roots back to the Edo period in Japan as a form of sporting entertainment. The original wrestlers were probably samurai, often rōnin, who needed to find an alternative form of income. Current professional sumo tournaments began in the Tomioka Hachiman Shrine in 1684, and then were held in the Ekō-in in the Edo period. Western Japan also had its own sumo venues and tournaments in this period with by far the most prominent center being in Osaka. Osaka sumo continued to the end of the Taishō period in 1926, when it merged with Tokyo sumo to form one organization
Photos of school wrestling tournaments, NHK Asaichi programme 27 June 2014 (own work)
Wikipedia entry on Sumo
Have you found yourself and your home or living room stuck in childish preschool and kindergarten mode, and are you yearning for a makeover, wanting to adapt the room to the more demanding activity-as well as academics-oriented lifestyle of your growing schoolchildren?
This post focuses on managing school scheduling and household documentation and bills and record-keeping; it is also about adapting home spatial design, function, interfaces interweaving with form and human user and traffic flow.
Today, I will use my living room as a model and example of how to make some small changes that will have significant and large impact on lifestyle and efficiency.
In the light of my son’s forthcoming university entrance exams, work-from-home and intensive sports tournament scheduling, we needed to streamline the way we communicated as a family to improve efficiency and productivity, as well as to avoid interpersonal friction. This room takes heavy traffic, everybody congregates here and in the adjoining dining area, several times a day. It also tends to get awfully messy and to become everybody’s dumping ground for clothes, books, homework, empty snack plates etc. An organized genkan, mudroom or closet is a key in keeping clutter in check. A cleared-of-clutter central communication or coordination center or space facilitates communication, planning and scheduling and helps children settle down quickly and get into their homework sooner.
A closet by the door serves to collect all the jackets, caps, gloves, scarves, etc., as people walk through the door. Being rather small, everybody is allowed one at most two jackets in the closet’s hanging space.
The living room is the nerve and command centre of the home, it is where we share and coordinate information, so we have house rules for the kids…for everyone, which have been negotiated and drafted in consultation with the children. Below are the major areas of central control:
Around this space, we have our communication board and calendar schedule where major events are marker-penned for all to see, where day-to-day routines of bento, and school schedule are indicated, and a phone contacts and emergency numbers are instantly accessible.
And next to our TV and music & media entertainment station, here is our central station for all our communications and social media devices, this is the charging station as well as depository for all electronic devices – phones, smartphones, iPad, iTouch, iPods and DS’ have to be returned by a certain time, and during the Golden Hour of study time (8-10 pm) is no-screen time. They also have to be returned here just before bedtime. Blinking lights and social media bleeps are terribly distracting for study concentration, and disturb the formation of deep sleep for our children.
One of the hardest aspects of school life and scheduling to keep under control, is the constant stream of letters and communication from school. The other equally huge minefield is the constant stream of mail and household matters that require our attention such as bills, some urgent, some not, but most require some kind of action or record-keeping.
I like to keep it simple. These “color-box” shelving are the cheapest standard book shelves you can find in any furniture shop. We have been using them since the kids were born, and they are easily adaptable for a great many purposes. We turned them on their side, slotted in baskets. In two of them, we keep vitamins, earbuds, and daily use skin-lotions and medical items (not first aid which is kept separately). School documents are filed in accordion type file folders that cost only a few cents/yen and that fit perfectly into the standard cubby holes, and a nifty black slide-out multiple pocket file-cum-brief document carrier will hold all types of bills and banking documents. Throw out and shred old statements, keeping most current two, and that will keep your filing system portable and manageable. Portability and compactness is also vital for us living here in the event of fire or earthquake disaster. A simple all-purpose basket can hold you latest magazines, start discarding old issues just before it starts to bulge. Accordion folders are useful or stationery such as envelopes, as well as for odds and ends and keepsake cards or souvenirs.
Our set-up is now more efficient, serious and work-and-activity-oriented in the light of our high schooler’s college-going goals, and also in anticipation of our daughter’s juken year (next academic year) but most of our ideas can easily be adapted for any family’s educational goals and purposes.
Short on wall space like most Japanese homes, most fixtures are not designed to be permanent, but to portable or removable and adapted for changing circumstances and goals. We have absolutely no room for example, for a wall map, so we added a bilingual world map to our glass table which we have had since our kids attended kindergarten. It is one of our best buys, and proof of it is that our son aces all geography mapwork related and earth science subjects in school, and is aiming for a higher-ed degree and ultimately a career in those subjects. Small tweaks in your living space can produce huge effects or impact.
Last but not least, I decided to remove the fussy, lace curtains of the room to let in more light into our living area, to cut out the dust-trap and extra washing… and to remind us that we have a view and that there is a world outside to be explored and enjoyed. None of the above ideas or steps we have taken to orient the form, function and flow of our living room have been difficult or expensive, and all of them can be easily adopted or adapted for the average family’s purposes.
In one of the most suicidal of nations in the world, the odds of the student missing an exam on account of a malfunctioning railway line and train delays are higher than elsewhere, so be prepared to know what to do: JR provides certificates of delayed trains to show employers or schools online that you can print out (This is useful) if you needed it “yesterday” but the staff were absent when you got off. Here’s how:
- Click on the link below and then on the highlighted line on the list of affected trains:
- See if your train is among those that provide the certificate:
- Choose your line and date:
- It should look like this:
The Yomiuri Shimbun May 30, 2014
As teenagers use their flexible thinking to create practical smartphone apps for life and learning—one high school student has already started his own app business—various initiatives have emerged to support young people who want to make the world a better place through information technology.
Learning the ropes
About 20 middle and high school students and others gathered inside a room in an office building in Chuo Ward, Tokyo, on May 23 to learn programming from university students at Life is Tech! School. Run by Life is Tech Inc., the course teaches students how to make smartphone apps and other skills, aiming to release the apps they create online.
Seminars are also held during summer vacation and other holidays. Since opening in March 2013, the school has taught about 180 students. The endeavor has received attention from IT companies, including garnering scholarships from Google Inc. of the United States.
“It’d make me so happy if a lot of people used my app,” said a 14-year-old middle school student from Nerima Ward who attends the school. He said he would like to use the skills he has learned to start his own business someday.
Life is Tech President Yusuke Mizuno, 31, said he started the school because “there are a lot of kids who are interested in making apps, but there was no environment to teach them.”
Akira Baba, a professor of information studies at the University of Tokyo, said: “With so few resources, Japan needs to develop its information technology field for the sake of its future development. To do so, it’s important to teach people things like app development when they’re young.”
Contest motivates teens
“The IT industry is struggling to secure app developers, who are in short supply,” said Junji Kawakami, head of the consumer project department at D2C Inc., a mobile advertising and marketing firm.
To help motivate young people, D2C started the Teens Apps Awards in 2011, an app development contest for primary, middle and high school students. Last year the contest received 533 entries from all over the country.
The creators’ youthful outlook is reflected in the apps submitted to the contest. One app alerts elderly people with an alarm when it is time to take their medicine, and then sends an e-mail to family members when the medication is taken. Another makes instantaneous changes to classroom seating orders.
The tournament’s first winner, Kento Dodo, went on to study at Keio University and has since been contracted by a company to develop an app that provides information on Japanese otaku culture.
Dodo is currently an adviser to an IT company. “I’d like to produce an app that can detect bullying from online interactions,” he said.
Teen becomes entrepreneur
Yu Asabe, another Teens Apps Awards champion, has already started his own business.
After winning the contest with an app that quizzes people on recorded sounds, the 16-year-old student at Makuhari Senior High School launched his own IT firm in December, with himself as president.
The company’s philosophy is “Using IT, even a high school student can change the world.”
The firm is currently working on a website and app that Japanese middle and high school students can use to broadcast information about Japan overseas.
“Most people assume they’ll use apps made by someone else, but if you believe you can do it, even middle and high school students can give shape to their ideas,” Asabe said. “I hope more people take up the challenge of app development.”
Two PTA meetings ago, talk circulated among PTA moms with a warning from one of the moms that candy-like “dappo or gohou drugs” (quasi- and ‘legal’ drugs) had been seen being handed out freely like free tissues, at the Machida train station (Tokyo) to high schoolers and younger students. Machida city is a favourite hangout location of high school students such as at my son’s high school, so naturally this raised my concern and that of the parents in our PTA circle.
“Gohou drug” abuse incidence is surfacing again (in the media spotlight since 2008 known then as the “dappo doragu” phenomenon) and is increasingly being reported among as young as middle schoolers now… A Tokyo metropolitan health institute official was interviewed on this morning’s Asaichi TV program saying as many as 500 middle and high schoolers have been hospitalized due to dappo or more correctly, gohou drug abuse this year. See NHK TV ASAICHI 家族に忍び寄る！脱法ドラッグ.
While “dappo” drug may remain on our consciousness due to earlier media coverage, less likely to be on the radar of even the most vigilant parents are the arguably more worrying and proliferating novel varieties of “gohou” (legal) drugs.
One reason that the drugs are reaching younger and younger age groups, is that while they used to be reported as occurring as inhaled substances from herbal or aromatherapy incense, the drugs are now being distributed in new forms – many in cool or attractive and innocent-looking packaging like “gummy” candy wrappers and the drugs are given out on the streets free like tissue paper ads (or sold as health supplements in ordinary shops and restaurants) to entice young customers and increase the customer following.
Lack of awareness about dappo doragu (or drug) and other new varieties of the gohou legal or quasi-legal drug stimulants among the young is resulting in the rapid proliferation of drug abuse, the exacerbation of a relatively new social issue concerning the young and youths.
“Dappo doragu” and “gohou doragu” here in Japan, as in Latin America where they are widely available as anti-inflammatory and recreational drugs, they are commonly believed or thought to be “light” drugs or harmless substances. These drugs are often sought after and consumed by young salaried workers who have recently entered the job market, and who are looking for ways to help them increase energy and stamina, and improve work performance or concentration, or as a means to relieve stress.
Hospital authorities said “gohou drug” consumption often resulted in severe irreversible brain cell death and damage, muscle paralysis and symptoms such as paranoia in the middle of the night.
During the Asaichi TV program, a video clip showed an experiment of a mouse that had been fed the gouhou drug. Twenty minutes later, the mouse showed physiological trauma, muscle paralysis and its legs collapsed. The same symptoms are being reported in humans.
The drug raises concern because of the severity of the symptoms and because there is no cure or way of reversing brain damage once it has occurred.
Although the dappo drug problem and similar abuse stimulants called “gohou drugs” (legal drugs) came under the media spotlight from 2008, according to this morning’s Asaichi TV program, the law and health regulatory agencies have trouble keeping pace because of the number of new substances or stimulants that are being introduced on the streets … On the program, testing of one sample of gohou drug showed as many as 27 stimulant substances in the mix.
Sold openly in a great variety of forms (of innocuous-looking packaging as herbal supplements, aromatherapy or more recently as candy, in street shops and some small restaurants, this is posing a huge supervisory problem for concerned community members and parents, Asaichi reported.
Parents, guardians and educators are advised by the show to watch out for strange behavior, speech and smells in their children and wards.
Needless to say, the legal and public response to new psychoactive substances is a problem not isolated to Japan, but is one emerging in other societies too, see Addiction to know more and access a collection of papers addressing the issue of the ‘legal highs’ market, one which only a few years ago was regarded as an area of limited significance. Things on the drug scene are changing rapidly, and today the question of how to respond to the challenges posed by the emergence of new drugs has become one of major international concern. The papers in this virtual issue highlight the need for a very different regulatory regime to address the challenge presented by a plethora of new psychoactive substances appearing on the mark.
The “gohou drugs” known as ‘legal highs’ elsewhere are said to be produced in China and India and then distributed in Europe and elsewhere, see Getting up to speed with the public health and regulatory challenges posed by new psychoactive substances in the information age
More related media information:
75% of schoolchildren against use, possession of quasi-legal drugs: poll
KYODO, FEB 20, 2013
Only 13 percent of about 6,000 junior high and high school students in and around Tokyo think the use of “dappo habu” (quasi-legal drugs) is a matter of individual freedom, a poll showed Tuesday.
Quasi-legal drugs are substances that are chemically similar in composition to banned narcotics but technically legal at present, and the abuse of such drugs among young people has become a social issue.
In the Japan Drug Measurement Association poll, 13.2 percent of the respondents said it is up to individuals to decide whether to use those drugs, while 0.6 percent, or 37 respondents, said they had tried them.
Nao Mazaki, an association official, pointed to the low awareness on how quasi-legal drugs can harm one’s health, and stressed the urgent need for the central and local governments to step up programs to disseminate information about them.
The association, the Japan branch of the U.S.-based Foundation for a Drug-Free World, carried out the survey between September and December at six high schools and 11 junior high schools in Tokyo as well as in Saitama and Kanagawa prefectures. A total of 6,150 students, or 3,074 at high schools and 3,076 at junior high schools, responded.
In the multiple-reply survey, 75.4 percent said it is bad to possess or use these quasi-legal drugs, 5.7 percent said their use is not bad if not banned, while 7.1 percent said it is bad to use them but not to possess them.
The rise in popularity of Dappo Herb has led to an explosion in the number of shops selling the stimulants.
According to a 2012 Japan Times Article,
The Tokyo Metropolitan Government identified two shops selling such products in fiscal 2009. As of last Friday, 89 such shops were in existence, many of them in Shinjuku and Shibuya, areas popular with young people. The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry has been locked in a race with dealers as it keeps adding new stimulants to its list of illegal drugs while dealers keep marketing new products, including new chemicals they say are not covered by drug regulations… See excerpt of the article below:
“Dried herbs mixed with stimulant chemicals carefully packaged to dodge drug laws are gaining in popularity among young Japanese, leading in turn to a drastic increase in the shops selling such products.
These “dappo habu” (law-evading herbs) contain stimulant materials whose chemical components are slightly different from those prohibited by drug laws.
The Tokyo Metropolitan Government identified two shops selling such products in fiscal 2009. As of last Friday, 89 such shops were in existence, many of them in Shinjuku and Shibuya, areas popular with young people.
“Even if (herbs) do not include chemicals designated (as illegal) by law, you can’t say they are safe. (Inhaling them) is like conducting a human experiment with your own body,” said Masahiko Funada, who heads a team researching addictive drugs at the National Center of Neurology and Psychiatry in Tokyo.
The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry has been locked in a race with dealers as it keeps adding new stimulants to its list of illegal drugs while dealers keep marketing new products, including new chemicals they say are not covered by drug regulations.
The ministry recently decided to introduce a new and more comprehensive system for designating illegal drug components.
Even if dappo herbs don’t include illegal chemicals, selling them can be a violation if the seller specifically instructs the buyer how to use the stimulant, such as by inhaling.
Many of the shops, however, are cagey enough to evade the law. They sell the dappo herbs as “incense,” not something to be consumed or inhaled directly.
Police and local governments have recently started cracking down.
In January, two shop managers in Osaka were arrested for alleged possession of illegal drugs for the purpose of marketing them.
On Jan. 25, three teens in Tokyo were hospitalized for acute drug poisoning after inhaling smoke from herbs mixed with chemicals. The shop dealer who sold it to them was arrested on suspicion of inflicting bodily harm.”
Japan has been in the negative spotlight over whale-catching activities, however, what is relatively unknown is that whale-watching is also an eco-tourism business that is growing and showing tremendous potential, especially since Japan’s eco-tourism is still under-developed compared to that in other developed countries.
Away from the headlines and negative publicity over Japanese whaling activities, some coastal communities in Japan have been moving in the opposite direction and have started or are starting to run whale-watching tours. There is a great diversity of whales and dolphins to be spotted in Japanese coastal waters: humpbacks, sperm whales, bottle-nose and spinner dolphins to mention but a few.
Following the model of other nations, in supporting the local whale-watching businesses, we would be supporting a viable economic industry and creating more opportunities and raising the stakes for whalers to convert their operations to preserve the whale population instead of reducing it. Since a positive growth in conservation and protection of whale species is diametrically opposed to whaling which depletes the resources, supporting this local industry and local conservatism is a better option creating pressure from within the nation, than by negatively boycotting Japan on account its whaling bad press(see Whales and Dolphins: Cognition, Culture, Conservation and Human Perceptions). We would also be supporting educational activities, and creating in the nation a greater awareness and fostering a love in local coastal communities for the ocean’s most majestic creatures.
While the Okinawa-Ogasawara islands’ whale-watching activities have established a reputation as the world’s greatest lookout for humpback spawning grounds(see my earlier post for details), off Kuroshiocho port on Shikoku Island are lesser known whale-watching grounds that can actually hold its own. Dubbed “the Mecca of whale-watching tours” by Rough Guides … the tours see an 85% success rate for whale-spotting (see Whales and Dolphins: Cognition, Culture, Conservation and Human Perceptions) Being closer to both Tokyo and Osaka, there is potential for eco-tourism to grow.
Excerpted from Rough Guides is this bit of information:
It’s said that the whaling industry in Kōchi dates from 1591, when the local daimyō Chokosabe Motochika gifted the warlord Toyotomi Hideyoshi in Ōsaka a whale and in return received eight hundred bags of rice. Japan and whales have, in recent times, become a controversial combination, but along Kōchi-ken’s coast few are complaining, as whale-watching tours are replacing the old way of making a living. Tours typically last three hours and cost around ¥5000 per person in small boats holding eight to ten people.
When and Where
The best time to see whales is May and August, though the season runs from spring through to autumn. Nothing’s guaranteed, but with a good skipper expect to see the large Bryde’s whales and medium-sized false killer whales, as well as schools of white-sided and Risso’s dolphins. For details, contact the Ōgata Town Leisure Fishing Boats Owners’ Association (tel 0880/43-1058, URL: http://www.sunabi.com/kujira) or Saga Town Fishermen’s Association (tel. 0880/55-3131).
You can take Whale Watching trips from Katsurahama near Kochi City on Shikoku from May to September (Source: insidejapantours) The eco-tour boats depart from ports, not off the beach.
There are 3 locations for whale-watching on Shikoku:
1) Urado Port in Kochi City.
2) Irinogyo Port in Kuroshio-cho
227 Irino, Kuroshio-chō, Hata-gun, Kōchi-ken
3) -Takaokagyo Port in Muroto.
Except for the typhoon season, it is very likely that you will be able to see sperm whales up to 15 meters in length in the waters off Muroto. Schools of dolphins are also a common sight.
* You can see different whales from different ports.
Muroto Port offers the chance to see sperm whales and grampus dolphins.
The other ports have grampus dolphins and Bryde’s whales.
Not just whale-watching, there’s resort stay and deep sea therapy and local sights to engage your time as well:
Cape Muroto (source: JNTO)
Combine your eco-tour with one of Cape Muroto, located at the eastern end of Tosa Bay, is a designated Muroto-Anan Coastal National Park. Muroto boasts whale watching and boat tours. Except for the typhoon season, it is very likely you will be able to see sperm whales up to 15 meters in length. Schools of dolphins are also a common sight.
The symbol of Cape Muroto is the white lighthouse, which stands on the tip of the cape 155m high, with a lens measuring 2.6 meters in diameter. Built in 1899, it is Japan’s largest lighthouse and still functioning, it can be seen 56 kilometers offshore. It has offered protection to countless passing ships during the past 100 years of its operation. At the tip of the cape is a walking course, which winds its way 1.4 kilometers through the boulders that lie along the coastline.
A recent addition to Muroto’s many charms is Deep Sea World. Taking full advantage of the area’s scenic beauty and the deep seawater that flows 200 to 300 meters below the surface of the ocean, Deep Sea World boasts a series of facilities focused on reducing stress and preventing illness. Not just the usual seaworld theme park attractions seen elsewhere, Muroto’s sea resort was opened by Shu Uemura, the world-famous makeup artist, and is famous for the thalasso-therapy (deep seawater treatments) that offers promising health benefits (see Japan’s deep-sea spa).
For historical buffs, near the lighthouse, visit the historic Hotsumisakiji temple, a Buddhist temple of Shingon Buddhism, founded in 807. Built at the level of about 165 meters, it was popular with mountain ascetic monks, and is associated with Kuukai or Kobo Daishi. Kuukai (774-835), founder of Shingon School of Buddhism, started to do ascetic training in the deep mountains at the age of 19. Kukai according to local tradition, stayed around Cape Muroto as part of his training. He was living in a small cave near the sea (the cave is called “Mikurodo”, and is near the national road). According to legend… one day, in the midst of hard training, a bright star flew into his mouth. It is said that he reached enlightenment at that time. To visit this temple, you must climb a sloping trail from the cape and there is a trail to the lighthouse from this temple.
Other must-sees of Kochi, Shikoku: the Kochi castle(built 1601-1611 and one of Japan’s 12 castles to have survived fires and warfare), dogfighting on Katsurahama beach, Daruma or Lucky sunset of Sugamo Port; the Shimanto River, click here to read more...
From Tokyo :
[Air] 1h 20 min from Haneda to Kochi Ryoma Airport, and 40 min from the airport to JR Kochi Station by bus.
[Rail] 3h 20 min from Tokyo to Okayama Station by JR Tokaido-Sanyo Shinkansen Line, and 2h 30 min from Okayama to Kochi Station by JR Seto-ohashi Dosan Line. 2h 30 min from Kochi Station to Cape Muroto by bus.
From Osaka :
[Air] 40 min from Itami or Kansai International Airport to Kochi Ryoma Airport.
[Rail] 40 min from Shin-Osaka to Okayama Station by Shinkansen.
Source: Japan Guide “Kochi Travel”
Whaling conservation history
The longest established organisation is the Ogasawara Whale Watching Association (OWA). Ogasawara is a cluster of 30 small islands (only two of which are inhabited) 1000 km south of Tokyo, which are rarely visited by non-Japanese and are only accessible by overnight ferry from the mainland. The OWA has been operating for nearly 20 years, and has its own code of good practice to minimise disruption to the animals. Dolphins can be seen in these waters all year round whilst humpback whales are present from mid-December to the end of April. As well the Ogasawara Islands Destinations other destinations with whale watching opportunities include from Choushi in Chiba prefecture in November and December and Shizuoka, both within easy reach of Tokyo, from April to October, from Kushimoto on the south coast of Wakayama Prefecture (convenient from Kyoto or Osaka), Kochi on the south coast of Shikoku and the Okinawa chain of islands.
My daughter attended a yochien(kindergarten) that offered forest education without having advertised it as one. The school was built on a mountain slope and everyday the children spent at least an hour in “forest adventures”(mori no tanken”, climbing slopes and trees, collecting all manner of bugs. Across from the school is situated about an acre of a satoyama landscape, with marshland, a lovely pond, a spring and stream around which the kids could catch crayfish and bullfrogs. The park is beautiful in all four seasons. My daughter and the other yochien children spent many happy hours there in nature lessons, learning the names of trees, observing insects and the changing seasonal landscape, mostly in natural conversation with the teachers. Bentos were eaten picnic style several times each season in the park under open skies or under the glorious trees of blooming sakura cherry blossoms or the shade of keyaki trees. My children came home often with pillbugs or acorns in their smock pockets (kindy kids often wear smocks for outdoor play). Playing daily in all sorts of weather conditions and in such beautiful natural landscape helped them develop Japanese sensibilities and love for the familiar satoyama landscape, while toughening them up with the scraped knees (or cuts and bruises) they invariably got from time to time from all the tree-climbing and crawling over pond edges to collect or examine plant/bug specimens.
Every time I pull into the train station of a different town or city, I look out for school signboards, and more often than not…tucked into some corner…there is at least one kindergarten (yochien or hoikuen) that is named Mori-no-ie or Mori-no-youchien (Forest Kindergarten). Although not every kindergarten so named, is a kindergarten offering true Forest School education, the forest school philosophy has taken root earlier than in the UK or US and is growing, according to scholars and observers. This award-winning NHK TV documentary feature called In the Heart of Nature: The Forest Kindergarten spotlights kindergartens such as the Marutanbo in Shimane prefecture and others, without walls or ceilings that epitomize the forest education, click on this link http://youtu.be/LNl5p1M96xE to watch.
Ute Schulte-Ostermann, president of the German Federation of Nature and Forest Kindergartens (BVNW), reported on the Japanese situation after returning from a tour of Japan, among other countries, “Schulte-Ostermann says she thinks the US and the UK’s obsession with health and safety and regulations may have slowed adoption of the idea, but points out that forest kindergartens have proved very popular in Japan, which is also known for its red tape bureaucracy.
“Our biggest achievement was to set it (Waldkindergartens) up in Japan, where education is so regulated,” she says in the staff room of the inner city Berlin school used for the conference. “We have helped them take it out of the authorities’ hands and give education back to the people.”
An Escape from Strict Rules
Hiroe Kido, a Japanese student writing her postdoctoral thesis on the forest kindergarten movement, says there are more than 100 Japanese Waldkindergartens following the German model — a number that is expected to double by next year. “They are very, very popular in Japan because they are an escape from the strict rules in Japanese society,” she says. “Some parents are worried that Japan is becoming too stressed and high tech and there is not time to communicate with nature, so they really like waldkindergartens.”
Kido says nearly all Japanese waldkindergartens are oversubscribed despite parents being forced to cover all the costs. In Germany, however, waldkindergartens are subsidized at the same level as traditional kindergartens, meaning parents pay no more than €80 ($108) a month to place their kids at Die Kleinen Pankgrafen.
Japanese demand for places spiked even higher following the 2011 Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster. “Fukushima made the Japanese think again about our lives, and realize that we need to get back to nature more,” she says. “Life is very extreme sometimes in Japan.”
Schulte-Ostermann, who has just returned from a tour of Japan and South Korea, says that if Japanese people can realize the need for nature in children’s lives then she might be one step nearer to her rather ambitious goal of turning all of the world’s indoor kindergartens into waldkindergartens.” — Source: Campfire Kids: Going back to nature with forest kindergartens, Spiegel Online
What are forest schools and what is the benefits of a forest school?
Geoffrey Guy’s “Forest Schools Essay” traces the beginning of the concept and schools to a Scandinavian origin, specifically to the Norwegian “Friluftsliv” fresh air living concept.
Forest school refers to “a philosophy in which students work outside regularly in an outdoor natural space over a long period of time (often a year) to build confidence and creativity. Drawing on nineteenth century European pedagogical theories on the importance of outdoor learning, and more recently on Scandinavian principles of open-air, play-based education, the ethos has grown in popularity in the UK over the past two decades in parallel to growing concerns over “cotton wool kids” overly protected from risks and rarely exposed to nature.”
Schulte-Ostermann says the outdoor and nature risks are outweighed by the “massive” mental and physical benefits of playing outside. “Children who have attended a Waldkindergarten have a much deeper understanding of the world around them, and evidence shows they are often much more confident and outgoing when they reach school.”
Although originally a concept learnt from Germany, Japan is increasingly adopting the Skogsmulle forest school concept from Sweden, with over 2000 Skogsmulle leaders and over a hundred courses having been conducted in Japan (Source: Swedish Forest Schools by Juliet Robertson)
Forest schools helps students develop confidence and creativity by teaching practical, outdoor skills – and teachers don’t necessarily need a woodland on their doorstep to incorporate the ideas.
The Swedish Forest Schools report elucidates the benefits of the Skogsmulle or Mulle forest education as practised in Sweden:
“Shimizu, M. et al (2002) investigated the contribution of “Skogsmulle” activities to the formation of environmental awareness and environmental literacy in Ichijima, a Japanese town. They found that children who had experienced Mulle activity within the town acquired better environmental awareness and literacy and participated more positively in community activity.
From this they suggest that nature-based activities are useful particularly at the pre- school age for environmental learning.
Grahn et al (1997) studied children’s behaviour (how they play, how often they are outside, their play routines, etc.), development of motor function and powers of concentration during the course of a year at two day nurseries, one an I Ur och Skur and the other a traditional nursery in new, spacious premises. This is a summary of their findings:
At the I Ur och Skur nursery:
• The sickness absence difference between the nurseries was over 5%. This was consistent and uniform throughout the year with the I Ur och Skur having the higher attendance rate.
• The children from the I Ur och Skur nursery had better concentration. This was verified statistically.
• The I Ur och Skur children had better motor function. To climb and play on uneven ground or to play only on flat ground without trees appears to have a pronounced influence on children.
• The I Ur och Skur children played more imaginatively. The games were more varied. The games had a beginning and end which the children themselves decided upon in most cases. Because objects could be left outside the games were able
to continue for more than one day.”
With many kids today ensconced at home glued to their Nintendos, gameboys, iPhones, iPads and not just the TV sets of yesteryear, more nature-oriented kindergarten and nursery school programmes are needed in Japan to counter the toxic urban lifestyles that parents are allowing their children to adopt.
Find out How can teachers introduce forest school principles to their curriculum? By Lucy Ward
Some schools in Japan that embody the forest education philosophy
Jiyu no mori Gakuen / Freedom Forest School – there is both a Junior High and a High School under their administration. Since 1985
Nature programmes and mountain village education(sanson-ryugaku)
Other resources on forest education
International Perspectives on Forest School: Natural Spaces to Play and Learn
edited by Sara Knight – this book reviews the history of forest education in the UK, based on the Danish model.
In Sheffield, in the UK, you can obtain certification for forest education training
Japan in Depth/ Cultivating science whizz kids (May 6, 2014 Yomiuri Shimbun)
By Fumihiko Ito and Mutsuko Yamada
Scientific and educational institutions in this country are stepping up efforts to discover children who show potential excellence in science and provide them with specialized education well before their admission to universities.
The aim is to nurture highly talented young scientists who can produce world-class scientific results.
The move includes a state-run project that will be launched shortly to provide specialized education for about 700 gifted high school students, using eight universities nationwide as centers for the pursuit of that target.
Meanwhile, an increasing number of universities are ready to consider prizewinners in the International Science Olympiads, a group of worldwide international competitions in various scientific disciplines, in the process of selecting successful applicants for their entrance examinations.
An important factor behind these moves is widespread concern about the status quo surrounding the nation’s scientific and technological research, according to observers.
“I’ve successfully cultivated six kinds of slime molds, or amoeba-like unicellular organisms, for extended periods. It’s amusing to see different kinds of slime molds move in different ways,” said Mana Masui, 12, a first-year middle school student in Suginami Ward, Tokyo.
In his home, Masui has been observing slime molds collected from woods and elsewhere since his first year in primary school. In March, the young scientist was invited to publicize his research findings at a symposium at Hiroshima University shortly before graduating from primary school.
Masui’s research has been praised by Prof. Ryo Kobayashi of Hiroshima University, who has won the spoof Ig Nobel Prize for his study of slime molds. “His extended observation of wild slime molds is an unusual research project. He also excels in forming a hypothesis and examining its veracity,” Kobayashi said.
Masui’s research has been supported by the Japan Science and Technology Agency, an independent administrative institution. The institute’s support is part of a program it launched in 2008 to produce future scientists. In line with the program, Tsukuba University has offered to support about 20 children nationwide who excel in scientific studies each year, ranging from fifth-year primary school students to high school students.
Under the program, Masui was chosen during his fifth year in primary school. He has since received individual tutoring from the teaching staff at Tsukuba University.
To further pursue its goal, the institute plans to expand the scale of the program in the current fiscal year by establishing centers at eight universities to select from various regions about 700 high school students with a high degree of scientific knowledge.
The institute also hopes to form cooperative ties with high schools that have been designated as “super-science high schools” by the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry. This arrangement will have university teaching staff provide the selected students with individual advice and instruction in their favorite fields of study. Students with excellent skills and knowledge will also be encouraged to study at foreign universities or scientifically innovative high schools overseas and will receive support in their studies abroad.
“We want to discover exceptionally talented students,” a ministry official said.
ISO competitions gaining more prominence in science field
Colleges and universities nationwide are paying great attention to the results of Japanese students who win prizes in the International Science Olympiads, hoping to discover exceptionally gifted students in the country.
The ISO competitions, a group of contests among middle and high school students from around the world, test not only the technical knowledge of contestants, but also their ability to create new ideas and think logically.
In their entrance exams for the 2014 academic year, according to the Japan Science and Technology Agency, 26 universities, including Osaka University and the Tokyo Institute of Technology, conducted tests designed to emphasize the performance of examinees in past ISO contests, along with regular admissions exams.
With the introduction of a recommendation-based admissions test in autumn next year, the University of Tokyo also said it would take into consideration the achievements examinees gained in the ISO competitions.
Meanwhile, the medical school of Kyoto University will adopt an early admission system targeting entrance exam takers who competed in the ISO contests starting in the 2016 academic year. The system will target examinees in the second year of high school.
Kyoto University will become the second state-run university to enroll high school students who have yet to complete their high school studies, following Chiba University. The latter adopted such a system in 1998. “We hope to give students opportunities to start research activities at an early stage, with the aim of producing personnel who can compete well internationally,” a Kyoto University official said.
For years, a number of well-known universities overseas have been ready and willing to enroll people who have competed in the ISO contests. In Japan, an increasing number of high schools hope to encourage students to gain admission to colleges and universities abroad.
“The emphasis on the achievements of examinees in the ISO competitions in our recommendation-based entrance exam system aims, in part, to prevent a brain drain overseas,” a Todai official said.
The education ministry has been assisting with the management of national preliminaries for the ISO finals. The number of contestants in the preliminaries has quadrupled in 10 years.
“It is difficult to discern the ability and aptitude of examinees only through such methods as interviews conducted as part of admission office-managed entrance examinations and a recommendation-based admission system,” Waseda University Vice President Shuji Hashimoto said.
He went on to say that “great trust” can be placed in the assessment of ISO contestants, citing the fact that it takes several months to select students to represent Japan in the finals after various screening sessions, including the national preliminaries.
Tomohiro Soejima, 19, was rigorously engaged in experiments at a facility at Rikkyo University while attending Rikkyo Ikebukuro High School, a school attached to the university. The facility sits next to his high school. During his high school years, Soejima won a gold medal in the ISO’s chemistry division for two consecutive years.
Soejima’s exposure to ISO contestants from other nations led to him gaining admission to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
“You’ll never be able to fare well in the ISO contests only through an analysis of a trend in exam questions and how to solve them, as you prepare for entrance examinations,” he said. “You need to acquire skills to properly understand the results of experiments that have been repeated.”
This summer think about visiting the Seto Inland Sea(Seto Naikai) for an exciting, memorable and romantic family vacation. Innoshima was home to the Murakami Suigun (a word that means navy, but think “pirates” or “privateers”) that were active across the Seto inland sea between the Muromachi and Sengoku eras. So the trip would be an amazingly rich maritime history lesson as well as a visual feast to take in the soul-quenching seaside vistas.
Recommended Activities: visit the Murakami Suigun castle (see photos above Courtesy: Rod Walters) museum and row one of the kohaya boats for free or participate in the Sea Festival, part of the Suigun Festival. People at the site can experience rowing the boats between 12:00 and 13:00 on the sea. (Location: Shimanami Beach).
Catch the Sea Festival proper to watch participants compete with each other at the Kohaya Boat Race. The boat race uses the wooden Kohaya boats that were used as messenger boats by the Murakami Suigun. Catch some adrenaline-pumping ancient pirate action being re-enacted!
Kohaya boats are small boats that were frequently used by the Murakami Suigun. It is said that when ingenious strategies were devised, even the small boats were able to defeat war ships. The boat was reproduced to conduct the boat race at the Sea Festival. A total of 16 people, 14 oarsmen, one boatman and one drummer, are aboard. The participating boats compete on the 1.2 kilometer course. Over fifty teams participate every year. Starting in early July, practices by the teams can be seen almost every day. With the sound of drums coming from the boats on the sea, the scene has become a summer seasonal tradition of Innoshima Island.
Maritime historical fieldtrip
History of the Murakami Suigun
Innoshima Island, an island located in the center of the Seto Inland Sea, where the Murakami Suigun was active, was once a strategic marine transportation and trading hub. The Murakami Suigun used to conduct trade with Korea, the Ming Dynasty of China, and various other Southeast Asian nations between the 14th and 16th centuries. Its name was well-known inside and outside Japan due to its power on the sea. But the Murakami Suigun clan’s fortunes and power only began to wane in the latter half of the Warring States period, its power curtailed by regulations issued by central authorities that restricted the scope of activity for the Murakami Suigun. See this page.
Who were the Murakami suigun?
From the Murakami Suigun Museum:
The Seto Inland Sea is a shallow sea separating the island of Shikoku from Honshu, the main island of Japan, and Kyushu. Currents are strong in the sea due to the large tidal range, complex topography, and the narrow channels and straits. The tidal range is between one and three meters in the east, and three and four meters in the west. Tides easily produce currents of a few knots, and when the tide changes, the surface of the water is dimpled with whirlpools and split by seams of roiled water due to the different heights of the sea floor. From a distance, the sea looks beautifully calm. Close up, it’s positively frightening.
It was in this environment that the various suigun—feudal navies—arose and developed their unique livelihoods and culture around the Inland Sea. With their intimate familiarity with the currents that swirl between the many islands of the area and their prowess at fighting from boats, these sea dogs were pirates, coast guards, and local governments as time went by and depending on who you asked. The Murakami were based in the chain of large and small islands that straddle the sea between today’s Imabari in Ehime, and Onomichi in Hiroshima. This route is now linked by the Shimanami Kaido, an expressway with spectacular suspension bridges over the sea passages.
The first major island on the Ehime side is Oshima (‘Big Island’), home to a museum dedicated to the Murakami Suigun…
The suigun maintained their independence in the face of frequent efforts to eliminate them. Even today, Imabari is crawling with people with the surname Murakami. Nothing but pirates, all of ‘em!”
Inoshima Suigun Castle
Since Innoshima Island was the main territory of the “Murakami Pirates” in the Middle Ages, you can find both the historic sites “Innoshima Suigun Pirates Castle” and the “Konrenji Temple” (the latter was the pirate’s family temple) are must see places.
Murakami Suigun Pirates Castle:
Address: Hiroshima prefecture, Onomichi, Innoshima,
Nakasho cho 3228-2
The Murakami Suigun Castle displays many weapons, armors, ancient documents, etc. that were left by the Murakami Sengun.
If you can, catch the samurai warrior procession during the Innoshima Suigun Festival…for more info and access, download this flier. (Optional: If you or your child is a go-player, then you might want to visit the Honinbo Shusaku Go Memorial Hall. (Go is Japanese chess) He is one of two greatest Go players in history. You will learn about his carriers and character. Go is Onomichi’s city game. )
The Aegean Sea in Japan
Regroup and take in the restfulness and romance of the seaside fishing village vacation spot
The city of Onomichi has been prospering as a seaport town and is famous for its balmy temperate climate and picturesque hillslope scenery.
Touristy but delightful activities include walking through narrow alleys, stairs and slopes of the quaint old part of town and losing track of time amidst the traditional scenery of Onomichi. Have fun in the early morning catching the sight of the fisherwives called “Banyori-san” pushing their carts to sell fresh fish in the central Onamichi central shopping district. There are a lot of alleys that criss-cross in the manner of a fishbone which connect to the main shopping street. Along the shopping street that lies east to west about 1.6km in central Onomichi, you will find less educational, but more touristy things to do like exploring the wide variety of shops such as ramen shops, Onomichi yaki shops, old-fashioned coffee shops, souvenir shops of Onomichi Hanpu (canvas)… Totally unscathed by WWII, the area is a magnet for authentic ancient temple- and shrine-hunters, for whom one popular trail the 3 km stroll of roads that start from Onomichi JR Station to the eastern side of town, that includes stone paved streets to reach Kairyuji Temple.
The highest mountain on Mukaishima Island is Mt. Takamiyama which is designated as a National Park. Not to be missed is the 360 degree panorama view from the observatory at the top of the park … of the many islands in the Seto Inland Sea as ferryboats depart and return to the Onomichi waterway. The view of the Shimanami Sea Route and islands of Seto seen from the observatory are breathtaking…20 minutes by car from the central Onomichi area. The night view here is billed as one of the “Top 100 Night Views”.
The coastal area along the Shimanami Kaido linked by bridges is one of the best coasts for a drive-holiday. The Nishiseto Expressway, commonly known as the Setouchi Shimanami Kaido Expressway, links Onomichi, Hiroshima Prefecture, with Imabari, Ehime Prefecture. Known for breathtaking views from this bridge, it is a 60 kilometer-long highway exclusively for automobiles that links the islands of the Seto Inland Sea with nine individual bridges. Each bridge consists of a road way and a pedestrian walkway. The bridge connects six islands of the Inland Sea a.k.a. the Aegean Sea in Japan” between Honshu and Shikoku. Locals have especially been enamoured by the dotted islands and the gorgeous setting sun among the islands, all spiced up by, of course, its own pirate and maritime legends. (Almost 3,000 islands are located in the Inland Sea).
This spot is one of the better-kept secrets of Japan but has long been touted in all of the camping and summer vacation family magazines as a fave and rave spot to take your family to …you can rent a bicycle at the terminals. Much featured in terrestrial TV programmes lately due to local celebrities’ visits to the area. The seaside resorts and campgrounds to be found on each island are filled with people in summer. With resort, boating, fishing or adventure camping activities to take your pick from.
Original text of 1890 Imperial Rescript on Education found
Jiji Press — Apr 08 via newsonjapan
A document believed to be the original text of the Imperial Rescript on Education, issued in 1890 as basic norms of moral education in prewar Japan, has been discovered, the education ministry said Tuesday.
As the original text has historic values and requires proper management, the ministry will transfer it to the National Archives of Japan for public view in the future.
The two-page original text, signed and sealed by Emperor Meiji, was handed to then Prime Minister Aritomo Yamagata and then education minister Akimasa Yoshikawa.
Watch video FNN newsclip here.
Giving you the buzz on the coolest educational product featured on NHK TV (Asaichi) about 10 minutes ago…
You can buy it at bellemaison’s website for just under 3,000 yen, a steal for its neat multiple organizational features.
This is one of the niftiest edu-organizers I have ever seen. Kyoiku-mamas (educational-mamas) are snapping it up in the nation, first of all, it is a portable organizer-tidy that serves to help to surround the child and cut down on distractions (simulating a study carrel environment).
It has a dedicated compartment for textbooks, exercise-books, drillsheets; space for two calendar-schedule-sheets over which are magnetic strips where the student can use to post memos, photos, memory-aids, decorative items, etc; a clipboard for current drillsheet or researchnotes, or subject material being studied; a clear pocket for whatever…and on the side there are two attached organizational tidies (including a small one for a ruler), plus one loose-standing stationary tidy. The whole set has velcro-straps to secure the set and a carry-strap so you can actually carry this from room to room which is really useful in the space-tight homes of Japan and makes it easy for the child studying on the kitchen countertop to move everything in a jiffy to his or her room. Organizational, time management and scheduling skills are also nurtured, so the young child would be well-prepared for the difficult entrance exam years during 6th grade (elementary school) or 3rd grade (jr. high). For those of us frequently traveling overseas for our summer vacations, but who have to bring the infamous “shizen kyoshitsu”(nature or natural classroom) summer projects and other drillsheets with us, this set is going to be a boon. Btw, it’s waterproof, so students can take it to the park and study under a tree! The only thing you want to add to the set up yourself would be a small kitchen-clock-cum timer, and the study materials… and of course, the student, and you’re good to go.
Last but not least, here is a tip for the more crafty parents reading this, you can buy an aluminium stove-surround-oil-guard and some oilcloth or decorative wallpaper to cover it all over, and armed with colored duct-tape, staple-guns or hotglue-guns, you can create your own study-organizer tidy.
Use cut out milk cartons to create the tidy boxes and add velcro straps and your own magnetic bulletin-cum whiteboard to substitute (or as part of the) for the clipboard, add decorative detail, and you have a remarkably personalized and unique study organizer! Older children will have so much fun making this with their parent…
P.S. For Japanese sources contact:
Sakura spring greetings to readers of our regular roundup on educational news focused on Japan!
In this post, we bring you news of two new international school openings as well as other news focused on educational issues and the educational scene in Japan.
It may be time to re-examine the oft-stated belief and widespread perception that Japanese (and Asian) youths that they are lacking in creative thinking and problem-solving ability, as the results of 2012 OECD survey find that Japanese youths rank 3rd in problem-solving after the youths of Singapore and South Korea (NHK Apr 1, 2014)
Japanese teenagers finished 3rd in a global assessment of young people’s skills in solving problems encountered in real life.
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development surveyed 15-year-olds in 44 countries and territories in 2012. About 6,300 Japanese youths took part in the study.
Real-life problems included buying the right train ticket from a vending machine, and observing a robot vacuum cleaner to identify a certain pattern in its motions. Participants posted their solutions online.
The Japanese teens scored 552 points compared to the survey average of 500. Singapore finished on top, followed by South Korea.
Japan’s education ministry says the youths did well overall regardless of their school and family environment, suggesting that the comprehensive curriculums of Japanese schools may be paying off.
However, the Japanese teens ranked lowest in self-assessment of patience and flexibility in solving problems.
The ministry says education programs should focus more on nurturing those skills.
See original source of report: *** PISA 2012 Results: Creative Problem Solving (Volume V): Students’ Skills in Tackling Real-Life Problems, Student performance in problem solving DOI:10.1787/9789264208070-7-en; Creative Problem Solving: Students’ skills in tackling real-life problems (Volume V); Snapshot of student performance in problem solving (pdf); PISA in Focus N°38: Are 15-year-olds creative problem-solvers? *** One interesting piece of data is the finding that the strong problem-solvers in Australia, UK and US are found among the strong and top performers in mathematics, while in Italy, Japan and Korea, the strong problem-solvers are found among the moderate to low-performers in mathematics … what this distinction implies should be a subject of further study.
See related news: CNN: Report: 15-year-olds in Asia are better problem solvers than in the U.S (Apr 1)
Japan to help struggling families pay school lunch fees (Jiji Press, Apr 4, 2014)
Also from Jiji Press, Mar 28: Number of Children on Nursery Waiting Lists in Japan Falls by 2,009 from a year before to 44,118, said the health and welfare ministry, the number of such children as of Oct. 1 dropping for the third straight year… however … the No. of children on waiting list for daycare centers still a serious problem, gov’t says (Apr 01, 2014 Japan Today), see excerpted article below:
“”The number of children on the waiting list for daycare centers nationwide was about 44,118 in fiscal 2013, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare said Monday.
Although the number decreased for the third year in a row, the shortage of such facilities is still a serious problem, a ministry official said, according to NHK…The government promised a plan to secure 400,000 places for children on the waiting list over five years, starting from last April.
Tokyo has the most number of children on the waiting list at 11,589, followed by Chiba (1,958), Osaka (1,761), Kanagawa (1,703) and Saitama (1,391). Kawasaki had 1,534 followed by Fukuoka (1,046), Hiroshima (951) and Sapporo (824).
The ministry spokesperson said they are urging local governments to increase the number of daycare centers but the reality is “we are not catching up,” he said.”
Meanwhile in related news, Japan Times has published a useful article (Mar 17) explaining the concept of ‘gakudo’ or after-school clubs:
Working parents in Japan not only face long waiting lists when they want to enroll their children in day care centers, they also find themselves looking at equally long lists for “gakudo,” or after-school clubs, when their children take the next step and enter elementary school.
According to the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry, as of last April there were 8,689 children nationwide on waiting lists for such clubs, where mostly first- through third-grade elementary school students spend their time after school and during school breaks — up from 7,521 around the same time a year earlier.
According to a survey in December by the International Affairs and Communications Ministry, more than 70 percent of women between the ages of 35 and 44 are either working or seeking employment.
Many working mothers have had to give up their jobs just because they can’t secure spots for their children at such facilities. The problem has become so acute that there is now a term describing difficulties confronting working mothers with first-graders: “shoichi no kabe” (the hurdle of the first grade).
Even students who are fortunate enough to gain admittance to an after-school club benefit for only a limited time. Many clubs — particularly the traditional, publicly funded ones — accept students only through the third grade, meaning that older children often have nowhere to go after school. Many end up staying home alone, often with a TV or computer games as their only companions.
Concern for such kids has recently given rise to another term: “shoyon no kabe,” or the hurdle of the fourth grade.
The government has taken aim at the problem and is looking to increase the number of after-school clubs nationwide. Officials have set a target of getting almost 1.3 million kids into clubs by the end of fiscal year 2017. Meanwhile, private enterprises — such as cram schools and private day care facilities — have rushed to fill the void, although for fees that some families can’t afford. Here are some questions and answers on after-school clubs:
How did the concept of gakudo come about?
The history of gakudo goes back to the 1960s, when a group of working mothers and fathers started after-school clubs and operated them themselves after finding themselves hard-pressed to find a place where their children could go to after school.
The Child Welfare Law of 1997 stipulates that children whose mothers and/or fathers are working should be given a place to stay after school until they reach “about 10 years old.”
Currently, about 880,000 children nationwide between the ages of 6 and 10 — or 1 in 4 students — use some kind of gakudo. Such facilities numbered 21,635 across the nation as of last May, 40 percent of which were public, while the rest were either publicly built and privately operated or privately owned and operated by parents and companies, according to Zenkoku Gakudo Hoiku Renraku Kyogikai, the nationwide liaison council for after-school clubs.
What sort of problems do after-school clubs face?
The biggest problem is that the number falls short of demand, especially in big cities.
A survey by the liaison council suggests that the actual number of children on waiting lists might be between 400,000 and 500,000, many more than are officially recognized. …” end of excerpt, read more about the costs, different types of gakudo’ here
Japan is strapped for IT programmers and this next article tells us there is a bright future for anyone interested in programming here … see:
Kids flock to Tokyo’s ‘Bit Valley’ to learn programming (March 31, 2014 Asahi-AJW)
Inside a skyscraper, high above Tokyo’s Shibuya district, a group of elementary school children sits patiently in front of their computers.
Someone shouts, “Development time, start!” and suddenly the click-clack sound of typing on keyboards echoes around the room.
Shibuya has been dubbed “Bit Valley” because of the number of IT companies operating within its borders. But here on weekend mornings at CA Tech Kids, rather than creating software to sell, the focus is on teaching children how to program.
Yumene Takeda, a sixth-grader who has not yet studied English, has no problem typing the alphabet and symbols. He began toying around with a computer at home when he was in the third grade. Now he says: “I want to make video games by myself. When I grow up, I want to get a job at a company that makes video games.”
“I love computers,” says fourth-grader Shinnosuke Chuman, whose dream is to become an astronaut.
Their parents, tired of Japan’s cram school-centric education, dream of their children becoming a future Steve Jobs of Apple or Bill Gates of Microsoft.
“They make something themselves and present it. The creativity, making presentations in front of other people and all that are fun in ways that learning by just sitting at school isn’t,” says Kazuhiko Chuman, Shinnosuke’s father, who works at an IT company.
President Susumu Fujita, 40, of CyberAgent Inc., the parent company of CA Tech Kids, came up with the idea at an executive training camp last year because he was concerned about growing public criticism of children’s use of mobile games. “I want to contribute something to society,” he says.
CA Tech Kids first began last summer with three days of pay-to-join classes. It was overwhelmed with applications and hurriedly increased capacity. Many parents, including ones of children who commute from over an hour away in Saitama, pleaded for the school to keep holding the classes.
The school opened as a regular business in Shibuya last October and has a branch in Osaka’s Umeda district as well. The second session of courses began in January. CA Tech Kids is now accepting students for the third session that begins in April. The three-month introductory course of six lessons costs 36,000 yen ($350).
Yuta Matsuyama, a 25-year-old CyberAgent employee who makes teaching materials, began programming at age 9. “If you’re going to get into video games anyway, it’s more creative to make them than to buy them.”
A LACK OF PROGRAMMERS
Computer education for kids isn’t new in Tokyo. In Tokyo’s Sumida district, an NPO called Canvas has run a programming school for children since 2002.
Nanako Ishido, Canvas’ 34-year-old director, says, “We want (students) to learn creativity and teamwork skills through programming.”
Over the last 12 years, a total of 300,000 students have completed courses at the school.
But while that might sound like a huge figure, there are still not enough IT engineers in the industry, according to CyberAgent President Fujita.
“People in Japan always talk about improving English skills, but there is a huge shortage of programmers,” he says. “There is a headhunting war, and competent programmers are being offered fat salaries.”
In the global IT world, it is natural for programmers to start up companies the way Gates and the late Jobs did, but Bit Valley still has to catch up.
Be that as it may, even the precocious Matsuyama is surprised at the ability of elementary students at CA Tech Kids to absorb information. When instructed to develop their own creations, one fifth-grade boy made an “unlimited calculator.” While regular calculators can only display a certain number of digits, he made a smartphone app that can calculate numbers of any size by using the device’s scrolling feature to move the display sideways.
Matsuyama was particularly impressed with the boy’s ability to show and explain his app to his peers.
“He was just like Jobs at the presentations,” Matsuyama says with a laugh. “Japan’s future is bright. We can be hopeful.”
Govt aims to help kids adapt to primary school (Mar 29 Yomiuri Shimbun)
The education ministry has decided to provide financial support for primary schools that offer preparatory classes for preschool children on Saturdays, as part of efforts to reduce problematic behavior among new primary school students.
The government is working to alleviate children’s anxieties over entering primary school and prevent so-called first-year student problems, such as failing to adapt to the new environment and walking around during class.
The Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry plans to subsidize 3,000 primary schools across the nation. It believes children will take to their new school routine more easily if they experience primary school life before official enrollment.
As activities likely to be helpful, the ministry has cited such things as reading and writing hiragana, playing with numbers, listening to stories, English conversation and exercise classes.
According to the ministry’s outline for education at kindergartens, such activities as reading and writing hiragana and English conversation are not required. For this reason, the ministry is emphasizing activities to get children accustomed to a learning atmosphere while having fun, rather than having them acquire academic development in “lessons” at a primary school.
As teachers, the ministry envisages high school and university students, as well as foreigners in the community.
First-year student problems in primary schools, which began to attract attention around 2000, have become a national issue in recent years. Children are entering primary school who cannot cope with group activities in a class, and who make a fuss or walk around in classrooms, interfering with teachers’ efforts to give lessons. According to experts, one reason is the different atmosphere between play-focused preschool education and textbook-focused education at primary schools.
According to a survey by the Tokyo Metropolitan Board of Education, problematic behavior among first-year students was found at about 20 percent of public primary schools over the 2010-12 academic years. Reports on behavioral problems from schools have included statements like: “Students do not stop talking when the teacher is speaking,” “Students do not keep still and stand up suddenly” or “They wander around the classroom by themselves.”
The education ministry has recommended efforts to achieve a smooth shift to primary schools through such measures as increasing opportunities for exchanges between primary schools, and kindergartens and nursery schools. Some municipalities have started their own efforts.
The Kyoto prefectural government started a project in the 2010 school year to help children experience primary school before they formally enter. These “soon to be first-year student” children experience activities with primary school students such as searching for acorns in a life environmental studies class and making things in art class.
According to the prefectural government, these experiences have helped ease preschool children’s anxiety about their new life at primary school.
The education ministry means to promote such efforts further with its financial support. Funding will be drawn from a total of ¥1.3 billion in subsidies for primary, middle and high schools that hold Saturday classes.
Prof. Nobuyuki Wada of Tokyo Seitoku College, an expert on cooperation between kindergartens and nursery schools, and primary schools, said: “If preschool children experience primary school through things like using its toilet and sitting in a classroom, they will look forward to their new school life. I think it’s a worthwhile effort.”
The first nationwide study to look into the link between children’s family environment and their academic performance concluded that …
Smarter children have better-educated, richer parents: study
(March 28, Jiji Press)–Children with better-educated and higher-earning parents tend to demonstrate higher academic abilities, a Japanese education ministry-commissioned survey study showed Friday.
The study, based on academic achievement tests conducted across Japan in April 2013, also found that children who do their homework show high academic performance regardless of their family environment.
Among other findings, parents with higher incomes tend to spend more on their children’s out-of-school education and such children had better test results.
In addition, the study found that children’s academic capabilities are strongly influenced by the extent to which their parents read to them or encourage them to read books and newspapers on their own…”
Next, the spotlight on the revolutionary software Vocaloid and its new role in music education and usefulness for music composers:
Vocaloid Utilized for Music Education in Japan (Mar 30, 2014, Jiji Press)
Tokyo–The Vocaloid singing voice synthesizer software has grown into a pop culture sensation. It created a virtual pop star named Hatsune Miku.
It is now beginning to be utilized in the field of music education in Japan.
In the school year starting in April 2015, Shikoku University in Tokushima, western Japan, will open a training course at its two-year music college where students can learn to write songs using the software.
The software allows users to write songs by just typing in lyrics and melody. “At first, I thought Vocaloid was something more childish,” said Atsushi Masuda, associate professor of popular music at the university.
“I came to realize that creating singing voice with Vocaloid is profound because you can make adjustments to the vibrato tone or the intake of breath,” he said.
If you’ve never watched a Vocaloid performance, click on the Youtube link below to watch AniMiku Vocaloid concert:
Fukushima junior high students perform in London (Apr 4, NHK)
Update: Isles, quake appear in schoolbooks (Yomiuri Shimbun, Apr 5)
Some new social studies textbooks and maps for primary schools to be used from spring next year clearly state that the Takeshima islets in Shimane Prefecture and the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture are “territories inherent to Japan,” according to the education ministry, which announced Friday the results of the screening of primary school textbooks for the next academic year.
This is the first time for primary school textbooks to carry clear descriptions that the islands are Japanese inherent territories.
Meanwhile, all social studies textbooks for fifth and sixth grades have detailed descriptions of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake. Some also include descriptions of the crisis at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
All 139 textbooks in nine subjects submitted by publishers passed the textbook screening by the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry, the ministry said.
The screening system, which began in 1947, aims at checking such things as whether textbooks follow the government’s curriculum guidelines. Each year, one of four groups of textbooks are screened: those for primary school and the third year of high school, for middle school, for the first year of high school, and for the second year of high school. Therefore, textbooks are reviewed every four years in principle.
Of 14 social studies textbooks and maps, seven textbooks for the fifth and sixth grades clearly state that Takeshima and the Senkaku Islands are the nation’s territories or territories inherent to Japan. They explain the current status of these islands using pictures and maps.
In January, the ministry revised the national curriculum guidelines’ instruction manuals for middle and high school social studies to include an expression that these islands “constitute inherent parts of our nation’s territory.”
The revision will be reflected in middle school textbooks to be used from the 2016 academic year and in high school textbooks from the 2017 academic year.
Currently, only one primary school textbook, for the fifth grade, has descriptions including “South Korea is illegally occupying Takeshima.” However, publishers this time have adopted detailed descriptions in primary school textbooks prior to middle and high school textbooks, with some firms saying that the public’s interest in the issues is high as they make news headlines quite often.
The news on new schools opened in Japan:
ABC Montessori International School opened on Apr 1st. A division of ABC International School, this new branch school with a Montessori education-dedicated curriculum is located across from the lawn tennis club in Hiroo.
Osaka school offers new approach to education for ethnic Koreans (Japan Times, Mar 4, 2014)
OSAKA – For decades, schools for ethnic Koreans living in Japan have been divided along pro-Pyongyang or pro-Seoul lines, with their curricula reflecting the differing political ideologies in North and South Korea.
In 2008, however, a new type of school opened in Osaka in response to Korean residents’ desire for an education that, while emphasizing their roots in the Korean Peninsula, is not restricted by differences across the 38th parallel.
Most of the 86 students from the seventh to 12th grades at Korea International School in Ibaraki, Osaka Prefecture, are Koreans living in Japan. But there are also Japanese students and people who have returned after stints abroad.
Nowadays, 4 in every 5 Koreans in Japan are believed to have at least one parent with Japanese nationality, unlike previous decades. Many citizens of Korean descent also have assumed successful roles in academia, business and other circles in Japanese society.
As a result, there has been growing frustration and dissatisfaction that the education offered at Korean schools simply imitates that of the “home” country — that is, North or South Korea, depending on the school’s affiliation — according to Om Chang Joon, vice principal at Korea International School.
Established in response to such frustrations, the new school in Osaka has adopted a curriculum based on Japanese educational guidelines, with the majority of classes taught in Japanese. It also has classes on Korean language and history, and attempts to cover the peninsula as a whole. … Read more about Korea International School here.
Obokata falsified data in STAP papers: probe (Japan Times, Apr 2, 2014)
A probe into possible “research misconduct” by the authors of two potentially revolutionary papers on pluripotent stem cells turns up two instances of deliberate falsification…
RIKEN Panel Finds Misconduct in Reprogrammed Stem Cell Papers – Science News (Apr 1)
An investigating committee has concluded that falsification and fabrication mar two recent Nature papers reporting a new, simple way to reprogram mature cells into stem cells. The committee concluded these acts constitute research misconduct. Related: read more on this at world.edu
The controversy hinges upon Haruko Obokata’s reused images from her doctoral dissertation, that depicted completely different experiments.
Benesse to tap McDonald’s Harada as president (Japan Times via Four Traders)
McDonald’s Holdings Co. (Japan) Chairman Eiko Harada is expected to become chairman and president of education service provider Benesse Holdings Inc., informed sources said Thursday. …
In other local news … Japan Times: Japanese firms mostly unaware of benefits of hiring from JET ranks: poll
Five great learning apps for kids, from a new magazine for Tokyo’s international women, called SavvyOn technology and learning, check out these:
Elsewhere in the world the edu-news of interest:
Higher Education: Is college worth it? (The Economist, Apr 5) Too many degrees are a waste of money. The return on higher education would be much better if college were cheaper. A useful comparative chart on annual returns over a 20 year period of various different colleges is provided. Read more…
Hire like Google For most companies, that’s a bad idea (LA Times, Mar 9, 2014)
Authors of the article Chabris and Wai take issue with Laszlo Bock, the head of human resources at Google for having said (in his interview with NY Times) “GPAs are worthless as a criteria for hiring, and test scores are worthless…. We found that they don’t predict anything…” .
Chabris and Wai remind us that “decades of quantitative research in the field of personnel psychology have shown that across fields of employment, measurements of “general cognitive ability” — which is another way of referring to the old-fashioned concept of intelligence or IQ — are consistently the best tools employers have to predict which new employees will wind up with the highest performance evaluations or the best career paths. We shouldn’t rush to assume that Google, with its private data, has suddenly refuted all that work” and Chabris and Wai also explain that ” the fraction of people at Google without a college degree has increased over time and is now as high as 14% on some product teams. This means, however, that more than 86% of people at Google do have a college education (or more), and most of them come from the most elite schools. … These highly selective institutions have, by definition, already filtered students based on high school GPAs, SAT or ACT scores, and other factors. Google in effect uses attendance at those colleges as a hiring criterion, so Bock — who happens to possess a degree from Yale University — is using GPAs and test scores whether he realizes it or not.” The authors conclude that while computer giants like Google can afford to abandon traditional measures of intelligence, most companies can’t.
Ivy League colleges maintain low acceptance rates for applicants (Bloomberg Mar28)
While most Ivy League schools reported a decline in applications this year, Yale University received a record 30,932 applications and accepted only 6.3% of them. That’s down from 6.7% last year. Other schools accepted more, like Harvard University, which accepted 5.9% of applicants, up from 5.8% last year. Acceptance rates at other elites including Columbia and Princeton universities remained unchanged.
A Merkel, a Map, a Message to China? (Foreign Policy, Apr 1, 2014) “Historical maps are sensitive business in China. Every schoolchild in China learns that Tibet, Xinjiang, Taiwan, and the Diaoyu Islands have been “inalienable parts of China since ancient times.” The d’Anville map, at least visually, is a rejection of that narrative…” The map of 1735 by d’Anville the French cartographer presented by the German Chancellor Merkel, to the Chinese President causes brouhaha because it shows “China Proper” in ancient times without Tibet, Xinjiang, Mongolia or Manchuria … A map published in many Chinese-language media reports about Merkel’s gift-giving shows the Chinese empire at its territorial zenith, including Tibet, so this gift is embarrassing. The larger territory as drawn on Chinese maps is instead based on British mapmaker John Dower’s map made a century later, which reflects the militarism of the Qing empire and Emperor Qianlong’s efforts to bring the peripheries under imperial control..
Addition of Korean name for Sea of Japan becomes law in Virginia (JapanToday, Apr. 04, 2014)
Legislation requiring that the Korean name for the Sea of Japan be included in new school textbooks has become law in the U.S. state of Virginnia after lobbying by Korean residents … Read more here…
According to Bandwidth blog, South Korea has found the perfect way to police smartphone usage by youths … with the iSmartKeeper app:
“…schools in Seoul, South Korea, have decided to fight fire with fire – they have implemented a new app in schools which is solely aimed at reducing distractions within the classroom. …
iSmartKeeper is a smartphone app with an accompanying desktop program that allows teachers to control which apps their students may use during class, all from the comfort of their desk.
It’s premise is really simple, too. Students download the app onto their smartphone, while the teachers then use an accompanying desktop program.
The desktop program then gives the teacher the ability to remotely ‘control’ the students’ smartphone and app usage. Teachers can turn off specific apps during class or block messaging and social media apps (we’re looking at you, WhatsApp and Facebook).
They can also lock all smartphones in the school or adjust the settings so only emergency calls are allowed or only phone calls and SMS.
What’s super clever about the app, is that it uses location data to track the students movements. This enables the app to only work when the student is actually on school grounds.
iSmartKeeper is currently used in 11 schools in Seoul, with 600 other schools having shown interest in using the app. While it is still in it’s ‘experimental’ phase, co-creator and professor at the Gonju National University of Education, Haun Gyu-sang, has said that 30 000 students are already registered for the app.
Of course, before the app can be used, schools will first have to get approval from the students’ parents. However, the app is just as appealing to parents as it is to the teachers; the app can also be used at home, with the parents implementing the same restrictions if they want.
The project is wholly endorsed by the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education, who plans to expand the project to more schools in the near future.
The idea to control the kids’ app usage with another app is genius. In recent years, reports have been flooding educational journals and websites on the immense effect (distracction) that smartphones and apps have on kids, teenagers specifically…”
See related editorial “Smartphone addiction” (Mar 27, The Korea Herald)
Twitter and text are not GR8 for English skills, warns head (The Times, March 24, 2014 via SchoolsImprovement.net)
The Times is reporting warnings from a head that eliminating “text speak” and its impact on children’s spelling and grammar is among the greatest challenges facing teachers…”Abbreviations and slang used in text messages and on Twitter are “eroding hard-learnt skills”, and pupils are growing up with a more limited vocabulary because they spend less time reading books …there should be a drive to stop the damaging effect of instant messaging on written English work”, said Caroline Jordan, head of Headington School for girls in Oxford. More
Genius, as a Tot (POPSCI, 14 Mar)
When MENSA admits tots, it makes for sensational news but what exactly are the connections between early smarts and later life? And can genius be recognized in early life?
“Jonathan Wai, a research scientist at the Duke University Talent Identification Program, says that tests can identify above-average babies, as early as 12 months. His colleague Joseph Fagan created the Fagan Test of Infant Intelligence.
Fagan tested 61 infants between 7-12 months of age on their ability to selectively attend to novel pictures. The infants looked at pictures for a few seconds, and then paired the old pictures with new ones, recording how long the babies looked at the old pictures. The smarter the infant was, the shorter time they spent looking at the pictures that weren’t new – at least that was the idea. Infants generally spend about 60 percent of the time looking at new images.” Read the rest…here
Learning Curve (Mar 12, Foreign Policy) on why more and more extremely poor parents in poor countries are paying out of their limited income to send their kids to private school…
On matters of kids health and safety, check out Upworthy’s easy-to-understand infographic:
Tsunami left mental scars on 1 in 4 kids (Japan Times): A quarter of the nursery school children who survived the 2011 quake and tsunami have psychiatric problems that could last a lifetime if left untreated.
Autism May Be Tied to Flawed Prenatal Brain Growth (ABCnews, Mar 27)
A great safety product and service available to parents who want to track their kids but don’t necessarily want to give them smartphones/mobile phones is SECOM’s Koko Secom service and buzzer that is heads and shoulders above all other kinds of buzzers…it is basically an on-call and pay-as-you-use security service for tracking your child, see All abuzz about child safety (The Yomiuri Shimbun, Apr 5) Excerpt follows:
With the arrival of the new school term, many parents must be worried about the safety of their children when they travel to and from school or juku cram schools. To ease their anxieties, a number of firms are providing services to swiftly dispatch personnel from a security company in the event of an emergency.
Tokyo-based security firm Secom Co. is offering a service called Koko Secom that allows a child to contact the firm’s operation center with the push of a button on a terminal smaller than a business card. The center then telephones the child’s guardian and, upon request, swiftly sends a staff member to the child’s location.
Even if the child does not press the button, the GPS functionality of the terminal allows parents to track the child’s whereabouts by visiting a designated website.
When subscribing to the service through the Internet, a customer pays an entry fee of ¥4,500 (all prices exclude tax) and ¥2,000 for a battery charger for the terminal. The monthly fee for the basic plan, which allows parents to locate their child’s whereabouts up to 10 times per month without additional charge, is ¥900. When a staff member is dispatched to a child in an emergency, an additional fee of ¥10,000 is charged each time.
NTT Docomo, Inc.’s Kids Keitai cell phones include a function to sound a buzzer and automatically send an e-mail to a designated guardian when the attached strap is pulled. Such a cell phone works with Docomo’s Kaketsuke (rush to the scene) Service operated in collaboration with Sohgo Security Service Co. (ALSOK).
If the guardian so requests, ALSOK will dispatch a staff member to where the child is. The service plan has no monthly fee, but when a staff member is dispatched, ¥10,000 per hour is charged.
Parents want to know if their children are taking the same routes home from school or juku.
Odakyu Electric Railway Co. is offering a service for parents of primary and middle school students that sends e-mails to inform them what time their children have passed through automatic ticketing gates at stations on railway lines operated by the company. To use the service, a guardian is required to sign a contract with Odakyu and the child must have a Pasmo card with his or her name registered. The monthly fee is ¥500. Read more…
Ruth Ozeki’s third novel, shortlisted for The Man Booker Prize 2013.
“Full of Ozeki’s signature humour and deeply engaged with the relationship between writer and reader, past and present, fact and fiction, quantum physics, history, and myth, A Tale for the Time Being is a brilliantly inventive, beguiling story of our shared humanity and the search for home.(Goodreads)
Miscellaneous: NGO Full-Tuition Scholarship (Tokyo Only)
The NGO Full-Tuition Scholarship provides full tuition for any one course applicable to the NGO Management certificate for one semester. This scholarship is open to any students who are or will be enrolled in any of the designated core and elective courses in the NGO Management certificate course. NGO Scholarship is for any student who is committed to completing the NGO certificate. New students must register before applying for this scholarship. Applicants whose tuition is paid by their company are not eligible to apply.
TTFN and digitally yours,
Updates: 7 high school students face charges over suicide of classmate (Japan Today, Mar 8)
High schools to focus on global mobility (Yomiuri Shimbun)
Panel on English education holds 1st meeting (Jiji Press, Mar 8)
The education ministry’s panel of experts on improving English education for primary to high school students has held its first meeting. The panel will meet every month to discuss steps such as starting English education earlier at primary schools and how to strengthen teaching skills. …Rakuten Inc. President and Chairman Hiroshi Mikitani said, “A simple and powerful initial step would be to raise university exam levels to the global standard,” calling on the government to introduce external exams, such as the Test of English as a Foreign Language, or TOEFL, as part of university exams.
7 youths reported to prosecutors over bullied classmate’s suicide (Mainichi, Mar 6, 2014)
Seven youths aged 17 to 18 have been accused of illegal acts of violence in conjunction with the November 2013 suicide of their classmate in Fukuoka Prefecture, it has been learned.
Papers accusing the seven students were sent to the Fukuoka District Public Prosecutors Office on March 6.
Prior to committing suicide, the boy — who was an 18-year-old third-year student at a private high school in Fukuoka Prefecture at the time — left behind written text indicating that he had been bullied.
“Although it is not clear that there is a causal relationship between the suicide (and the bullying), the actions in this case are consistent with bullying based upon the definition provided by the bullying prevention law,” commented a prefectural police department representative.
The seven youths are accused of teaming up to assault the victim on five separate occasions between Oct. 1 and Nov. 6 in locations including the school’s classrooms and cooking room, including hitting and kicking him, as well as pressing a burning-hot ladle against his mouth.
The youth killed himself before dawn on Nov. 14 by jumping off an apartment building in the Fukuoka Prefecture city of Kasuga.
He had written the names of the other students on his portable terminal device, along with messages such as “I will never forgive you.”
The boy’s family filed an official claim regarding the incident in February of this year.
Japanese police handled 410 school bullying-related cases in 2013, increasing 58 pct from the previous year and exceeding 400 for the first time since 1985, the National Police Agency said Thursday. (Jiji Press, Feb 28)
The 27 former plaintiffs in western Japan became Nova students from 2002 to the chain’s bankruptcy in 2007 and cancelled their contracts without prepaid tuition fees being refunded.
Bullying-related cases in Japan surge 58 percent to 28-year high (Feb 27, Jiji Press )
Tokyo, Feb. 27 (Jiji Press)–Japanese police handled 410 school bullying-related cases in 2013, increasing 58 pct from the previous year and exceeding 400 for the first time since 1985, the National Police Agency said Thursday.
A total of 724 school children and students were found or taken into custody in violence and personal injury cases related to bullying in the year, up 213 and topping 700 for the first time in 27 years, the agency said.
The rises resulted from closer cooperation between police and schools and an increase in consultations with police amid growing public attention following a bullying-related suicide of a junior high school boy in Otsu, Shiga Prefecture, western Japan, an NPA official said.
As another factor, the official said that the definition of bullying has been broadened in 2013 after the law on measures to prevent bullying came into force.
In 2013, the number of minors held on suspicion of involvement in “furikome” bank transfer frauds came to 262, accounting for 21 pct of the total such suspects including adults, the NPA also said. The figure rose 102 from the previous year and grew eightfold in the past five years.
Nova founder and former President Nozomu Sahashi, 62, convicted of embezzlement, is responsible for paying the damages including prepaid tuition fees as he engaged in illegal practices that led Nova to fail, Presiding Judge Ikuo Yamashita said.
The ruling by the Osaka District Court in June 2012 had rejected the 21 million yen damages suit filed by the former students.
The rate of smartphone users among students owning mobile phones at elementary, junior high and high schools in Japan stood at 56.8 pct in late 2013, up 20.8 percentage points from a year earlier, a Cabinet Office survey showed Wednesday.
The rate stood at 82.8 pct for high school students, up 26.9 points, 47.4 pct for junior high students, up 22.1 pct, and 13.6 pct for elementary school children, up 6.0 points.
Earlier: An editorial in Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper looks at how the government is proposing to change education administration locally by granting the local government greater influence and rights and powers, see below:
Having drawn up a set of reform proposals on the board of education system, the Liberal Democratic Party has been in consultation with ruling coalition partner New Komeito.
Based on the outcome of discussions within the ruling camp, the government plans to submit a bill for revising the law on local education administration in the current Diet session.
The LDP draft focuses on making it easier for the head of a local government to exert his or her influence in the area of education administration, while allowing ultimate authority to be retained by the local entity’s board of education to ensure political neutrality in education.
Specifically, the LDP plan calls for integration of the post of education board chief, who acts as the board representative, and that of the superintendent of education, who serves as the education board’s secretariat chief. It also seeks to give the head of each local government the right to appoint and dismiss the person who will assume the proposed post to be created by merging the two roles.
The plan rightly aims to rectify the current situation in which the locus of responsibility is often blurred due to the simultaneous existence of separate posts for the education board chief and superintendent of education.
The current system utilizes a framework of making decisions through exchanges of views among members of a local education board comprising intellectuals and others from each local entity. With all the board members except the superintendent of education working part-time, the education board system has long been criticized as having become a mere facade. System reform is urgently needed.
The Central Council for Education, an advisory body to the education, culture, sports, science and technology minister, issued a report in December last year proposing that the ultimate authority in local education administration be shifted from education boards to local government heads.
However, there were fears that the council’s proposal, if effected as was, could lead to the danger of local government heads exerting their influence based on personal bias in a bid to assert greater control over educational matters, with no means of reining in their behavior.
Division of roles unclear
If education boards are allowed to retain final authority on education matters as envisaged in the LDP draft, there will be at least a modicum of hope of preventing the abuse of power by local government heads over education administration.
On the other hand, the LDP plan also calls for the creation of what it tentatively calls a “general education policy council.” The envisaged council would be presided over by each local local government head who holds the authority to enforce budgetary appropriations, with a view to having the council tasked with compiling important education administration measures.
The proposal to create the council seems to be designed to ensure local government heads’ chances of demonstrating leadership in the enforcement of education administration. What is of the highest importance, however, is to have the local education administration function properly by maintaining a balance of power between local government heads and education boards.
The LDP-envisioned general education policy council would be in charge of such tasks as the establishment and abolition of publicly operated schools and quotas of schoolteachers, while education boards would engage in such matters as personnel shuffles of schoolteachers and selection of textbooks to be used in the areas under their jurisdiction.
The relationship between the planned council and education boards under the LPD draft, however, appears to be more or less unintelligible. Should public entities implement the envisaged system without clarifying the roles of each, it could result in confusion that would affect day-to-day school education, possibly impeding the smooth implementation of education administration.
Also incorporated into the LDP plan is a proposal that local government heads be authorized to demand that education boards take appropriate steps in response to such emergency situations as the suicide of a student. The proposal came in light of the fact that education boards lacked crisis-management capabilities to take swift action, an issue that was brought to the fore in the case of the bullying-induced suicide of an Otsu middle school student in 2011.
The secretariats of education boards are frequently comprised of former schoolteachers. There is a strong body of opinion that they, due to a sense of camaraderie with problem-stricken schools, often fail to address the task of rigorously probing the causes of serious problems.
In effecting the envisaged system reform, it is very important to take up the attitude of doing away with this tendency of boards of education. (From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Feb. 28, 2014)
Publications to check out:
|Globalising Japanese History: The Significance of Teaching in English in Japanese Universities by Eleanor Robinson-Yamaguchi (Aichi Prefectural University)|
Education ministry revises booklets on radiation (NHK — Mar 03)
Japan’s education ministry has revised its instructional booklets on radiation by adding details on the impact of Tokyo Electric’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident.
The ministry published the original booklets in October of 2011, about 6 months after the disaster. But many teachers complained that the booklets lacked sufficient information on the accident itself.
The new booklets include maps of the areas affected by radiation from the crippled power plant as well as places from which residents were forced to evacuate.
- 3 Years On: Children in Disaster Areas Suffer Decline of Physical Strength
- 3 Years On: New School Buildings in Disaster Areas to Avoid Tsunami
- 3 Years On: Many Schools Still Using Temporary Buildings as Classrooms
The survey covered 198 children in the prefectures of Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima who were aged 3 to 5 at the time of the disaster.
“Those children grew up unable to express their fears involving the disaster or the grief of losing friends,” said Takeo Fujiwara, a researcher at the National Center for Child Health and Development. They were interviewed by child psychiatrists from September 2012 to June 2013.
The survey showed 33.8 percent of them exhibited such symptoms of PTSD as sleeping disorders and flashbacks. The percentage is much higher than 3.7 percent for children in Mie Prefecture, who were surveyed for comparison.
Children with stronger PTSD symptoms were more emotionless than others when humorous videos were shown to monitor changes of facial expression, according to the survey.
Elsewhere in the world, the news on education:
Chinese kids beat Western children at math (via gmanetwork, Feb 27)
Paris-(AFP-Jiji) — the children of cleaners in the Chinese city of Shanghai are outperforming the children of U.S. and British professionals such as doctors and lawyers at maths, a recent study found.
British and American children also fared badly against children from similar family backgrounds in other countries worldwide, OECD analysts said.
“In the United States and the United Kingdom, where professionals are among the highest paid in the world, students whose parents work as professionals do not perform as well in mathematics as children of professionals in other countries,” they stated.
“Nor do they perform as well as the children in Shanghai, China and Singapore, whose parents work in manual occupations,” they added.
The findings are contained in an analysis of the global Pisa test rankings, an international league table first released by the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development), a grouping of rich nations, in December 2013.
The study concluded that there was inevitably a strong relationship between parents’ occupations and student performance.
But it said the results show “that it is possible to provide children of factory workers (with) the same high-quality education opportunities that children of lawyers and doctors enjoy”. — Agence France-Presse
Panel discusses revision of teaching manual to include moral education
The government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has indicated its desire to boost moral education for young people in a bid to prevent crimes and bullying, as well as provide greater support for juveniles isolated from society.
The panel has proposed that the government introduce moral education into the curriculum for elementary and junior high school students in 2015 in accordance with the principles of the Japanese constitution and the laws of the land.
The December report says youth problems are becoming increasingly complex due to expanding income gaps in society. It says that juvenile crime can stem from a lack of communication with family and others, an unstable employment outlook and the financial difficulties of parents. It says that approved textbooks should be used for moral education in the classroom.
In the past, plans to introduce moral education into school curricula have met with opposition from some teachers and parents concerned that it would impose certain values on children.
New moral education textbook announced
The education ministry on Friday announced a fully revised book for moral education in elementary and junior high schools.
With the rare blizzard conditions that hit Kanto this past weekend, ” the day after” provided the best conditions for kamakura building. All the children in our neighbourhood it seemed, came out of the woodwork and were seen at snowplay, a bunch of kids were playing baseball with snowballs, while my son and his friend set about building their first kamakura.
Below is a photo of the boys at work building their “igloo” kamakura. When they had finished their snow hut around noon, kids soon streamed by to take photos with the hut, and to play inside. A neighbour came by and kindly offered the little lamp to light up the kamakura.
By the way, people often head out on Feb. 15-Feb. 16 with their kids to see the see the snow huts called Yokote Kamakura in Yokote, Akita Prefecture for the experience of playing in snow huts. The event is called the Yokote Snow Festival and 100 snow huts are built for visitors to experience.
Yokote Kamakura, Snow Huts in Yokote, Akita Prefecture; Playing in snow huts is a popular pastime in winter for children living in areas with heavy snowfall. They make snow huts called kamakura in which they play games and eat traditional delicacies. About 100 snow huts, and a number of snow creations are built on Kamakura-dori Street, in front of the Yokote City Hall branch office and at Yokote Park and so on. The best time to see this event is from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. (either day).
Access: (1) The JR Ou Honsen Line to Yokote Station, and then walk 10 minutes.
(2) Three minutes by bus from JR Yokote Station to Yokote Chiikikyoku-mae Bus Stop. (Above image credit: Japan Times festival database)
Background and history of the Kamakura tradition and the Yokote Snow Festival
“The festival is held annually on February 15 and 16. Kamakura is the name given to small igloo-like structure made entirely from compacted snow. Yokote city lies in an area of heavy snowfall where 20 to 30 centimeters of snow may fall overnight. Kamakura festival uses this snow in a festival that can only be found in such a snowy place. The Kamakura festival is held during the lunar new year together with other seasonal events such as the festival where pine and rope decorations used at the previous new year celebrations are burned in a sacred bonfire, a ceremony to pay homage to the god of water, and the ‘torioi’ ceremony to pray for an abundant harvest. In the past there have been water shortages in this region and that is why prayers are offered to the god of water, and the water god is enshrined inside the Kamakura. The Kamakura festival was also a way of spending a few simple days in a small hut away from the usual material temptations of life. These days, however, the rites chiefly involve children.
The Kamakura festival has been celebrated for more than four hundred years. Originally, Kamakuras were rectangular and had wooden roofs. Now they are constructed entirely of snow and are more dome-like. Each Kamakura is about 1.5 meters wide and 2 meters tall. They are constructed by piling snow, trampling it, packing it down, and then allowing it to freeze and harden over the course of about a week. The hardened mounds are then hollowed out to make a roomy chamber. A small entrance gives access to the wide space inside. An altar for the water deity is carved into the rear of the room inside the Kamakura. The floors are covered with grass mats and many Kamakuras are equipped with a single light bulb hanging from the ceiling to provide illumination. A charcoal brazier at the center of the Kamakura is used to grill mochi (rice cakes) and heat amazake (a fermented rice drink), which are offered to the passerby. Guests are invited in with calls of ‘agattetanse’, which is a word for ‘irasshaimase’ (please come in) in Akita-dialect.”
– read more about the Yokote kamakura snow festival
May your days be merry and white,
Median average wages and household incomes have yet to show any meaningful rises even as inflation is at a five year high, but private universities have announced their intention to raise university fees come April by significantly large amounts.
The unemployment rate has remained unchanged in the past year and firms in Japan are getting picky when hiring new graduates, using innovative new hiring techniques. Although about 81.7% of university students graduating in spring 2014 have been given at least one informal job offer by Oct. 1, 5.5 percentage points higher than last year’s rate, according to Recruit Career(Source: Nikkei, Nov 27, 2013), top firms have also indicated they will be hiring fewer, not more, graduates in 2014 (see Fujitsu’s statement “the number of new hires will decrease compared to this year due to the severe business environment…”(Source: “Fujitsu to hire 500 graduates in 2014″ Japan Today Mar 3, 2013). Since it is still unknown whether the slight improvement in graduate hirings over the past year will be sustainable in the future, should private universities be raising fees when they have not proven they have added value to their course programs nor raised teaching standards, nor that they are graduating more employable graduates.
Are university administrators and authorities even aware that they have not addressed the many criticisms about the state of/quality of higher education in Japan? Or have the rankings of all of the universities planning fee hikes risen notably in international rankings to justify the fee hikes?
Let’s review the figures:
Kyodo news reports that Japan’s minimum wage to rise by an average of 15 yen (Kyodo, September 4th, 2013)
Average wages in Japan increased to 310.85 JPY in November of 2013 from 297.41 JPY THO in October of 2013. Wages in Japan is reported by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, Japan. Source: “Japan Average Monthly Wages” www.tradingeconomics.com
However, Disposable Personal Income in Japan has in fact decreased to 356.21 Thousands JPY in November of 2013 from 401.14 Thousands JPY in October of 2013. Disposable Personal Income in Japan is reported by the Statistics Bureau, Japan Source: Japan “Disposable Personal Income” www.tradingeconomics.com
And now private universities have now announced their intention to raise university fees ranging from 20,000 to 200,000 yen(see article below), where families are going to be raising the shortfall in funds is a question that is going to be weighing heavily on all of parents’ and students’ minds, even as costs of living are clearly rising much faster than our wage earnings, thanks to the effects of “Abenomics“. See Japan’s Annual Inflation Rate Rises to Five Year High in November : The consumer price index for Japan in November 2013 was 100.8(2010=100), up 1.5% over the year and the highest since October of 2008.
Please, college dons and other authorities, do the math before you hike the fees. Help parents and students who have to fork out the fees out. Are Japanese graduates expected then to rack up college debts and head in the direction of US? See CNBC report on The college debt crisis “The debt that won’t go away”. I should really like to see a new kind of university rankings in place, one that has a large weightage and component based on how many students of the university are actually employed upon graduation. Maybe then, and only then will university policy-makers and authorities be forced to do the math along with the consumer of higher educational services.
Read the rest of the article at the-japan-news.com Other sources and references: “Japanese companies finding exceptional talent through exceptional hiring” Nikkei, Nov 27, 2013 “Fujitsu to hire 500 graduates in 2014“
The two-day test organized by the National Center forUniversity Entrance Examinations, which begins Saturday, involves 560,000 students applying to enter 843 universities and junior colleges nationwide. Many students no doubt studied hard day and night in preparation for the tests. We hope they can fully display their abilities. The center and officials concerned at each university need to focus their minds to prevent a recurrence of such trouble as the erroneous distribution of test question papers that happened two… more » (for even more details see also Japan Today’s article Jan 19, 2014 and the Jan 20, 2009 Japan Times articles posted below)
Merits, demerits of natl center test must be examined to promote reform
The National Center for University Entrance Examinations on Saturday began two days of tests across the nation. The center said that 560,672 students are sitting for the exams at 693 test centers nationwide.
On Saturday, students sat for exams in geography, history, civics, Japanese and foreign languages. On Sunday, tests will be held in mathematics and science.
As in previous years, there were a few glitches. Heavy snow made some students late in the Hokuriku region, while a disruption to the JR Tokaido shinkansen caused some students to miss the tests in Shizuoka, TBS reported. Trouble was also reported with audio-visual devices for English exam takers in some centers.
Typically, the test starts and ends at roughly the same time throughout the entire nation. As such, families have been urged to check weather and traffic reports and to ensure that their children arrive at test centers in plenty of time.
The standardized exam is used to grade students applying to public and private universities in Japan. The test results will be used by 843 public universities, private universities and junior colleges to grade applicants.
Last year, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) said it was considering scrapping Japan’s Center Test system.
The ministry wants to scrap the current system in favor of a series of “achievement tests” to be taken through high school. According to MEXT, the new tests would be taken two or three times each year, with the student’s highest grade being accepted for final consideration.
The ministry says the new system is likely to be introduced in four years’ time at the earliest.
The annual university entrance examination season kicked off Saturday and Sunday as some 540,000 high school students and graduates nationwide took the standardized National Center Test for University Admissions.
The next several weeks will be tense for examinees as they prepare for the individual exams scheduled at public and private universities.
The tough competition used to be known as “examination hell” as applicants crammed with the goal of getting into the best schools to ensure the best career opportunities.
Now that the population is in decline, the competition is changing. Universities are struggling to survive and they need to ensure they enroll enough students to do so.
Following are some facts about the university entrance exams:
What is the National Center Test for University Admissions and how does it function?
Often referred to as the “center test,” it is made up of standardized exams that are required for applicants to the 82 national universities and 74 municipal universities as the first stage of the screening process.
These days, many private institutions also offer the exams.
Applicants are tested on five subjects, as well as subtopics: Japanese, social studies (Japanese history, world history, geography and civics), and foreign language (English, French, German, Chinese and Korean,) science (biology, physics and chemistry) and mathematics.
The tests are multiple choice, but the English exam, which is taken by a large majority of applicants, includes a listening comprehension segment.
According to the National Center for University Entrance Examinations, which arranges the exams, the center test “primarily aims to measure the level of basic academic achievement of prospective students upon concluding their high school education.”
All universities using the center test decide and apply their own criteria to measure the aptitude of examinees. Applicants must make sure they take tests in all the subjects that are required by their targeted institutions.
What happens after the center test?
The answers of the tests are announced by 9 p.m. on exam day on NCUEE’s Web site. Thus examinees already know how well they did.
Examinees afterward apply for individual examinations at public universities by submitting their center test scores as well as their high school records.
The total score of the standardized test is important because many universities set the minimum points necessary to take their individual exams.
The individual tests are no longer simply multiple choice. Some institutions also require applicants to write essays and be interviewed.
Public universities are scheduled to hold their exams on two separate occasions, in late February and early March. Decisions will be based on the combined score of the center test and the exams from the universities.
How do private universities select prospective students? Why are private schools also utilizing the center test?
Private universities, whose student bodies account for more than 70 percent of all Japanese college students, generally screen their applicants through their own exams. A large majority of their prospective students go through this process. If applicants are only interested in private universities, there is no need for them to take the center test.
But with the decline in the number of young people, more private institutions are offering different admission processes to accept students. Utilizing the center test is one such process. It allows private schools to acquire students at an early stage.
This year, 487 private universities are using the center test standardized exams, a record number.
Some schools combine the center test results and their individual exams, or even screen students simply by center test results.
What other ways can a high school student enter a university?
Some universities accept students who make early decisions to apply. Usually, high schools recommend students with good grades and reputations to universities, and the students proceed to take a special exam.
Some institutions also accept students with special talents, including sports or arts.
How much do college entrance exams cost?
University entrance exams come at a price. Applicants for the center test must pay ¥12,000 if they are taking two or fewer subjects. For those taking three or more subjects, the fee is ¥18,000.
For those who apply to public universities, each school will charge ¥17,000 for the individual exams. Students can apply to up to two public institutions.
Private schools charge about ¥30,000 to ¥35,000 for each department to which a student applies, according to Obunsha Co.’s Web site Pass Navi, which provides information on college entrance exams.
Because there is no limit to how many private schools and their departments students can apply to, the cost varies depending on the applicant. A survey by the Tokyo Federation of Private University Faculty and Staff Unions showed that among nearly 4,300 private university students polled in May 2007, the average amount spent on exam-related expenses came to ¥231,900. This included transportation and hotel accommodations.
Japan’s tough college entrance exam competition was once known as “examination hell.” Is it still?
Competition remains fairly stiff for those aiming for top universities, but many schools have become much easier to enter these days, observers say.
The competition intensified between the 1960s and 1980s due to Japan’s high economic growth. During this period, companies, with their lifetime employment system, hired graduates from good schools, which meant one’s future was decided at age 18, according to Koichi Nakai, author of “The History of University Entrance Exams in the Post-World War II Era.”
Because more people wanted to receive higher education, deregulation in the 1990s triggered a rise in new universities.
However, the population of 18-year-olds peaked in 1992 and has been declining since.
At the same time, more than half of 18-year-olds are attending a university or junior college today.
As a consequence, many private schools are starting to suffer student shortages.
A poll released in August by the Promotion and Mutual Aid Corporation for Private Schools of Japan showed that 47 percent of 565 private universities suffered applicant shortages and did not meet their admissions targets in 2008.
Nakai writes that university entrance exams are increasingly becoming easier because many schools need to do whatever they can to acquire enough students to keep them running financially.
If students were willing to attend schools other than their top choices, there are enough places for everyone who applies, he writes.
In other related news:
In the heart of winter, we sometimes run out of ideas for field trips, other than trips to the mountains for ski or snow activities. Here’s an idea I’m sharing with you, take the kids out strawberry-picking … you won’t regret it!
Not many people know that… around the New Year, one of the things you can do on the fringes of the Tokyo Metropolis, is to take the kids out to the glasshouse strawberry farms.
Although the strawberry plants are not as heavy-laden and abundant with fruit as they would be during the spring-picking season, the advantage you have is that the farms won’t be thronging with tourists … you are likely to be just about the one or two customers at the farm that day. My son was able to have (to his heart’s content) a long discussion and to field all sorts of questions to the farmer on how to grow premium strawberries … he has been growing and managing our own plot since he was about six years old. Yes, they talked about fertilizers, weather control, pests, disease and pollinating bees, and more…
Visiting the farm slightly before the tourist season, also means you will also have likely have the entire farm to yourself … and have plenty of fruit to gorge yourself on … and perhaps even have a box of free fruit to take away for jam-making, like we did.
After picking all-the-strawberries we could eat, we relaxed by the cozy stove, drank amazake rice wine … most farms will have a range of souvenirs and other foods to buy as well.
I have always enjoyed taking the kids out to farms to try and see the food-chain, and to appreciate the processes and the hard work of the farmers who feed the voracious appetites of city-folk like us!
P.S. The above pixes are from our New Year’s Day (Jan 2, 2014) trip to Ichigo Fields, a small strawberry farm run by a lovely young-and-hip couple, the strawberry farm is attached to a rice farm in Ibaraki Prefecture.
P.P.S. Just google “strawberry picking in Japan” if you want to know where to go
Kobo Daishi a.k.a. Kukai (774-835) is credited with the creation of the first public school in Japan?
Or that he is said to have established in 828A.D. the first tuition-free university for commoners (Shugeishuchi-in) in Kyoto?
However, you are more likely to have heard that Kukai is famous for having invented the Japanese kana script:
“Kūkai is famous as a calligrapher (see Japanese calligraphy) and engineer. Among the many achievements attributed to him is the invention of the kana, the syllabary with which, in combination with Chinese characters (kanji), the Japanese language is written to this day. Also according to tradition, the Iroha, which uses every phonetic kana syllable just once and is one of the most famous poems in Japanese, is attributed to him but again, this is popular belief and nowhere attested to.” — Wikipedia entry on “Kukai”
Although the above entry states that Kukai’s invention of the kana script is an unattested fact, it is a plausible theory of origins, see a detailed paper entitled “Siddham in China and Japan” Sino-Platonic Papers, 88, 1998, in which there is clear evidence that Kukai studied Sanskript and Siddham under Prajna, a monk from Kashmir while on mission in China, that he had brought the first primer for learning Siddham by Chih-kuang to Japan in 806AD and that he was the first Japanese to write in the Siddham script in Japan (Annen née 841, was however the first Japanese to write a full treatise on the Siddham script called shittanzo in Japanese and in his treatise, he discusses how Kukai developed the tone inflections). Annen and other scholars in a competitive atmosphere, further developed Japanese pronunciations and writings of the Siddham script into transcribed Japanese by rationalizing both Old Chinese (predominantly Northern and Middle Chinese sounds) and North Indian sounds/pronunciations (it seems that Indian missionaries at work in China were apt to pronounce the Siddham sounds with their own native pronunciations, and that Chinese words incorporated into Japanese similarly borrowed sounds that had both northern and southern differences).
Sources and references and further readings:
Kukai (Stanford Encyclopedia of philosophy) http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/kukai/
Kobo Daishi and Koyasan: http://www.koyasan.or.jp/english/shingonshu/kobodaishi/index.html
Siddham in China and Japan Sino-Platonic papers, 88 (Dec 1998) by Saroj Kumar Chaurduri at pp. 86-98 http://www.sino-platonic.org/complete/spp088_siddham_china_japan.pdf
Kukai the Universal: Scenes from His Life by Ryotaro Shiba
January 5, 2014
The Yomiuri Shimbun
The communications ministry and the education ministry will test a new system in which students will be able to access teaching materials on the Internet using tablet computers and other electronic devices both at home and at school, beginning in late fiscal 2014, ministry sources said.
In its early stages, the cloud computing-based learning system will target certain primary, middle and high schools as well as a dozen schools for children requiring special care and support. In fiscal 2016, the two ministries plan to start implementing the system nationwide while also hoping to extend the system overseas….
Cloud computing enables people to control and access data via the Internet. The ministries will store electronic teaching materials for five subjects—English, mathematics, Japanese, science and social studies—on servers. This will not only make it possible for students to use online teaching materials during class but they will also be able to access these materials at home, using them to prepare for and review school lessons. The electronic learning materials are expected to provide schoolchildren with a more effective way to study by providing materials with images and sound as well as text.
The education system will make it possible for teachers to identify problem areas in which students tend to make mistakes, by analyzing students’ study records. In doing so, it will also allow teachers to improve teaching materials and methods. In the event students move to a new school, their study records can be transferred.
The government and local municipalities have already conducted education utilizing tablet devices and electronic blackboards. However, such methods have been implemented on a school-by-school basis. Therefore, the issue of cost has been raised as a potential problem, as nearly ¥10 million is needed every year for such expenses as placement and maintenance of servers and production of learning materials.
Utilization of cloud computing systems will reduce the cost of operation because servers and learning materials are shared with other schools.
A total of about ¥670 million was allocated for the education system in the budget for fiscal 2014 by the ministries. However, the question over who will pay for tablet devices and other equipment remains undecided and such issues will need to be addressed in the future.
First up, the movie buzz … have you watched the new Japanese trailer for the Hunger Games movie sequel that everyone has been waiting with baited breath for… check out Hunger Games2 goes on the roadshow on Dec 27
‘THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG’ In the Middle of Middle-earth NY Times review by Manohla Dargis: Part 2 of Peter Jackson’s trilogy based on the one-part “Hobbit,” “The Desolation of Smaug,” has lots of battles, an original character and Orlando Bloom.
And here’s our wrap and roundup of the news on 2013′s educational scene in Japan:
See also English education set to get serious
Junior high school English teachers should conduct classes exclusively in English and be periodically tested on their skills, and formal English instruction should start … more at Japan Times 12/13/2013
The following linked articles show contrasting sentiments on rote learning of kanji:
Japanese students’ success is built on the imperative of recalling a minimum of 2,000 Chinese characters used in everyday Japanese – known as “kanji”.
The war on katakana starts at school (Japan Times)
Eliminating katakana’s use as a pronunciation aide would benefit Japanese students’ ability to communicate, but that clearly can’t be achieved overnight. More here
An interesting take at Japan Times on grappling with the perverseness of being stuck in the katakana-English rut — “The war on katakana starts at school“:
Teachers face tests: strict regime from fifth grade
Junior high school English teachers should conduct classes exclusively in English and be periodically tested on their skills in the language using a third-party proficiency test, and formal English instruction should start in the fifth grade of elementary school from 2020, according to a blueprint for education reform unveiled Friday.As part of the plan for elementary to high school English education, more assistant language teachers also will be hired, education minister Hakubun Shimomura said.“We want to raise the standards for English education at the junior high and high school levels by having teachers conduct classes in English in junior high school, and focusing on the presentation and debate aspects of English usage in high school,” he said.The proposals are part of the “Execution Plan for the Reform of English Education in Response to Globalization,” the ministry’s blueprint for strengthening English-language education from elementary to high school.
Among other factors, the education ministry is hoping to take advantage of heightened interest in the language ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, which will draw large numbers of visitors to Japan.
“I think this is a welcome development,” said Takaaki Matsuoka, principal of Musashino Dai-Ichi Junior High School in western Tokyo. “I have the impression that we will finally be able to catch up with South Korea” in English education.
Matsuoka, who himself used to teach English, said English-language teachers at the junior high level have already grown somewhat accustomed to teaching in English thanks to working alongside assistant language teachers.
“In addition, classes are more focused on sound (verbal and listening), which should also help,” Matsuoka said.
The blueprint aims to set consistent achievement goals for each level of English education.
Under the blueprint, English teaching would start in the third grade of elementary school in “activities-style” classes conducted one or two times a week, mainly by homeroom teachers, with a focus on laying the foundation for communications skills.
In the fifth and sixth grades, more formal “classroom-style” instruction in three classes per week would focus on elementary communicative skills both by homeroom teachers and specialized English teachers.
The junior high school goal would be achieving the “ability to understand and exchange information on familiar topics, and express thoughts,” with classes “basically” taught in English.
This would be taken over by high school education that aims to bring students to levels at which they can “understand abstract concepts on a broad range of topics” and “converse with English speakers at a viable level of proficiency.”
Bullying at Japan schools jumps 2.8-fold in FY 2012 (Jiji Press) A total of 198,108 cases of bullying were recognized at schools in Japan in fiscal 2012 that ended in March, up 2.8-fold from the previous year and the highest figure since the survey began in 1985, the education ministry said Tuesday.
Board of education reform could lead to abuse of power by local govt heads (The Japan News, Dec 15)
In a move that could lead to far-reaching changes in education administration by local entities, the Central Council for Education, an advisory panel, has submitted recommendations to Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Minister Hakubun Shimomura.
The most conspicuous among the recommendations is that the panel favors transferring final authority on educational matters to local government heads from boards of education, while redefining the status of school superintendents, to be appointed by municipal heads to serve as their subordinates, as chief officials in charge of administrative work.
The proposed revamping of education administration comes in the wake of increasing criticism that the existing board of education system, under which decision-making is made through mutual consent among board members—part-time officials selected from among experts in local entities—fails to determine where the responsibility for decisions lies.
It also has been claimed that boards of education often fail to act swiftly when confronted by a serious situation, such as the case of a middle school boy in Otsu who committed suicide in 2011 because of bullying.
The panel’s recommendations are timely as they are intended to improve the ability of local entities to cope with various problems occurring at schools by giving municipality heads and full-time school superintendents both the authority and responsibility.
If the recommendations are put into practice, boards of education, which are currently independent, will be placed under the direction of local government heads, so board members can engage in discussions about broad education policies laid down by those local government heads.
At present, boards of education are spending far too much time doing perfunctory jobs such as dealing with education personnel affairs by holding meetings two or more times a month.
If the subjects of discussion are narrowed down to such key matters as leading education principles, boards of education will be able to hold in-depth deliberations about what local entities should pursue.
However, there is a danger that the powers wielded by municipal heads could become too strong, jeopardizing the principle of political neutrality of education administration.
During discussions by the advisory panel, a number of members warned of this risk.
To prevent municipal heads from acting arbitrarily on their own authority, the council’s recommendations have limited the scope of directions from local government heads to school superintendents to special circumstances requiring urgent action, such as dealing with serious cases of bullying.
Boards of education to be created in line with the recommendations would be in charge of checking and evaluating the enforcement of education administration by local government heads and school superintendents, and issue advisories when necessary.
The panel’s recommendations, however, fall short of giving the advisories any binding power. For example, in the event of a local government head arbitrarily setting education measures that have not been scrupulously studied, in an irresponsible attempt to secure reelection, it is questionable whether a board of education would be able to stop this.
Should educational goals and a policy of adopting certain school textbooks be changed every time a new local government head is elected, there is a risk of school education being plunged into total confusion.
Having received the panel’s recommendations, the education ministry is scheduled to submit a bill for the revision of the Local Education Administration Law to the ordinary Diet session to be convened next month.
New Komeito, the coalition partner of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, is wary of strengthening the powers of local government heads.
Many tasks need further study, such as how to create a new framework to ensure stability and continuity of education administration.
Schools strain at seams due to Tokyo condo development December 10, 2013, Yomiuri Shimbun
Primary schools in waterfront areas of Tokyo’s Koto Ward are overcrowded as a result of a sharp population increase due to local redevelopment efforts that included the construction of many condominiums.
Especially in the Toyosu district, the surge in primary school students has had such effects on school operations as the cancellation of a school play and the consolidation of multiple physical education classes into one. As the number of students there is expected to rise by 150 percent from the current figure to about 3,000 over the next six years, Koto Ward is busy building a new school and expanding its educational institutions.
On Nov. 25, a morning assembly was held at Toyosu Kita Elementary School with 1,140 students, and the school grounds were packed.
The school was founded in 2007 when Toyosu Elementary School was no longer able to accommodate the growing number of students in the area. But at Toyosu Kita, the student body has increased from 293 in the first year to more than 1,000 this year with 32 classes in six grades. Since the school has only 30 general classrooms, special-purpose classrooms must be used to accommodate the remaining students.
Three physical education classes must share the grounds at the same time. Last year, a school play was canceled because it was too difficult to have all the students perform on stage, as some grades had more than 200 students each, and the gymnasium could not accommodate the parents. In May, parents watched Sports Day festivities from the balconies of the school building due to a shortage of space on the ground. Principal Kimiko Irino, 60, said: “It’s difficult to have students use workshops or music rooms. We need more space for all the students to gather.”
The ward has about 21,000 primary school students this year, up about 5,000 over 10 years. Especially in Toyosu, where about 10,000 new condominium units appeared in the same period, the number of students at its two schools has nearly quadrupled from 502 in 15 classes in 2004 to 1,969 in 56 classes this year. Until 2002, the figure in the district had been declining in line with the low birthrate nationwide, but the construction boom of high-rise apartments after the closure of a shipyard led to a dramatic local population boom. The ward estimates the population will increase at a minimum annual pace of 140 to 230 in the next six years.
In 2015, the ward will found a new school, tentatively called Toyosu Nishi Elementary School, and build 24 classrooms, up from the original plan of 18. Meanwhile, Toyosu Kita will add a third building with 10 general classrooms, a small gymnasium, and a third science laboratory and music room in 2015. It also plans to create playgrounds by covering the rooftops of the second and third buildings with rubber chips and grass. “Our learning environment will be improved,” Irino said.
Neighboring Ariake will also construct an additional building at Ariake Elementary School by spring of 2016 and found a new primary school in 2018. Toshio Asaoka, a member of the ward’s board of education, said, “We’ll keep on making efforts to improve the learning environment.”
Fumihiko Ito / The Yomiuri ShimbunYuko Tanaka achieved an unexpected and overwhelming victory in Hosei University’s presidential election on Nov. 22, setting her up to be the first female president of one of the so-called Tokyo Big 6 universities.
Tanaka, 61, is also an active commentator on TV, and expectations are high for her tenure as Hosei president.
“If I attract attention as ‘the first woman,’ it might encourage younger women researchers,” Takana said. “I’d like to increase opportunities to connect with people in and outside the university and share the university’s achievements with the rest of the world.”
Tanaka studied the culture of the Edo period (1603-1867) at Hosei University’s Faculty of Letters, in which she enrolled with the dream of becoming an author.
“People in the Edo period were multitalented, able to draw pictures as well as write haiku poems,” she said. “I was fascinated with Edo culture because it was created by people who stimulated each other and formed connections across different fields.”
Tanaka is researching various aspects of the Edo period without restrictions, after questioning scholastic research that is confined within specialized domains…
Tanaka will assume the university’s top post in April. Her goal is to create a university that develops young people into adults capable of living and working anywhere in the world.
Next up, much earlier news, but still good to know:
The Japan News 2013-10-27:
The Yomiuri Shimbun More than 80 universities, mainly private institutions, are expected to adopt an online application system for their entrance examinations for the 2014 academic year, part of a rising trend in the use of technology. Online applications significantly reduce the amount of clerical work for university admissions offices and offer greater convenience for test-takers. At some universities, the adoption of such systems has helped boost the number of applicants, and in a recent wave of digital migration, other universities have moved their entire application process online. Source: The Yomiuri Shimbun
“When you enter a time, this app identifies available time slots in the schedules of individual users, and proposes dates on which the largest number of users can join a gathering with fellow users. Besides this, it can also be used as an SNS, offering communication and image-sharing functions.” This is the outline of the scheduler app DAYMORE, which Recruit Lifestyle Co., Ltd. released this spring. The commercialization of this service has been carried out in a way unprecedented for the company; the framework of the project was developed by a project-oriented internship program that was implemented in 2012, and four students were selected from among the participants of the internship program to join the project members working on the development of the service….
Child health and safety matters:
Ministry survey finds more food allergies among children Jiji Press, December 16, 2013 via The-japan-news.com
About 4.5 percent of schoolchildren in Japan had food allergies as of August this year, up from 2.6 percent nine years ago, a survey by the education ministry showed Monday.
Elementary, middle school and high schools across Japan were aware that a combined total of about 454,000 students had food allergies, rising by about 120,000 over the past nine years.
“While food allergies may indeed be on the rise, it is also true that more allergy cases were discovered as a result of increased attention among parents,” said an expert on children’s food allergies.
The ministry conducted the latest survey after a fifth-grade girl in Tokyo died in December last year from anaphylactic shock caused by a school meal.
It collected responses from about 29,000 schools across the country, or 85 percent of the total, covering 10.15 million students.
There were nearly 50,000 children with a history of anaphylactic shock. About 27,000 children were carrying EpiPen self-injection treatments with them to prevent fatal allergic reactions, and EpiPens had been used in schools in a total of 408 cases since April 2008.
A sample survey on 579 elementary and middle schools that offer school meals showed that 96 percent were taking care of children with food allergies based on the 2007 government guidelines. But about a quarter said not all teachers and school staff members were well informed of the guidelines.
In fiscal 2012, there were 40 cases at 34 schools in which children mistakenly ate food they were allergic to. In 29 cases, schools prepared alternative meals for children with food allergies, but failed to offer them.
“Even small mistakes need to be prevented as much as possible,” a ministry official said.
The outcome of the latest survey was reported to an experts’ panel on Monday. The panel will work out measures for preventing deaths from food allergies and announce them in a report to be released in March next year.
Related: Only 61 % of students with food allergies getting allergenic-free lunches (Kyodo Dec 17)
Only 61.1 percent of school children with food allergies are provided with school lunches that exclude allergenic substances, with 28.1 percent removing such substances themselves, a survey by the education ministry showed Monday.
An Education Ministry survey shows that one of every four girls in Japanese junior high school does not exercise at all except in physical education classes.
The survey sampled more than 2 million children in 5th grade at elementary school and the 2nd year at junior high school across the country.
9 percent of boys and 21 percent of girls at elementary school said they exercise less than 60 minutes per week.
The figure for girls in junior high school was 30 percent. And 80 percent of those girls said they do not exercise at all.
When given a multiple-answer question about what would help them exercise more, 77 percent chose their favorite sport or easy sports. 54 percent wished to exercise with their friends and 44 percent said if they could do so on their own terms.
Professor Takahiko Nishijima at University of Tsukuba analyzed the survey results. He says girls are likely to take part in non-competitive sports like hiking and jump rope. He adds it is necessary to teach them the joy of sports in PE classes.
University student arrested for kicking stroller with baby in it (Japan Today DEC. 19, 2013) OSAKA —
A 20-year-old male university student has been arrested in Ibaraki City, Osaka Prefecture, for violently kicking a stroller which had a baby inside, police said Wednesday.
According to police, the incident occurred on Nov 18. TV Asahi reported that the suspect, Daiki Sugimoto, approached a 36-year-old woman pushing her four-month-old baby along in a carriage on a sidewalk, and proceeded to violently kick the stroller without saying anything.
Police said they are questioning Sugimoto in connection with a recent series of assaults on young women with baby strollers in the vicinity of the Nov 18 attack.
US agency plans tougher rules after research shows there is no evidence antibacterial cleaning products help to prevent infections – and could even pose dangers to health…
Next, elsewhere in the world :.. here are the links to some articles that provoke some work on your grey cells:
The word “best practice” is bandied about a great deal by policy-makers and educators, find out what it really means in …
The term “best practice” is used often in education, David Penberg, an urban and international educational leader, writes in this blog post, suggesting that teachers be critical when the term is mentioned. “‘Best practice’ connotes white coats and flawless data,” he writes. “Emerging practice signals something iterative, evolving and, like our students, in a time zone of constant adaptation.”
How many times have you heard the term “best practice” uttered during a board meeting, a workshop or a conference presentation? Too many, I am afraid. In a profession enamored with buzz words, this one gets used with the frequency of “awesome” and shares the same shallowness.
The term “best practice” is used like a master key. You just need to invoke it, and the draw bridge comes down, and everything opens. But “best” according to whom and in relation to what? How can anything be a best practice when it is void of social, cultural and historical context? Is best practice in a Baltimore middle school the same as one for an American school in Barcelona? Can a best practice ever become a bad practice or a mediocre one? It’s not that I doubt that there are many unique and effective practices out there, it is just the use of the superlative that makes me squirm.
“Best practice” has a way of designating itself as superior by virtue of being a best practice. The logic is circular. The problem with “best” is that it comes off as imperial. It leaves no room for alternatives. It eschews variety, gradations and plurality. Why not call these emerging practices? We never talk about the change of seasons or a savory meal as best. Isn’t all effective education something that is fluid, protean and evolving?
Like our omnipresent ear phones and head phones, we should have our critical antennas up whenever the word is uttered. The superlative is a tense that does not belong in education. Rather, let’s take the work or program in process, the draft and the evolving idea. It feels more authentic, resembling the messy and often improvisational nature of life in school. “Best practice” connotes white coats and flawless data. Emerging practice signals something iterative, evolving and, like our students, in a time zone of constant adaptation.
We should care as much about language and how that shapes our perceptions as we do our test results.
View Full Article in: SmartBrief/SmartBlog on Education
Higher education is a noble and longstanding enterprise. And yet, curiously, it has not been a particularly self-reflective one. Especially in times of economic or political difficulty, the academic community has been more ready to analyse and campaign about what is being done to it than what it does to itself and to its most important members – its students.
All too often we can focus on issues like funding, economic returns on investment, relative institutional prestige and the like, and ignore what tutors and researchers working directly with students frequently hear in interviews: “it changed my life”.
Looking at the long sweep of university history, it is possible to extract several distinct claims about what higher education does to and for students: in existential terms (how students come to be); in epistemological terms (how they think and appraise information); in behavioural terms (how they learn to conduct themselves); and in positional terms (both through competition and collaboration) …
They can be structured around five sets of questions, part-ethical (what higher education should be seeking to inspire or inculcate in terms of habits of thinking) and part-epistemological (how it validates certain types of knowledge). Most were there in one way or another at the beginning of the European university enterprise, the model now widely imitated around the world. Since then they have waxed, waned and combined in various ways in response to both external and internal stimuli.
The first set is around conscience especially through religious foundations; the second around character as formed through ‘liberal’ higher education; the third combines calling, competence, and craft as in the zones of professional and vocational higher education; the fourth involves citizenship as in respective obligations to civil society, the state and global responsibilities; and the final set introduces capability, or the role of higher education in inculcating life-skills, including employability.
Most of the claims about the purposes and achievements of higher education relate to the individual: it will change your life, through conversion or confirmation of faith, by improving your character, by giving you marketable abilities, by making you a better member of the community, or simply by being capable of operating more effectively in the contemporary world. All of these qualities scale up, but in differing ways.
There is one over-arching question linked to the claim that “it changed my life.” Is higher education likely to make you better, to improve your capacity to make sound moral as well as technical judgements, in other words to take part in what Amartya Sen calls “public reasoning”?
As you study at this level you try to answer some hard questions, some hypothetical, some not. You learn how to work with other people, dead and alive, directly or indirectly through their work, present or remote. You meet deadlines. You ask yourself why you are doing this, and what difference doing it well will make for yourself and for others. You get a certificate (as a whole, or in stages). You take out a membership.
In this way, higher education’s purposes come together in terms of self-creation and the authentic life, the habit of thinking deeply, and the capacity to connect with others empathically.
At the end of the day everyone makes sense of his or her own higher education, not necessarily immediately, and in some cases not for a considerable time. You don’t have to buy the full proposition if you don’t want to – there is a definite escape clause (away from doctrinal study) that says no one can make you take away what you don’t want to take away from the experience.
You are, however, compelled by an authentic higher education experience to practise answering difficult questions. You are given a safe place in which to do so. Depending on your subject or discipline (or combination of these), you will gain a powerful evaluative toolkit. You will be required to communicate what you have learned. This is hard work but for centuries students have found it to be immensely satisfying…
Fareed Zakaria / The Washington Post
WASHINGTON—The latest international student evaluations, the PISA test results, are out and one thing is clear: the United States has not done well. Beyond that, the exams have become, professor Jay Greene points out, a Rorschach test. People read into them pretty much whatever they want. So Randi Weingarten of the American Federation of Teachers announced that “None of the top-tier countries … has a fixation on testing like the United States does.” It’s difficult to see how one could come to this conclusion. The top four slots in all three categories—math, reading and science—are taken by Shanghai (China), Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, or Japan. They probably have the most test-centric systems in the world.
What’s more worrying is that this particular test, PISA, is not focused on rote memorization but rather on the ability to use skills to solve real world problems. (I tried the sample test; you can too at http://www.oecd.org/pisa/test.) In fact, American school children do better in the other major international comparison, the TIMSS, which is a more traditional test of the academic curriculum. Does this mean we’re teaching more by rote than do South Korea and Japan?
If one can put ideology and vested interests aside, I think a fair-minded review of this survey, as well as others, suggests that the United States has reason to be worried, though not panicked.
Let’s be clear, general educational excellence is not the only ingredient to national success. Diane Ravitch, a critic of educational reform, has pointed out that the United States has never done very well on international tests, and yet, the American economy has done better than many higher scoring countries. Why? Well, America benefits from an amazingly flexible free market economy, a tradition of invention and entrepreneurship, a dynamic society, talented immigrants, and a strong work ethic. Those strengths might outweigh poor test scores, on average.
In addition, there’s increasing evidence that it takes a small number of high achievers to generate a great deal of economic vitality. Scholars Heiner Rindermann and James Thompson have found that the performance of the top 5 percent (measured by IQ) in a country correlates strongly with economic growth. Duke University’s Jonathan Wai argues that, because of its size, America’s top 1 percent have a huge impact on the country’s trajectory.
The United States has done very well in harnessing the talents of its top 1 percent and in attracting the top 1 percent from the rest of the world to live and work here. These are the engines of innovation, growth and dynamism. But the country’s vast middle class—and below—has seen its wages stagnate for three decades. And this is getting worse as technology and globalization depress job prospects for people in the middle.
The real story of these tests has been “the rise of the rest.” The United States has muddled along over the last few decades, showing little improvement or decline. Meanwhile countries like South Korea and Singapore have skyrocketed to the top and now China, Vietnam and Poland are doing astonishingly well. These countries have workers whose productivity levels have been rising in tandem with their educational achievements. There are many reasons, but to put it simply, many of these countries are playing to win. According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, the gap in math between Shanghai and Massachusetts (the top performing U.S. state) translates into two years of schooling. No surprise; as it turns out, because of the longer school year, by the time the average Shanghai kid gets to be 15, she has spent about two years more in school than the average 15-year-old American.
President Obama said this week that America’s greatest problem is its declining social mobility. Americans are now less likely to move out of their income level than Canadians or Europeans. Education is the single best way to rebuild that ladder of opportunity.
Almost all the research suggests that how much you spend does not predict your performance. America spends a lot; many Asian countries spend much less. However, America has an unusually large gap between its best and worst students. And it is unusual in that it devotes less money, attention and energy on its most disadvantaged students. Most countries, certainly most high performing countries, devote greater resources and attention to poor children. Because education in America is funded by local property taxes, the opposite dynamic is at work, which reinforces and exacerbates problems of mobility.
It’s possible that the top 1 percent will be able to continue generating enough growth to keep the country moving but it’s more likely that the weight of a stagnant middle class will eventually slow the economy down. More importantly, the politics of a country with a tiny productive elite and a massive underclass with low skills, depressed wages and no prospects will not look pretty.
On the Australian news, Don’t panic about PISA ; UK (Wales) - PISA Don’t panic; NZ - Business community calls for education improvement; PISA post-mortem-and-the-PISA shock effect
How to shine in a university interview Guardian Professional
In an interview for a university course, it’s important to show that you’re well-rounded and that you know your subject. In focusing on higher education’s systems, says David Watson, are we overlooking whether (and how) it works on its students?
Editorial: Why Other Countries Teach Better: Why students do better overseas… Dec 17, 2013
Millions of laid-off American factory workers were the first to realize that they were competing against job seekers around the globe with comparable skills but far smaller paychecks. But a similar fate also awaits workers who aspire to high-skilled, high-paying jobs in engineering and technical fields unless this country learns to prepare them to compete for the challenging work that the new global economy requires.
The results of the most recent Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) again reveal Shanghai’s 15-year-old students as the smartest in the world in reading, maths and science, coming…
The next three links are from Huffington Post, in the same vein as the article above- Racing to the Top & Leaving Behind the Love of Learning Accurate information is one thing, but testing in overdrive is quite another; it is a lousy strategy for nurturing anyone’s brilliance
Missing from Education: Time to Think? Teachers need time to figure out how to teach thinking. Right now many complain that teaching thinking would take too much time away from the busy schedule that mandates they cover the curriculum in order to be ready for the test. It seems no one in school these days has time to think
The Promising Future of Virtual spEd More and more, parents whose kids don’t fit the cookie cutter mold of their neighborhood school are increasingly interested in the option of high-quality education online — even if it means missing teacher-led instruction
University spy software to catch slackers (The Times); Other tech-related stories from Times’: Tablet computer for every pupil boosts motivation; Lazy pupils ‘can hide’ behind desktop technology; Smartphone app reveals pitfalls of multiplication; The internet ‘creates instant-expert pushy parents’
Innovations that changed Japan: It’s all in the details (Dec 16 Japan Times)
**Annika Bourgogne’s fine book “Be Bilingual” is now available in a print
edition. Annika is a parent, teacher, and researcher in Finland and I highly
recommend her helpful and well-crafted guide. I reviewed the e-version
previously at this link. (You can also read my interview with her.)
Also check out School reform is the focus of Sarah Reckhow’s, Follow the Money: How Foundation Dollars Change Public School Politics (Oxford University Press, 2013). Her book probes significant questions about the role of philanthropic foundations in education reform. Through in-depth case studies of NYC and LA, Reckhow demonstrates how a particular view of school reform has been funded by major foundations such as Gates and Eli Broad. Emphasizing new types of schools, particularly charter schools, and reforms focused around a business-oriented view of school management, foundations have reshaped education in these two cities
Last but not least, in the holiday spirit, I leave you with the Dec 19th Telegraph’s “Trifle with traditions at your peril:
A survey carried out this summer showed that 20% of university students say they would like to die…this was highlighted in an Oct 19th Japan Today article entitled “20% of Tokyo university students want to die“.
The NPO that carried out the survey said it believes the statistics are related to job-hunting failures and rejections.
While I thought this statement and article pointed out the obvious triggers for depression: the job-hunting stress and the fear of rejection and failure, the statement and the article were neither helpful nor informative as to real underlying causes of the depression, and might unwitting lead to a kind of public stigma and prejudice against society’s brightest minds.
What the authorities, administrators of higher educational institutions and all of those involved in supporting young people on the verge of joining mainstream adult society, need to realize is that the occurrence of depression or mental disorders is not unique to Tokyo University students(or other J-college students, or to Japanese students), nor should it be understood as abnormal, if we rightly understand what researchers are saying.
Lately, a series of studies and articles have pointed out a connection between creative, intellectual and analytical minds, and their tendencies towards depression, schizophrenia and other mental disorders. See Depression’s evolutionary roots; Link between creativity and mental illness confirmed; Schizotypy and mental health amongst poets, visual artists and mathematicians; Do you have to be nuts to be a genius?; Why (some) psychopaths make great CEOs and 11 Historical Geniuses and Their Possible Mental Disorders
From the research, we are told that the depression may be biological adaptation connected to a molecule in the brain called the 5H1A receptor, and we are urged to consider the
“possibility: that, in most instances, depression should not be thought of as a disorder at all. In an article recently published in Psychological Review, we argue that depression is in fact an adaptation, a state of mind which brings real costs, but also brings real benefits.
One reason to suspect that depression is an adaptation, not a malfunction, comes from research into a molecule in the brain known as the 5HT1A receptor. The 5HT1A receptor binds to serotonin, another brain molecule that is highly implicated in depression and is the target of most current antidepressant medications. Rodents lacking this receptor show fewer depressive symptoms in response to stress, which suggests that it is somehow involved in promoting depression. (Pharmaceutical companies, in fact, are designing the next generation of antidepressant medications to target this receptor.) When scientists have compared the composition of the functional part rat 5HT1A receptor to that of humans, it is 99 percent similar, which suggests that it is so important that natural selection has preserved it. The ability to “turn on” depression would seem to be important, then, not an accident.” — Scientific American article, “Depression’s evolutionary roots“
Thus, with a regard to the survey indicating depression amongst Tokyo University students, who are equated with Japan’s brightest minds, instead of stigmatizing or negatively viewing such tendencies towards depression and mental illness, we should seek to understand why society’s so-called creme de la creme might also the most likely ones to be wanting to throw themselves in front of an oncoming train, so that society might better help them. People often wonder how such supposedly brilliant minds that are capable of solving highly complex mathematical, scientific or other problems … can show such stupid or irrational behaviour, display an inability to cope with daily routine tasks, or such a lack of common sense, or why they should be so incapable of finding solutions to the infinitely less convoluted conundrums of daily life.
Well, an article in the Psychological Review explains the seeming deficit in what might be called wisdom or common sense in this way:
“Analysis is often a useful approach for solving complex problems, but it requires slow, sustained processing, so disruption would interfere with problem solving. The analytical rumination hypothesis proposes that depression is an evolved response to complex problems. whose function is to minimize disruption and sustain analysis of those problems by (a) giving the triggering problem prioritized access to processing resources, (b) reducing the desire to engage in distracting activities (anhedonia), and (c) producing psychomotor changes that reduce exposure to distracting stimuli. As processing resources are limited, sustained analysis of the triggering problem reduces the ability to concentrate on other things.”
In other words, brilliant minds like to be totally absorbed in working on their puzzles and projects, but in doing so, sacrifice all the brainpower they’ve got, and as a result, show a deficit of any more capacity for thinking or concentrating on other issues, whether this might involve finding a lost sock, or dealing with a breakup with a girlfriend, etc.
Psychology researchers Paul W. Andrews and J. Anderson Thomson Jr. note that in this connection, depression can pose a worse problem for such brilliant creative or intellectual minds:
“Depressed people often have trouble performing everyday activities, they can’t concentrate on their work, they tend to socially isolate themselves, they are lethargic, and they often lose the ability to take pleasure from such activities such as eating and sex. Some can plunge into severe, lengthy, and even life-threatening bouts of depression.
So what could be so useful about depression? Depressed people often think intensely about their problems. These thoughts are called ruminations; they are persistent and depressed people have difficulty thinking about anything else. Numerous studies have also shown that this thinking style is often highly analytical. They dwell on a complex problem, breaking it down into smaller components, which are considered one at a time.
Genius comes in all shapes and forms, from those with a creative bent in the arts – writers, painters and musicians – to those grounded in the sciences – physicists, matematicians and philosophers.
Geniuses are defined as individuals of high intellect who possess exceptional creativity and are capable of original thought. But they are also often obsessive, depressive, compulsive, introverted or manic.
And are these behaviours within the normal spectrum – albeit occasionally at the extreme end – or do they indicate an underlying neurological malfunction that might be a factor in their genius?
THE PERCEIVED LINK between genius and mental illness isn’t just coincidence: it extends from observations made centuries ago. The ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle asked, “Why is it that all men who are outstanding in philosophy, poetry or the arts are melancholic?”
More recently, 19th century Italian psychiatrist Cesare Lombroso theorised that a man of genius was essentially a degenerate whose madness was a form of evolutionary compensation for excessive intellectual development.
Mental illness, by the very phrasing of the term, has long had negative connotations, and can be very destructive for the sufferer and for those around them. But things are not always black and white: having a mental illness can actually prove a boon.
Affective disorders, including bipolar disorder – also known as manic depressive illness – are believed to have contributed to the creation of some of history’s most lauded poems, novels, artworks, discoveries and original ideas.
More recently, a number of history’s most brilliant minds have been retrospectively diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome – a high functioning form of autism characterised by narrow interests and ‘workaholism’. In fact, some researchers believe that these two types of mental illness might confer traits that are conducive to genius” – Do you have to be nuts to be a genius?”
While the last decade brought the spotlight on younger child and teen prodigies, so that society became aware of the need to give special care and attention to the gifted young (see Depressive Disorder in Highly Gifted Adolescents), not much awareness is known about the above-discussed mental problems of society’s clever and brilliant young adult students.
Administrators and authorities in charge of the nation’s higher education ought to begin dedicating more resources with properly trained and educated psychologists, psychiatrists as counselors who might properly understand the nature of the problems of our young people to better treat and help them. Another study also showed that “different domains of creativity require different cognitive profiles, with poetry and art associated with divergent thinking, schizophrenia and affective disorder, and mathematics associated with convergent thinking and autism.”
And society ought to act sooner than later, there is also evidence to show that once the highly intelligent get into trouble, the severity of the trouble high IQ individuals get into and the crimes they commit, tends to be far worse than that of normal individuals.
Family members and parents might want to educate themselves to be more emotionally supportive of their brilliant children as they work towards graduating college and embark on new careers. Oftentimes, parents with their high expectations of payback from years of grooming and supporting their seemingly brilliant and successful young, are anxious to push them out of the nest, towards adult routines and responsibilities, and who being in the dark about the darker dysfunctional sides of their children’s brilliant minds, can unwittingly contribute to the innate depressive (or psychopathic) triggers. And because these seemingly smart people are supposed to be smart, they can get more flack for their mistakes or for underperformance according to expectations. Unfortunately, what families and society are failing to realize, is that even young brilliant minds and geniuses need emotional support, listening ears and helpful positive advice to facing their more mundane problems and puzzles of life. Perhaps… even more hand-holding is required for the clever set than the usual amount required for normal people.
In the light of the foregoing, the more strait-laced-than-most Japanese society, that can be so often intolerant of deviant behaviour from the norms, had better wise up to the facts about intelligent people, and brace themselves to accept a small measure of madness and instability in its best and brightest young minds.
20% of Tokyo university students want to die, NPO survey suggests
Japan Today Oct 19, 2013
Tormented by the difficulty of landing a position and unfair practices by prospective employers, 1 in 5 college students contemplate suicide during the job-hunting process, a poll of 122 students conducted in July by the nonprofit group Lifelink found.
The Tokyo-based group conducted two surveys, on 121 students in March and 122 in July, on the stress associated with the job hunt, spurred by recent government statistics pointing to a marked increase in suicides among people in their 20s. Only the students in July were asked about suicide.
According to National Police Agency statistics on suicides in 2012, the total number of suicides in Japan has shown a downward trend over the last 15 years, dipping below the 30,000 mark for the first time last year to stand at 27,858.
However, the number among people in their 20s has gone up since the late 1990s, numbering 3,000 in 2012.
“Failures in job hunting” accounted for 149 suicides among people in their 20s last year, 2½ times the rate in 2007.
Released Friday, the Lifelink poll, which covered people in four-year universities, graduate schools and vocational colleges, found that students have a strong distrust of firms in Japan and of Japanese society overall, yet have a burning desire to get full-time employment after college.
Sixty-nine percent said Japan is a society where honesty and hard work are not rewarded, while 97 percent said they want to become full-time employees after graduation.
Eighty percent of those surveyed said they felt a strong sense of anxiety during their job search, with many citing the fear of not getting an offer from the firm of their first choice, and of “getting left behind” by their peers.
Adding to their stress is the often unfair treatment by companies. Some firms, the students found, secretly gave more opportunities to students from certain high-ranking universities while officially touting a “no-college-name-asked” hiring policy.
Students often rely on friends, social media and Internet bulletin boards for tips on job hunting, but they also suffer from a sense of exasperation and isolation when their job search doesn’t go smoothly in comparison with their peers, said Lifelink founder Yasuyuki Shimizu.
“These problems lead to greater issues after they get jobs,” Shimizu said. “They have a strong sense of distrust of society to begin with, which leads them to think they must have full-time employment to defend themselves. When they are able to become full-time employees (right out of college), they feel as if they must put up with anything to hold onto that job. And others who couldn’t get full-time employment are driven to think they are worthless.
Why (some) psychopaths make great CEOs (Forbes, 6/14/2011)
Depression’s evolutionary roots (Scientific American, Aug 25 2009)
A happy autumn day’s and Halloween to all our readers,
Depicted to the left, are designs by the creative Bunka Fashion College students for the commercial production of personalized doctors’ white coats… part of the launch of a series of products based on college students’ ideas have been commercialized by Tokyo companies, providing real-life experience for the students and fresh inspiration for companies. read more about in the Yomiuri Shimbun’s article here. Other than hospital doctors, many doctors purchase their white coats individually. Responding to this demand, Oct Co. will launch the sale of the student designed original white coats, including some with polka dot or leopard-print linings.
And below you’ll find our latest update giving you the roundup on what’s happening on the educational scene in Japan. We’d also like to give you the buzz on the following new schools with fresh new concepts: Morey English Academy (Minato-ku. Tokyo); Kawasaki International Preschool (Kawasaki city, Kanagawa); the World International Preschool(a bilingual school in Matsumoto city, Nagano); the Central Forest International School (Yamato city, Kanagawa); Hitokoe Yokohama International School; Chateau BonBon School (Shibuya, Tokyo) and Tokyo West International School (Tachikawa, Tokyo) and its affiliated CFIS Sports and Music Kindergarten Tachikawa a school with resort-like learning and sports facilities will be opening APRIL 2014!!! Please note also that the British School(Showa campus in Setagayaku) has introduces a new FT pre-A-level course, a modular course that will allow students to enter at any time of the year on the basis of an interview, see The British School. For more news like this, visit at The Scoop on Schools page.
Here’s the latest on education in Japan:
Tokyo, Oct. 18 (Jiji Press)–The Japanese government will allow private companies to operate public schools in special zones that will be created to promote deregulation, officials said Friday.
The special zones are a key item in a package of pro-growth deregulation measures that the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe adopted in June.
“There is no end” to the government’s regulatory reform efforts, Abe told a meeting of his Headquarters for Japan’s Economic Revitalization where details of the special zone scheme were adopted.
“Further reform efforts should be made aggressively so that we can create the world’s best country for business,” Abe added.
The government aims to submit bills needed to introduce the special zones to the Diet, the country’s parliament, in early November, hoping to get them enacted during its current session set to end in early December.
Govt adopts bill on income cap for tuition-free program (Jiji Press — Oct 18)
The government hopes to get the bill to revise the law on the program to be enacted during the current extraordinary session of the Diet, which started Tuesday for a 53-day run through Dec. 6.
Parents of public high school students will need to report their annual income to the schools or the local boards of education after the introduction of the income cap, which is seen affecting some 790,000 students.
Tuition fee collection will start with first-year students joining high schools in fiscal 2014, while students in their second and third year in the fiscal year will continue to be covered by the current blanket free education program.
Union: Teachers work longer than 10 year ago NHK — Oct 20
Though relations between Japan and its neighbors South Korea and China have been less than rosy in recent years, Japanese companies are increasingly looking to hire foreign students from these and other Asian countries who have studied in Japan, according to the Tokyo-based recruitment and consulting firm Disco Inc.
With companies focusing on finding the most talented people to help them expand into foreign markets, the practical necessities of business seem to be overriding political wrangling.
The survey, released this month, found that 35.2 percent of 539 companies across the country said they have hired, or plan to hire, foreign students in the 2013 business year. Looking ahead to 2014, nearly half of these companies say they are planning on hiring foreigners who have studied in Japan. Larger companies with more than 1,000 employees appear even more willing to hire such people. Nearly 70 percent of these firms said they plan to hire such graduates in the next fiscal year.
The reason given by most companies was rather simple — they want the most talented people possible, especially as businesses move into other Asian markets. Around 40 percent of the firms said they were seeking to hire Chinese nationals, and 24.2 percent said they wanted to hire Vietnamese and Thais.
The hiring of more foreign students is a sign that Japanese businesses are increasing their efforts to expand in Asian markets.
While 32.6 percent of foreign students hired during the past year graduated with a master’s degree in the sciences, about half of the students majored in the humanities or the arts, suggesting that firms want employee with a well-rounded perspective and a wide range of interests.
In addition to communicating fluently in two or more languages, foreign students’ cultural knowledge and social know-how are considered valuable assets that bring in relevant viewpoints when Japanese firms enter overseas markets.
The information in the survey is also good news for Japanese universities, which have tried, though not always successfully, to internationalize their campuses.
With the prospect of employment at the end of their studies, more foreign students will be willing to study in Japan. That in turn provides benefits to Japanese students, who will have more opportunities to study alongside students from other countries and to expand their viewpoints.
At the same time, this new hiring trend also highlights the importance of Japanese students’ studying foreign languages. Relying on foreign nationals will not be sufficient for many companies. They will also need Japanese students who have studied abroad and learned important language and cultural skills.
The future of business and education is, from this survey at least, looking more truly international than ever.
Practical fashions based on student ideas hit the market (Oct 13, 2013)
Next article spotlights a promotional drive by public schools to make themselves more attractive viz. private schools…
Public high schools tout their strengths to primary school kids (Oct 14, 2013, Yomiuri Shimbun)
An increasing number of school administrators in the Tokyo metropolitan area are trying to convince primary school students and their parents that public high schools have advantages over private institutions.
The move is apparently aimed at encouraging more high-achieving primary school students to enter public high schools in the area.
To achieve this goal, public high schools and boards of education in the region are holding informational meetings to promote the advantages of local public high schools. Education experts believe the efforts likely aim to demonstrate the attractions of public high schools before children take entrance exams for private middle schools, including those with integrated middle and high school curriculums, and thereby prevent excellent students from being taken away by private schools.
Many parents in the metropolitan area want their children admitted to private middle schools. Nearly 20 percent of children in Tokyo who go to public primary schools enter private middle schools.
In early September, the Setagaya Ward Board of Education held a meeting at a public primary school in the ward to let primary school students experience part of a public high school life.
A teacher from Tokyo Metropolitan Aoyama High School in Shibuya Ward told parents of fourth- to sixth-grade primary school students: “Our study room is open until 8 p.m. and many students study there. Our school is a place where students can feel how delightful studying is.”
About 400 primary school students and their parents attended the forum, at which principals and other officials from eight metropolitan government-run high schools held an informational session for parents and a mock class for the students.
In March last year, the Setagaya ward office introduced its own integrated curriculum for primary and middle schools. A forum has also been held since last year, coinciding with the introduction of the integrated curriculum.
In Setagaya, 35 percent of graduates from public primary schools enroll in private middle schools.
One middle school teacher lamented the situation, saying, “It’s my impression that even though we enthusiastically teach students with a curriculum integrated for primary and middle schools, students who have acquired sufficient basic academic skills prefer private schools.”
Metropolitan Nishi High School in Suginami Ward has held informational meetings for primary school students and their parents since fiscal 2002. This year’s meeting was held in the high school.
During the meeting, Principal Hisaya Miyamoto said: “We’re enthusiastic about helping students enroll in universities, and our school can compete with private institutions. As various types of students attend our school and compete with one another, many eventually became talented human resources in society.”… Read more...
An article spotlighting a different sort of school in Okinawa school that seeks to reddress biracial, bicultural issues, is worth reading …
School aims to give biracial kids a place to ‘be themselves’ Japan Times, OCT 20
NAKAGUSUKU, OKINAWA – Melissa Tomlinson doesn’t have very happy memories of elementary school. As an 8-year-old, she “never had a chance to eat lunch normally — the other kids put something in it, or they mixed the milk and soup and orange together and told me to eat it.”
Like the three or four other mixed-race children in her class, Tomlinson was bullied on a daily basis. Now a 26-year-old high school English teacher, she still recalls how “they told me to go home to America, and they talked bad about my mom.”
Her teachers did little to stop the abuse — indeed, some, wittingly or not, even contributed to it. Every summer, on the anniversary of the end of the Battle of Okinawa — the three-month assault in which around 100,000 Okinawan civilians perished — Tomlinson would become the focus of the class. “The teacher always said, ‘Melissa, can you stand up? So, you are half-American, what do you think about this?’ For me, I was like, ‘I grew up here, I don’t know about American things.’ ” Tomlinson had no memory of her father, a U.S. serviceman who’d split from her mother when she was still a baby.
Tomlinson’s story is far from unique. Since 1946, many children here have been born to U.S. military fathers and Okinawan mothers. Sometimes (and especially when the fathers are deployed elsewhere) the mothers are left to bring up the children by themselves, and, like Tomlinson, those children don’t always have an easy time at school.
When five single mothers set up a school for their own “Amerasian” children in Okinawa 15 years ago, they were not so much worried about bullying as concerned about getting their kids a bilingual education. The only one of the women still involved with the school — the current principal, Midori Thayer — explains: “Our children needed to learn both languages because of their two different heritages. They had to be themselves.”
Because the children couldn’t get such an education at public schools, weren’t eligible to attend schools on the U.S. bases, and simply couldn’t afford the existing private international schools, the women felt they had no option but to go it alone. The local board of education was persuaded to sanction the project, which at first involved just one American teacher and 13 pupils meeting in a regular house.
Today, the AmerAsian School in Okinawa (AASO) has 78 students, 12 full-time teachers, eight part-timers and a host of volunteer tutors. They have a modern, bright facility in Ginowan, which they get to use rent-free, thanks in large part to Thayer’s powers of persuasion. (She managed to secure a promise of support from then-Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi when the pair met in Okinawa in 2000.)
It is not a school, Thayer says, for the “trendy” Japanese middle class who want their kids educated bilingually. “There are trendy schools out there. This school is for not-wealthy parents.” In any case, monoracial Japanese children are prohibited from attending by the board of education — unless they can’t speak Japanese. While the majority of AASO pupils are Amerasian, there are others of Filipino or European extraction.
Thayer, whose background is in pharmacology rather than education, runs the school with Executive Director Naomi Noiri, a sociology professor from the University of the Ryukyus. Noiri has been closely involved with the AASO from its inception and receives no payment for her work there.
A fervent believer in the school’s mission, Noiri recalls how one “double” (as she calls mixed-race children, in preference to the more commonly used “half”), an Okinawan/African-American child, arrived at the school with very low self-esteem. “He’d asked his mother, ‘Which soap is good to wash off my color?’ But once he was here, he started to help his classmates in Japanese class, and in English class the classmates helped him. He began to think, ‘I’m OK, I’m popular, I’m happy with myself.’ And that’s our goal.”
A quick look at the school’s Facebook page shows more warm words from former students who were able to escape bullying by attending AASO.
The AASO story, however, is not an unqualified success. There have been ongoing funding difficulties and rumblings of discontent from former insiders.
In some ways the school does not even exist. Its students are registered with local schools, from where they are then seconded. Also, the school receives virtually no public funding, aside from its arrangement with the rent. Two of its Japanese teachers do receive their salary from Okinawa Prefecture, but all the other running costs come out of student fees — ¥30,000 a month — or donations. And because it doesn’t receive any state money, the state has no say over how the school is run, leading some to query its accountability mechanisms.
In writing this article, I interviewed three people who had taught at the AASO at different times over the past six years, as well as the parent of a current student. All agreed that there are excellent teachers at the school and that many pupils thrive there. However, they also shared some very similar misgivings.
One issue was the relatively high turnover of staff, something which the school acknowledges. “It’s out of our control,” says Noiri. “Many of our American teachers are the wives of military personnel and they need to move on, and it’s very difficult to find a teacher who can stay with us more than three years.” Often, it seems, they stay shorter — one teacher recalled that in his two-year stint, he saw around 10 teachers come and go.
At just ¥170,000 a month, perhaps the wages are part of the reason. Noiri disagrees, arguing that the pay is comparable to that at both commercial language schools and international schools. She also rebutted a suggestion that not all the teachers were fully qualified. “I think only one teacher is in the process of getting a degree, but the majority of teachers have a teaching license.”
Another concern was the wide spectrum of ability within classes. It wasn’t just that the level of English (and Japanese) varied greatly from one student to another, but that some pupils also had learning difficulties. Again, Noiri agreed this was an issue. “At the moment we have several learning-difficulty students and we have been dealing with that.” While they could not afford classroom assistants for these children, Noiri went on to explain that a counsellor was available to advise staff. “Most of our teachers can deal with that situation. And our teachers could ask how to do (that), to the counsellor and to the principal.”
I also heard grumblings about how the staff were sometimes managed. “There’s always been a lot of politics and turmoil there. From what I saw, there wasn’t much room for constructive criticism or other ideas,” said Akemi Johnson, a former teacher and researcher at AASO. When I put the criticism to Thayer, she responded: “We are a nonprofit organization. We are not getting any government support. We run ourselves. Of course we have to protect our children — of course we have to protect ourselves.”
There was no mistaking the embattled tone. No doubt it is a measure of how deeply Thayer and Noiri care about their pupils — and the fact they have so little official support — that they sometimes come across as defensive. It probably also explains why, when I started to ask about the departure of a handful of former teachers (whom I didn’t interview), they cut short our interview. [Ms. Noiri maintains that the tone of the interview was antagonistic.]
Of course, professional disputes and personality clashes happen in every workplace. On those occasions when grievances can’t be resolved, teachers in other schools can appeal to governors, boards of education or even the ministry of education. So what’s the situation at the AASO? Noiri said teachers were, of course, free to air any grievances at faculty meetings: “If a teacher has a problem with Ms. Thayer they can come to me, same as a normal school — a principal and a board, Ms. Thayer and me.”
Reservations aside, most of the people I spoke to felt that Amerasian children benefitted from attending the school. One was particularly positive: “The overall objective is really good — their hearts are in the right place, but there are just some little kinks.”
One way to deal with those kinks might be for the government to step in and take over the running of the AASO, says professor Stephen Murphy-Shigematsu, of Stanford University. Himself an Amerasian, he has written and researched extensively in this field for more than 20 years. “The Japanese government is too willing to segregate minority groups and allow them to have their own education, but I think they need to learn how to integrate children who are different.”
He says the school has undoubtedly been good for two kinds of Amerasian children — those who were bullied in state schools and those English speakers who returned from America, usually following marriage breakdowns. But he wonders if the school is appropriate for the majority of Amerasians who don’t fall into these categories.
“I think the school really does serve well those kids who need their education in English, but for kids who want their future to be in Japan, then the school needs to have a strong Japanese language curriculum,” he says. At present, 80 percent of the curriculum in the elementary portion of the school is taught in English, while the junior high school lessons are divided equally between English and Japanese. There is no high school, so most students transfer to public high schools at the age of 16.
One AASO graduate — Eduard Thayer, now 24 — wonders if he wouldn’t have been better off going to a regular Japanese school from the start. “I sometimes question if I would have had better opportunities if I spoke the language better, but (on reflection) I would rather speak both languages because it has brought me to a global or international world — it makes you more open to other things.”
One of Principal Thayer’s three children, Eduard admits he did have linguistic difficulties when he entered high school. “Even now I’m not really good at expressing myself in Japanese — I do speak fluent Japanese but I sometimes have difficulty expressing myself.”
There is little doubt that, proportionally, there are more biracial children in Okinawa than elsewhere in Japan, thanks largely to the presence of some 25,000 U.S. military personnel. Current statistics are hard to come by, but in 2007, 63 percent of all biracial children born in Okinawa had American fathers. The corresponding figure for mainland Japan was just 7 percent.
So what about Tomlinson, whom we met at the beginning of this article — in hindsight, would she have been better off going to the AASO? “No,” she says emphatically. “I know I had bullying and it was really hard, but I survived and now I’m really happy”.
For Eduard Thayer, though, the AASO was a valuable experience, as was his time at a Japanese high school. Both helped him become comfortable with his own identity, he says. “When I was in my senior year, I finally understood that it didn’t really matter if I was Asian or American — it just matters that I act myself.”
The seminar was part of the Faculty of Global Communication’s business communication program.
Sato’s class, which targets junior and senior students, was launched in fiscal 2005. His lessons introduce students to the basics of business administration while encouraging them to deliver presentations in English on such topics as their research on individual corporations.
During the Sept. 23 lesson, Sato’s students watched a recording of Japan’s final presentation in Buenos Aires in early September to promote Tokyo as a candidate city for the Games. This was followed by a group discussion on what makes an effective presentation. Some students shared their opinions in English on Japan’s presentation in the Argentine capital.
One student emphasized the need to “speak with enthusiasm.” Another said it is necessary to “pronounce words clearly so customers can understand what you want to get across.”
“Cultivating skills for expressing your opinions in English and making your ideas more communicable to others are the tools you need to compete at a global level,” Sato said.
J.F. Oberlin University in Machida, Tokyo, also has emphasized development of English presentation skills. In fiscal 2007, the college expanded its list of English language programs to include an optional course designed specifically to teach how to deliver presentations. The course is open to all students.”…Read more
***Students from abroad who are seeking to study at Japanese universities should check out the Global30 programme website universities under the “Global 30” Project also provide an international student-friendly environment, offering support for living and studying in Japan. No Japanese proficiency is required of students at the time of application – with the best universities in Japan now offering in English a range of degree programme courses in a number of fields under the “Global 30” Project. The same universities also now offer paper and interview-based admissions procedures which allow international students to apply while still in their respective countries. Interviews can be done from their current location using TV conference systems or other devices.The universities under the “Global 30” Project provide high-quality instruction in Japanese language and culture while also allowing students to gain a valuable degree in another subject. The universities also provide assistance regarding academic matters, career planning, visas, financial support, housing, etc.
Miscellaneous news and article links to muse upon:
Tuition and fees at private, non- profit U.S. colleges rose 3.6 percent in 2013-2014, the smallest increase in more than 40 years, as families struggle to afford college costs. Read more…
As Japan moves towards increased standardized testing, the US moves away from it …
California Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation Wednesday that replaces current public school state standardized tests with ones aligned to new national learning goals.
And just as Japan debates getting its schools back to Saturday school routines, the French are abandoning four-day school in favour of five… see Weird about Wednesday (The Economist)
The governor’s decision also tees up a looming confrontation with the Obama administration, which criticized the California legislation.
The new law will pay for school districts to shift quickly to new computerized tests that would be based on learning goals, called the Common Core standards, adopted by 45 states. The new approach is intended to emphasize deeper critical-thinking skills.
20% of Tokyo university students want to die, NPO suggests Japan Today Oct 19, 2013
A 24-year-old hostess employed in Tokyo’s Ebisu district tells weekly tabloid Shukan Jitsuwa (Oct. 24) that she is envious of the opportunities now available to female college students being hired by clubs on a part-time basis. (Tokyo Reporter)
Last but not least, check out this fun video on A Day In The Life Of A Japanese Highschool Student
In a unprecedented court ruling yesterday, the Sendai court ordered the kindergarten that operated the schoolbus to pay ¥177 million in damages to the families of four children killed when their school bus was swamped by the 2011 tsunami … This ruling in a situation where the tsunami-related deaths are commonly be thought of due to an Act of God, will clearly have a bearing on the standard of care required of school operators, as well as upon the way schools are run … I wonder if the insurance company will be picking up the huge tab in this situation (see Act of God — Breaking the Mythology) … can anyone enlighten us regarding the law viz. liability in such situations in Japan??? In the US, the use of the Act of God defense (spelt ‘defence’ – UK English) may be severely restricted where human errors or human intervention during disasters are involved.
Kindergarten told to pay for tsunami deaths (KYODO, via Japan Times, Sep 17, 2013)
It was the first ruling on a damages suit filed by families of tsunami victims against operators of facilities in 3/11 disaster areas. It could affect at least eight other similar damages suits filed by victims’ relatives.
The ruling focused on whether the kindergarten, as an institution with a responsibility to protect the lives of children, could have foreseen the risks of tsunami and whether it took appropriate measures to avert those risks.
The plaintiffs had sought ¥267 million, insisting the kindergarten should have considered the danger as it had been violently rocked by the preceding earthquake.
The privately run kindergarten had maintained that it was impossible for the facility to foresee a tsunami of that scale, saying the disaster was the largest in 1,000 years.
Presiding Judge Norio Saiki said the kindergarten “could have easily predicted that a massive tsunami would arrive” in the area and its principal was negligent for failing to collect information on the disaster. He ordered the kindergarten to pay damages to the plaintiffs — the families of four of the five children killed in tsunami.
Saiki said the principal and other kindergarten staff “should have concretely foreseen a natural disaster, and protected pupils whose abilities to predict the danger were underdeveloped.”
He ruled the children’s deaths were the result of the kindergarten’s misjudgment in sending the bus toward lowland.
Five children and a female employee died when the shuttle bus they were in was engulfed after leaving the Hiyori kindergarten, located on a hill 23 meters above sea level in Ishinomaki, and heading for the coast.
Seven other children had gotten off the bus earlier. The driver was swept away but survived. The bus left the kindergarten about 10 minutes after the temblor hit the area and the principal ordered the children sent home.
The families said the bus drove toward the coast after failing to collect information on the tsunami. Staff at the facility had not been fully informed about anti-disaster guidelines and had not conducted any tsunami drills, according to the plaintiffs.
The kindergarten had said its staff could not hear a tsunami warning as they were busy attending to children following the quake. It also denied negligence, saying the facility was not legally obliged to conduct drills on the delivery of children to parents following a disaster.
After learning about the tsunami warning some time later, however, the principal ordered the bus to return to the kindergarten, but by then the bus, with the five remaining children on board, was caught in traffic and engulfed by the giant tsunami some 700 meters from the coast, according to the ruling.
As the kindergarten itself was safe from tsunami, plaintiffs had argued that the children could have been saved if they had stayed there, instead of being sent home by bus.
Yasushi Saijo, 45, one of the plaintiffs who lost his 6-year-old daughter, Harune, told reporters he was glad the court backed the families’ claim. A relative of another 6-year-old victim, Asuka Sasaki, said the ruling was “a blessed relief.”
The kindergarten said the ruling was “unexpected” and that it was sorry the court had rejected its arguments. Regardless of the court decision, staff remain sorrowful about the children’s loss of life and continue to pray for them, it said.
It is often said and thought that Japan is a tough environment to start up a small business, and many people give up before even trying. From the materials below, we hope to show that the entrepreneurial and biz -venture startup environment is not as harsh or difficult as people think.
Since the Internet boom around 2000, help for young entrepreneurs has been on hand and various initiatives have been carried out.
Samurai Incubate, is one such start-up started up Kentaro Sakakibar started up by to support other budding entrepreneurs. At first Sakakibara helped his samurai clients with their online sales and marketing, then branched into more services, and his firm launched an investment fund. Read more about it all in Entrepreneurship in the Samurai tradition (Beacon Reports).
In Japan, there is a current call to create a favorable environment to unleash entrepreneurship in Japan, and a number of initiatives created to help young entrepreneurs kick off and execute their ideas, here are a few networks below:
Young Entrepreneurs Groups of the Chamber of Commerce 27,000 members nation-wide, its activities center primarily around research in corporate management, as they seek to promote corporate prosperity through mutual exchanges and to support the broader activities of the Chamber. More details about what the group does from the Chairman in this document.
Spurred by the events of the the March 11 2011 earthquake and tsunami … Project KIBOW was started up by Kiyoshi Nishikawa, CEO of Internet business incubator company Net Age read more at GaijinPot’s Fostering entrepreneurs for Japan’s future. Visit www.netage.co.jp and their Facebook page
Although Japan is behind the US and the EU where startup-business growth is concerned, according to the 2008 GEM report, the rate of early-stage entrepreneurship has actually gradually increased over the recent years and is now around the EU average. On the bright side, being behind on the growth curve, also means that there is plenty of room for business development and therefore room to take off and grow.
The Funding Question
But as you are probably thinking, most ideas need money to grow, so where will the budding entrepreneurs get financial assistance or backing for their projects? Money is actually no object, there is a lot of money in this world chasing too few good ideas, and Japan is no exception. Venture capitalists, investment funds and what are sometimes known as “seed accelerators” are good places to start off knocking on doors, if you are an entrepreneur (young or not) and need financing for your projects or expansion help. See Well-known Japanese Venture Capitalist Finally Launches His Own Fund
Surprisingly, already lined up for you at this page are more than twenty such firms: Japanese Seed Accelerators Venture Capitalist Firms…out of the said over-200 VC firms (see Brief Summary of Japanese Venture Capital Industry) See also Famous venture capitalists in Japan.
This Stanford University report The Future of Japanese Venture Capital assesses that the venture capitalist market and environment needs to develop further but that it has the ability to adapt to economic realities as well as overcome Japanese conservatism to risky ideas.
And yet, the worst obstacle to the spirit of entrepreneurship, is probably the psychological seed of negativism sown in Japanese society affecting the young — according to the GEM 2008 Report, in Japan starting a business is not regarded as a good career choice, despite the media attention currently given to entrepreneurship (The Evolution of Japanese Venture Capital)
Are you or do you know a budding entrepreneur wanna-be? Below are some resources to encourage and push off the prospective entrepreneur’s fresh ideas:
In the UK, India and elsewhere, there have been many recent initiatives to help and inspire budding entrepreneurs:
UK: Take part in a Young Enterprise scheme to set up and run their own businesses for a year with the help of business mentors. See: Budding entrepreneurs head to campus for Young Enterprise competition / (UK-based) Forest Hill Society: Calling all Budding Young Entrepreneurs; Budding Young Entrepreneurs Group – City of Kingston; b someone Campaign Competition, organised by Bradford Council’s Education, Employment & Enterprise Team
Articles to start you off with:
18 Entrepreneurs Share Their Top 20 Tips - Forbes forbes.com
Resources for Creating the Business Plan:
Creating a business plan -
Booklist on entrepreneurship http://www.spcollege.edu/cec/resources.html
The following are fee-paying resources:
The Lynda.com library has more than 2,000 step-by-step training videos on topics covering business, software applications and creative design. You can learn how to start an online marketing campaign, how to take a perfect product shot, how to use Adobe to Photoshop a picture, and so much more
ProQuest Entrepreneurship ProQuest Entrepreneurship gives users access to an unprecedented collection of content types together in one product
That’s all for today…
I trust you had a good summer, and it’s now back to school for those with children in the local school system, with a few days to counting down for those in international schools…
As usual, below is our regular roundup on news of what’s happening on the local educational scene:
Disaster drills were conducted across the nation((Jiji-Japan News, Sep 2) yesterday, to prepare for huge earthquakes, based for the first time on a gigantic Nankai Trough quake scenario, as Sept. 1 is Disaster Prevention Day. … and we should also familiarize ourselves with the new Emergency Warning System that was just launched on Friday (Aug 31, 2013, Yomiuri Shimbun). See chart above at the top of the page:
The Japan Meteorological Agency instituted a new disaster warning system Friday by adding the words “emergency warning” to alerts when there is a risk of significant damage associated with natural phenomena.
The warnings will cover nine categories including volcanic eruptions and tsunami.
When warnings are issued, municipalities are obliged to alert residents to the warnings.
In cases of heavy rain or snow, the emergency warning will be issued when heavy rain or snow is predicted to reach to the level of intensity observed only once about every 50 years.
The new warnings will also cover large typhoons or extratropical cyclones when they are predicted to approach the nation. For earthquakes and tsunami, the definitions currently used for major tsunami and early earthquake warnings will be applied for the new emergency warning.
When torrential rains hit the Chugoku and Tohoku regions this summer, the agency issued special warnings to residents four times ahead of the official start of the new system, saying the rains warranted the emergency warnings.
Sａturday classes could be restartｅd (Yomuiri, Aug 29)
Aiming to restart Saturday classes at all public primary, middle and high schools nationwide, the education ministry has decided to establish a subsidy program to encourage schools to invite instructors from local communities.
The Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry is aiming to reintroduce Saturday classes starting on a monthly basis by the 2017 academic year in an effort to improve students’ scholastic ability.
The subsidy program, which is also intended to strengthen ties between schools and their communities, is scheduled to begin next academic year. Under the program, the state will partially cover the costs of Saturday classes, including payment for instructors and fees for educational materials.
Also from next academic year, the ministry plans to provide subsidies or other forms of assistance to 6,700 schools, or about 20 percent of all public schools. The ministry plans to include ¥2 billion for this purpose in its initial budget request for fiscal 2014.
Reintroducing Saturday lessons would require one of the ministry’s ordinances to be revised. The current ordinance, which was issued to coincide with the introduction of a five-day school week, stipulates that schools are in principle closed on Saturdays, except in the event there is a “special need” for them. In autumn, the ministry plans to revise the ordinance to allow local governments to decide on their own initiatives whether to hold Saturday classes.
The ministry envisions company employees, public servants and other members of local communities acting as instructors on Saturdays, giving students the opportunity to experience various activities in what the ministry has dubbed “comprehensive studies,” or classes that encourage students to think and study on their own initiative.
Under the program, schools would offer English and supplementary classes to improve students’ academic ability in some subjects.
According to ministry officials, using local human resources under the subsidy program would solve problems such as securing the necessary funds to hire instructors and ensuring teachers get the appropriate number of days off.
The ministry would subsidize a third of the costs, such as salaries for instructors, liaisons for would-be instructors and schools, and teaching materials. It also assumes that an estimated 4,000 primary schools, 2,000 middle schools and 700 high schools would be eligible for the subsidies.
About 350 schools nationwide would be designated as model schools under the plan to develop curriculums for Saturday classes. The schools would hold Saturday classes at least once a month and the ministry will examine the content of the curriculum and students’ achievements.
The ministry will select pilot schools based on the results of a planned survey to see if schools are interested in participating in the program.
The current five-day school week began on a once-a-month trial basis in September 1992, and was increased to twice a month in fiscal 1995. The five-day school week was fully implemented in fiscal 2002.
However, education experts have blamed the five-day school week for deteriorating scores among students. They also said students are not spending their Saturdays as initially envisioned, such as participating in community activities.
In January, education minister Hakubun Shimomura announced the ministry would consider restarting Saturday classes.
In a ministry survey conducted in fiscal 2010 and 2011, less than 10 percent of all public primary, middle and high schools have held Saturday events, such as lessons open to parents and members of local communities, as well as comprehensive study classes conducted by inviting outside speakers to the school. By contrast, many private schools conduct classes on Saturdays, the ministry said.
Next, heartening news of simply OUTSTANDING! service by a volunteer group of university students … they surely ought to be commended for their work in supplying schoolbooks to help students of the Tohoku region:
Donated books help students in quake-affected Tohoku region (Aug 30, Yomiuri Shimbun)
A volunteer group of university students has been donating secondhand study guides to help middle and high school students in areas of the Tohoku region that were hit hard by the 2011 disaster.
Sankousho Takkyubin was founded by university students in Tokyo in April 2011, shortly after the Great East Japan Earthquake.
Yuta Akashio, 24, who was a junior of Aoyama Gakuin University at the time, learned that high school students in the disaster areas, who had been studying for university entrance exams, had lost their textbooks in the tunami following the earthquake.
Akashio had passed the university entrance exam after studying on his own, without the aid of a preparatory school. He thought that those students, too, would be able to pass their exams through self-study if study guides were available to them. With the help of a friend, he started collecting used study guides through Twitter and blogs. They launched a website and used it to communicate with students, sending the books they requested. Of about 20,000 books collected in the first year, 3,500 that looked almost new were sent to disaster-hit areas. The rest were sold, and the profits went toward shipping fees.
Plus Alpha, a cram school in Minami-Soma, Fukushima Prefecture, is one of the recipients of those books. It uses the secondhand books in English grammar class, which were donated from all across the country and collected by Sankousho Takkyubin.
“Those books are really helpful because it’s hard for me to buy them,” said Kana Ishii, 16, a second-year student at a high school in the city, who was studying at the cram school. She evacuated to Niigata Prefecture and Koriyama, Fukushima Prefecture, after the crisis at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. Her mother became jobless for a time.
The requested books are sent to individual students and cram schools in devastated areas for free.
“This service helps keep the financial burden low on families, whose incomes became unstable after the nuclear crisis started,” said Plus Alpha head Hideyuki Kurosawa, 33. …
The group has received such encouraging responses as, “My child was happy to receive a book of old exam questions used by the school at the top of our list,” and “I passed the exam of my first-choice school.”
Akashio and other members of Sankousho Takkyubin were worried that their activities would affect the business of bookstores in devastated areas.
Since March of last year, the volunteer group has begun to cooperate with a firm purchasing and selling used books online. The group has started selling the books it has collected and is using the profits to buy brand-new books at bookstores in quake-hit areas. They are planning to host a campus tour to various universities, inviting about 20 high school students from Minami-Soma to the Tokyo metropolitan area.
Currently, about 80 students at 12 universities in the Kansai region and Tokyo are involved in Sankousho Takkyubin’s activities.
“I’ll do my best to support middle and high school students in devastated areas who want to study,” said Hiroki Tominaga, 21, a fourth-year student at Aoyama Gakuin University who has taken over the head of the volunteer group.
76 pct of Japan elementary school students like English (Aug 31, 2013 Yomiuri Shimbun)
Tokyo, Aug. 27 (Jiji Press)–A Japanese education ministry survey revealed Tuesday that 76 pct of sixth-grade students at elementary schools in the nation enjoy or somewhat enjoy learning English.
The proportion stood at 53 pct for third-grade junior high school students, according to the survey, which was conducted in April together with an annual academic achievement test. It was the first such survey.
The percentage of students who would like to have friends from other countries and learn more about overseas came to 71 pct for the elementary school students and 61 pct for the junior high school students.
However, only 39 pct of the elementary school students said they want to or are somewhat interested to study abroad or work abroad in the future. The figure was even lower, at 31 pct, for the junior high school students.
Use findings of achievement tests to correct students’ weaknesses (Aug 28, 3013, Yomuiri Shimbun)
It is important to determine where children are weak in each school subject, a task that must be complemented by efforts to reflect such findings in methods for guiding them in their studies
The Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry has published the results of a nationwide achievement test conducted in April. The test, which covered sixth-grade primary school students and third-year middle school students, was intended to examine their basic knowledge about the Japanese language, arithmetic and mathematics, as well as their applied skills in these subjects.
The latest achievement test was the first to be administered on all such students in four years, and provided detailed data on the performance of students in each school and each city, town and village. Such data was not obtained from similar tests conducted under the Democratic Party of Japan-led government, as the education ministry conducted achievement tests targeting only about 30 percent of schools chosen as samples during the DPJ’s rule.
The latest data can be used by local governments to improve education by, for example, preferentially assigning teachers to schools whose students performed poorly in the latest test. We hope the education ministry will continue to use the participation-by-all formula in administering nationwide achievement tests.
What is noteworthy about the findings is a welcome change in the results classified by prefecture. A sign of improvement was evident in the performance of prefectures that had fared poorly in the average percentage of correct answers given by students in previous achievement tests.
In some of these prefectures, improvements in this respect were achieved through a mix of measures, including after-school supplementary lessons and achievement tests administered by local education authorities.
All this can be seen as a sign that the nationwide achievement test, first conducted in 2007, has encouraged local governments to introduce measures to improve the academic standards of students in their areas.
Poor at expressing opinions
The results of the ministry’s achievement tests, including the latest one, clearly show where students are weak. For example, they fared poorly in writing their opinions about documents they were told to read in the test. They also did badly at logically explaining the reasons for the answers they gave.
Questions of this kind were incorporated into the latest test. Not surprisingly, the percentage of correct answers was low.
A major task that must be tackled by the authorities is to improve the academic ability of children in fields in which they have a problem answering questions. With this in mind, the education ministry is scheduled to produce documents designed to provide teachers with some innovative ideas, based on the findings from the latest test, while also distributing them to local boards of education and other institutions. …
Children’s learning at home is another important issue to be addressed in working to improve their academic abilities. The percentage of children who review their school lessons at home has been increasing since they were covered in an awareness survey for the first time. The latest survey shows about 50 percent of primary and middle school students review their school studies at home. This can be seen as a certain measure of progress in encouraging children to study at home. … Read more…
Greater effort needed to promote Japanese-language learning abroad (Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug 31)
A report compiled by a private panel of experts for the Foreign Ministry calls for promoting the Japanese language in other countries and enhancing Japan’s presence in the international community. The government plans to prepare a budget to propagate the language.
The report also wants to make it easier for young people abroad to learn Japanese.
The “Cool Japan” strategy, launched by the government to promote the Japanese culture of manga, anime and fashion overseas, is attracting the interest of young people around the world. Proactively concentrating on such trends is the correct thing to do.
Specifically, the report suggested setting up a Japanese-language course for beginners on the Internet. It is essential to utilize information technology to that end.
It also suggested expanding the program for the long-term dispatch of Japanese-language experts to foreign countries, which the Japan Foundation—the core organization for promoting the Japanese language abroad—has been implementing with the aim of increasing the number of foreigners teaching Japanese in their own countries.
If these policy measures prove effective in increasing the number of foreigners learning Japanese, their understanding of Japan will become deeper. This will increase the number of people who are pro-Japanese and knowledgeable about Japan.
Such measures also should prove useful for Japanese companies, which are increasingly launching overseas operations, to secure local Japanese-speaking staff.
Behind the ministry’s discussions to promote the Japanese language abroad is a declining global interest in learning Japanese. …Read the entire article here.
While the number of foreigners learning or speaking Japanese totals about 3.98 million, a figure 30 times larger than the number 30-plus years ago, the growth in Japanese-language learners abroad has slowed recently.
Although the number of people learning Japanese in Indonesia and other Southeast Asian countries is rising, it is declining in such countries as South Korea, Britain and Canada.
Interest in Chinese growing
Half of those people studying Japanese overseas are middle and high school students learning it as a second foreign language, with English as their first foreign language. Lately there has been a sharp increase in the number students studying Chinese as their second foreign language.
It is true that interest has grown among non-Chinese because of China’s fast-growing economy. Yet there are other reasons.
China has established government-affiliated educational institutions, such as the Confucius Institute, around the world, made efforts to teach the Chinese language to foreigners, provided them with learning materials and fostered foreigners teaching Chinese in their own countries.
Particularly in the area of primary education, the Chinese government is proactively inviting to China foreign teaching staff and school officials.
In the United States, some universities, as wells as primary, middle and high schools, have ended Japanese language courses, apparently because of growing interest in the Chinese language.
The report stressed that the biggest impediment faced by institutions teaching Japanese overseas is securing a sufficient number of Japanese-language teachers. It also pointed out that Japan had failed to provide foreigners with such advantages as studying in this country or finding jobs in Japanese companies …
Society must give children a chance to think deeply about war and other serious issues by allowing them unhindered access to relevant literature in school.
The Matsue City board of education in Shimane Prefecture on Aug. 26 withdrew its earlier decision to severely limit access to the 10-volume manga series “Hadashi no Gen” (“Barefoot Gen”), a best-selling antiwar and anti-nuclear weapons classic. The board said that individual elementary and junior high schools can return the series to their library shelves. The decision to do so was left to the judgment of each school.
Unfortunately, the board cited only a procedural reason for rescinding its decision and failed to express regret over violating children’s right to read books. Deplorably, the head of the board’s secretariat, who unilaterally made the original decision to remove “Hadashi no Gen” from school library shelves and require students to get teachers’ permission to read it, was not punished at all.
The series was drawn by the late Keiji Nakazawa, a survivor the Aug. 6, 1945, atomic bombing of Hiroshima who died last December. The main character, Gen Nakaoka, a 6-year-old boy, goes through various experiences during and after World War II. The series graphically depicts not only the harsh reality of the atomic bombing and the hardship in the immediate postwar years but also atrocities committed by the Imperial Japanese Army, such as the beheading of other Asians and rape. It also includes harsh criticism of the Emperor Showa, at times calling him a “murderer.”
In August 2012, a man sent a request to the Matsue City assembly asking that the series be removed from school library shelves, saying that its perception of history was wrong. The secretariat of the board decided in December 2012 to remove the series from school library shelves on the grounds that its depiction of atrocities committed by the Imperial Japanese Army was too violent, without letting the five board members know about the decision. The secretariat conveyed the decision to the city’s elementary and junior schools on Dec. 17 and again on Jan. 9-10.
The five board members decided on Aug. 26 to withdraw the December 2012 decision on the grounds that the secretariat made the decision without consulting the board members. Regrettably it did not touch on the issue of whether it is correct for an organization with public power to limit student access to books.
How can the cruelty of war be conveyed without truthful description? Society must give children a chance to think deeply about war and other serious issues by allowing them unhindered access to relevant literature in school and giving them guidance to help them understand what they are reading. Limiting access to information deprives children of the ability to think critically.
The Matsue municipal board of education retracted its request to municipal elementary and junior high schools to restrict students’ access to the manga “Hadashi no Gen” (Barefoot Gen), an internationally renowned series about the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, in school libraries.
The Matsue municipal board of education retracted its request to municipal elementary and junior high schools to restrict students’ access to the manga “Hadashi no Gen” (Barefoot Gen), an internationally renowned series about the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, in school libraries.
Since the secretariat of the board had issued the request without consulting board members, all five members judged that “there were flaws in the procedure.”
We think the decision to scrap restrictions on access is sensible, but it is regrettable that the reason does not go beyond the problem of procedures.
The controversy goes back to August 2012, when a citizen filed a petition with the municipal assembly to have the manga removed from school libraries on the grounds that its historical perception concerning wartime actions of the Imperial Japanese Army and war responsibility of Emperor Showa is erroneous. The municipal assembly turned down the petition, and the school board also took the position of not removing the manga from library shelves at the time.
Like the citizen who filed the petition, many of the people who support the request to limit access are raising questions about the manga’s historical perception and its view of the emperor system.
But the true worth of “Hadashi no Gen” is the way author Keiji Nakazawa aptly described the horror of the atomic bomb based on his own personal experiences. That is why the series has continued to attract readers both at home and abroad. Those who argue that the book should be put out of reach of children just because they do not agree with the historical view in the book are narrow-minded, to say the least.
There are many books that attract readers because they carry strong messages of the writers from cover to cover. People who totally reject the value of works just because they don’t like some parts lack an understanding toward literature.
The board’s initial stance to turn down the request for removal was right. From now on, other education boards should also firmly reject requests for such restrictions.
But the way the board secretariat dealt with the situation after the request was turned down is problematic. Five senior members, including the superintendent of education at the time, read the series again. They agreed that scenes in the final volume of the series that depict the actions of the Japanese army in Asia are “cruel” and decided to ask elementary and junior high schools to limit access to the series.
Because children are in their developmental stages, their opportunities to freely read books must be fully guaranteed. The municipal education board’s secretariat completely lacked consideration in this regard.
War is cruel. How should education make use of books that squarely address the atrocities of war? We need to come up with wisdom and ingenuity. Younger generations who do not know war cannot learn the preciousness of peace if we have them avert their eyes from the cruelty of war.
It is important that children are given the choice to read books. Based on that, when children who choose to read books come up with questions or express shock, we need to deal with them in earnest.
Such smart ways to deal with books should be promoted in schools and at home.
–The Asahi Shimbun, Aug. 30
See also related:
EDITORIAL: Politics should not influence education boards’ textbook decisions (AWJ, August 30, 2013)
Even earlier news:
Tokyo eyes 12-year education (Yomiuri, Aug 25, 2013)
The Tokyo Metropolitan board of education plans to open an integrated 12-year public school that includes advanced academic content beyond the government’s curriculum guidelines, in a bid to boost human resources able to compete at a global level in the fields of science and math.
The board said it aims to open the first public school offering a 12-year education by 2017.
The school will cover primary, middle and high school and be nationally designated as a “special curriculum school.” It will provide an education based on original teaching guidelines that emphasize science and math.
Taking advantage of the opportunity to provide a consistent education over many years, the school will make a proactive effort to teach advanced content earlier. Emphasis will also be placed on English.
The current curriculum system, comprising six years in primary school, and three years each in middle and high schools, has been revamped under the new system, which divides 12 years into three four-year stages: fundamentals from the first to fourth years; amplification from fifth to eighth; and development from ninth to 12th.
The old school building of Tokyo Metropolitan Senior High School of Fine Arts, Performing Arts and Classical Music will be used for the first four years, while Tokyo Metropolitan Musashi High School and its attached junior high school will be used for the subsequent eight years.
Students will be screened based on results of a math and science aptitude test before entering the school. However, an applicant selection process and the timing of enrollment has yet to be decided. A Tokyo Metropolitan board of education task force will work out such details in consultation with outside experts by the end of this academic year.
Thousands wait for after-school childcare (Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug 24)
The shortage of child care centers, which take care of children after school, has become a serious problem nationwide.
School facilities, including vacant classrooms, must be utilized to open more after-school child care centers in urban areas. However, little progress has been made due to a lack of coordination between the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry, which has jurisdiction over after-school child care centers, and the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry, which supervises local education boards.
Record No. of enrolled students …
According to a survey compiled earlier this month by a national liaison council for after-school child care centers, there are currently about 21,635 after-school child care facilities nationwide and 888,753 students are enrolled in them, both record highs. The council is operated by staff at child care centers and parents.
The survey found 6,944 students were on waiting lists for enrollment in after-school child care centers, but it is difficult to know the exact number because applications for the centers are not handled solely by local governments. “There are potentially a lot more students waiting,” a council official said.
Local governments in urban areas have been establishing day care centers for preschool children at a rapid pace. Therefore, there is expected to be a more serious shortage of after-school centers that take care of older children after they enter primary school. Read the rest of the article here.
Education ministry promotes own project (Yomiuri, Aug 24)
Since the 2007 school year, the education ministry has been promoting its own program, separate from the health and welfare ministry’s efforts, to utilize space such as empty classrooms at primary schools for various after-school activities for children.
Called “hokago kodomo kyoshitsu” (after-school children’s class), the program is basically designed for children whose parents both work and are not home yet when children return from school. However, any child can use the program.
More and more municipalities have begun to implement this program instead of the traditional after-school child care program under the supervision of the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry, but some have pointed out the education ministry program lacks standards for the scale of activities or the allocation of staffers.
Shinozaki No. 4 Primary School in Edogawa Ward, Tokyo, has renovated empty classrooms on the first floor and operates a kodomo kyoshitsu until evening hours even during long vacation periods. On average about 120 children from the first to sixth grades participate in the program each day. They draw pictures or play with friends in the schoolyard, for instance, while five to six staffers keep an eye on them.
Any children can register to participate in the program, but half of them have two parents who work during the day.
The Edogawa Ward Office has opened kodomo kyoshitsu at all ward-run primary schools. Because any child can participate in the program, which is run directly by the ward’s board of education, “It’s easy to gain the cooperation of schools,” said a board official.
Although only children whose parents are both working can use the program in the hour to 6 p.m., the Tokyo metropolitan government decided not to receive subsidies from the health and welfare ministry for its after-school child care program.
The education ministry started the hokago kodomo kyoshitsu project for a number of reasons, including an insufficient number of places for children to play safely in their communities. But different areas implement the program differently.
The education ministry’s subsidies mainly cover personnel costs. As there are limits on the number of days the classrooms are open each year, local municipalities partially shoulder the costs for operating the program. The Kawasaki and Yokohama city governments operate the program in evening hours as part of traditional after-school child care by the health and welfare ministry.
To hold after-school child care programs, such factors as the scale of activities and hours of operation are decided according to the health ministry’s guidelines. The ministry plans to compile standards on such points as staff qualifications and personnel distribution this fiscal year under the Child Welfare Law.
On the other hand, the education ministry has no guidelines for kodomo kyoshitsu, leaving everything to local education boards.
“As a result, [the education ministry program] cannot fulfill the original purpose of the health ministry’s program to provide a homelike place for children whose parents are both working,” said an official of the national liaison council for after-school child care centers.
Louise George Kittaka tells prospective ALT teachers in Japan to think twice before they “ink” (get tattoos) because of BOEs and schools’ dim view of tattoos…
Think before you ink if you work with kids (Japan Times, Jul 22, 2013)
He goes on to describe a story he heard about another ALT: The man had taken off his shirt to water some plants on his balcony, when a student’s parent happened to walk by and saw his tattoo-riddled back. The parent apparently called the school, claiming that they had hired a member of the yakuza — the Japanese mafia, who traditionally have tattoos. The ALT had to change jobs and cities as a result.
It’s true that many Japanese people, particularly the older generations, still associate tattoos with yakuza, and that many in mainstream society shy away from being inked. However, partly fueled by growing interest from overseas, tattoos seem to be gaining a modicum of acceptance among younger people. Just the other day in downtown Tokyo I saw a Japanese woman with a toddler on one arm and a full “sleeve” tattoo on the other.
Having said that, since PP is going to be working with schoolchildren, it is advisable not get a tattoo in a place that is likely to be seen by his charges — or their parents, for that matter. It is guaranteed that his fellow teachers and the local board of education will also take a dim view of an ALT with a visible tattoo. … Read the rest here.
Story of WWII student-nurses set for Net (Aug 25, Yomuiri Shimbun)
An animation movie depicting the Himeyuri Gakutotai (Lily Corps), an army nursing unit of female students formed to care for injured soldiers during the Battle of Okinawa, will be released on the Internet later this month with English subtitles.
The 30-minute animation was produced by Himeyuri Heiwa Kinen Zaidan (Himeyuri Peace Memorial Foundation), which comprises former corps members and their supporters.
The Japanese-language version of the film has been shown at the Himeyuri Peace Museum in Itoman, Okinawa Prefecture, since last year. The foundation decided to make a version with English subtitles so children all over the world can see it.
Former corps members have talked about their experiences to museum visitors, including students on school excursions, since the museum opened in 1989. They decided to produce the original animation, mainly for older primary school students, after realizing how hard it was to convey their tragic memories only in words. …
While keeping faithful to the facts and feelings of the former corps members, the members translated the narration into simple expressions in English.
The version with English subtitles is scheduled to be released on the video-sharing website YouTube by the end of this month.
Yoshiko Shimabukuro, 85, a survivor of the corps and now chief curator of the museum, said: “Even today, many people become victims of civil wars and other armed conflicts around the world. We want to tell people about the tragedy that befell Okinawa Prefecture, which is far from places where many children live, so they can understand the horror of war.”
The girls nursing corps was formed with 222 students of Okinawa Shihan Women’s School and Okinawa Daiichi Women’s High School in March 1945.
The students took care of injured and ill soldiers mainly inside underground shelters at an army hospital. In all, 123 of the students and 13 of their teachers died in bombings or mass suicides …
Elsewhere in the world, new concepts of schools are emerging:
The son of a friend of mine attended the school of the arts mentioned in the article below. The boy was a free-spirit, and difficult kid through the teen years who wasn’t thriving academically, until he entered this unique music & arts program school that also incorporated a rigorous IB curriculum … .. it allowed kids to find their way, learn new instruments and unusual new skills in a varied and unusual curriculum, try new things and skills, see article below:
(CS Monitor) Chew Jun Ru knew he wanted to become a musician back in high school. But the eldest of four had parents who shared the traditional Singaporean view of the arts – they insisted he find a career with a solid future
What do you all think of this new iPad-centred school? I think that many “home-schools” are already somewhat looking like this … do you want your neighborhood school to look like this too? Tell us in the comment section what you think would be the pluses and downsides to such iPad-centred schools.
What does a Totally Technology-centric school look like? Can you imagine a school where every facet of life uses technology? Let’s take a look at what a totally technology-centric school might actually look like
“A New Concept of School
In these new schools, the traditionally ultra-scheduled school day is a thing of the past. The schools will be open every weekday from 7:30 am to 6:30 pm. As long as the students are there from 10:30 am to 3pm, they can otherwise come and go as they please. While the school will close on Christmas and New Year’s, families can otherwise decide when they want to go on vacation, since their students won’t be missing any classes in the traditional sense.
See also this related link: The Teacher’s Guide To The One iPad Classroom
Primed to perform, five middle school girls take their positions like dots on dice: four at each corner, the tallest in the center. In time to music, they carry invisible loads, push against air, wield imaginary shovels …
Global education lessons: German’s respected voc-tech path with Meisters (CS Monitor, September 1, 2013)
In Germany, more than half of all students take vocational training – and for those not ready, an intensive pre-apprenticeship program “rescues” youths by helping them identify a profession and prep to work with a serious Meister.
Global education lessons: Australia teaches to test – a better test (CS Monitor, September 1, 2013)
As the US moves to the Common Core, it might well look to Australia’s victories with testing that promotes effective learning. It hasn’t been controversy-free, but the nation is coming to terms with assessment. …
For that to happen, Leung needs to know the strengths and weakness of her students, a diverse group of seventh- through 12th-graders at Merrylands High School in Sydney’s western suburbs. For this, she relies on a battery of techniques, ranging from quizzes designed to tell her students’ starting point to mind-mapping exercises, games, brainstorming sessions, traditional tests, and tasks on online platforms…
Leung’s classroom exemplifies a trend earning Australia accolades from international education experts: testing that promotes effective learning and teaching. This ranges from classroom tests like Leung’s to certification tests administered at a statewide level. Here, as in the United States, teachers may find themselves teaching to such external tests; the difference is that the quality of those assessments is much higher than the multiple-choice format the US favors. … Read more
Global education lessons: China’s mentor schools bridge rich-poor gap (CS Monitor, September 1, 2013)
As the US struggles with inequity between richer and poorer school districts, Shanghai’s stellar urban schools offer hands-on help to rural schools with intensive teaching and administrative mentoring..
Yahoo News, as part of its “Born Digital” series, asked students and parents to write about how college has changed over a generation.
Yahoo News, as part of its “Born Digital” series, asked students and parents to write about how college has changed over a generation.
The Meteorological Agency on Aug. 30 started a system to use a “special warning” designation for natural disasters that are very likely to cause heavy damage…
As Mr. Mitsuhiko Hatori, director general of the agency, said, a special warning means that a life or death situation is imminent. Once such a warning is issued, the general public and local governments must think that a life-threatening situation is approaching and take necessary action — that is, evacuate quickly to minimize the possibility of disaster-related casualties.
Special warnings will be issued for heavy rains, storms, high tides, high waves, heavy snow and blizzards. But the agency will continue to use the conventional terms “emergency earthquake early warning” (kinkyu jishin sokuho) for an earthquake whose intensity is six or higher on the Japanese scale of seven, “eruption warning” (funka keiho) for a volcanic eruption that requires evacuation and “major tsunami warning” (o-tsunami keiho) for a tsunami that is more than three meters high. The agency said that these conventional terms are on a par with special warnings.
In the case of heavy rains, a special warning will be issued for each municipality when a record heavy rain for the past 50 years is imminent. The agency has set a criterion for issuing a special heavy rain warning by studying past precipitation records, including precipitation for three hours periods and for 48 hour periods, in individual municipalities across the country….more
Seventy-five percent of calls made to telephone counseling services for children go unanswered. A better system to help every child who calls is needed….
15-year-old girl attempts Y4 mil identity fraud (Sep 2, Japan today)
Police said Saturday that a 15-year-old school girl from Tokyo’s Adachi Ward has been arrested for attempted identity fraud after she allegedly posed as a woman’s son in need of cash.
Students can continue their learning at home, since the apps on their iPads will be available to them at home as well. Rather than following a specific curriculum that is applied to all students of a particular grade and age level, a personalized learning plan is developed collaboratively between the teachers, parents, and student. The learning plan is reviewed every six weeks with all involved parties chiming in. At least in theory, the days of some students being bored because the teacher is moving through the material too slowly and others struggling to keep up – are gone. Each student can develop their own natural talents, foster their independence, and generally be more creative.
Since there are no ‘set hours’ for all students to be in the schools and no formal classes, the education minister is looking to see if these new schools can be exempt from the requirement for students to spend a certain number of hours in school.”
Leaks suspected from more tanks at Fukushima plant (September 01, 2013 Asahi Shimbun AWJ)
Radiation levels of up to 1,800 millisieverts per hour have been detected at four locations at the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant, as the operator checks storage tanks following a leak of 300 tons of radioactive water…
Aging hikikomori children’s lifelong dependency on parents (Aug 14, Japan Today)
Tokyo Electric patches a radioactive pipe after finding a lethal hot spot and rising tritium and strontium levels near its leaky water tanks.
Last but not least, check out these educational resources:
Newly uploaded page is this resource listing book titles on Education in Japan, the school system and its history, higher education in Japan, social or psychological and other issues related to Education in Japan. Please go to our Pinterest page on Education-in-Japan
Kelley King and Michael Gurian’s “With Boys in Mind / Teaching to the Minds of Boys” September 2006 | Volume 64 | Number 1 Educational Leadership:Teaching to Student Strengths … - ASCD pp. 56-61
Is something wrong with the way we’re teaching boys? One elementary school thought so and decided to implement boy-friendly strategies that produced remarkable results…
NHK has this folktale storytelling resource in 9 languages: http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/folktale/special/english/index.html
TTFN (Ta ta for now) …
Hand-reared: Saya High School students feed grain to some of their friendly flock of paddy-management fowl| C.W. NICOL
Hello readers, how’s summer treating you?
Here’s our usual buzz on the latest happenings on the educational scene in Japan and in my opinion, this is the coolest story this summer …
School wins prize for paddle power in its paddies (Japan Times) See extract below:
“The school’s curriculum emphasizes agriculture, and last year its students won the Prime Minister’s Award, which is sponsored through the One Percent Club, a scheme that takes 1 percent of the selling price of various Aeon products and goods and deposits the money into a fund to support and encourage environmental programs. I am a committee member.
Saya High School was the first to win this Prime Minister’s Prize — for its 11-year-old program of raising ducks for its rice paddies.
This traditional way of keeping paddies free of pests takes time and care but produces excellent rice, in good yields, without the use of any pesticides.
The ducks eat all kinds of insects and aquatic insect larvae and, because they have serrated ridges along the edges of their bills that enable them to filter out water, they can eat even tiny mosquito larvae. Also, as they paddle around, the ducks stir up mud, preventing light from reaching the bottom. This curbs the growth of aquatic weeds between the rows of green growing rice stems — and what small weeds do manage to sprout soon get eaten.
Most domesticated ducks, with the exception of the Muskovy and a few other breeds, descend from wild mallards, and the small aigamo ducks in fairly widespread use on rice paddies in Japan are crossbred from mallards and domestic varieties. However, Saya High School’s large white fowl with yellow bills and feet are, although very common in China and other Asian countries, unusual in Japan. Reaching up to 5 kg when fully grown, they too derive from mallards, though they flock more readily than aigamo and easily imprint with humans. In other words, they are very friendly and would eat from the students’ hands
At Saya High School, though, when I asked the teacher in charge, Hiroyuki Kamejima, what kind of duck theirs were, he didn’t say Aylesbury — but “Pekin.”
“I thought that was the name for a kind of Chinese food,” I said — but I was wrong. Peking duck is the delicious plucked, gutted and roasted delicacy eaten with pancakes, but Pekin is the name of another mallard-derived breed of poultry that reached Britain and America from China in the late 19th century and which is now the most common domestic duck there is …
The ducks are bred at the school, though the eggs are put in incubators to hatch because this type of duck is not a very good brooder. They reach about 2½ kg in four months, and when they come to maturity and the females start laying they will produce an egg most days if they are not brooding. These school ducks each lay about 70 eggs in four months and the surplus ones are sold to specialty outlets.
Because no pesticides are used in the school’s paddies, various aquatic creatures have returned. These include rare or endangered species such as the tiny killifish, which used to be common all over Japan but is now rarely seen, as well as the giant predatory tagame water beetle — which is easily able to catch and kill a frog — and the water mantis, which has the curious habit of breathing through a snorkel tube protruding from its bum. (I don’t think that will ever be included in PADI diving programs!)
Various other water beetles, dragonfly larvae, loaches and edible pond snails are also found, not to mention the stately white egrets and the ducks’ wild mallard relatives who come to visit and feed.
When we visited, the ducks were penned as the water had been temporarily drained from the paddies. This practice, called nakabōshi in Japanese, is to strengthen the roots of the rice plants. After a while without surface water, the paddies are flooded again and the eager ducks are reintroduced to their watery play and feeding grounds.
Later, when the rice grains begin to swell and ripen, the ducks will leave them alone as long as the stems are upright, but as soon as the seed heads start to bow, the ducks have to be penned again. Otherwise they would fatten themselves on rice.
The students and teachers don’t have the heart to slaughter their ducks, and they don’t keep that many, so they either give them away to nursery and primary schools, or keep them at the school to breed the next flock of paddy ducks … Read more
More mundane policy news up next:
Govt to help the world enter top 100 universities (Yomiuri Shimbun, August 3, 2013)
The Yomiuri ShimbunTo help 10 Japanese universities move into the world’s top 100 universities over the next 10 years, the education ministry will provide each of them with 10 billion yen a year.The Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry plans to include this outlay in its fiscal 2014 budget requests.Designating 10 public or private universities as “super global universities,” the ministry will encourage them to carry out joint research with foreign universities and invite famous scholars from abroad.By improving the global rankings of the nation’s universities, the government hopes to enhance Japan’s industrial competitiveness. Its growth strategy, compiled in June, refers to the launch of the super global university system.Universities are ranked after evaluating such factors as the teaching environment and how many times papers written by researchers are cited.One of the most popular rankings is the World University Rankings by Times Higher Education, a specialized British education journal, in which only two Japanese universities ranked in the top 100 in 2012: the University of Tokyo in 27th place and Kyoto University at 54th.
Many new colleges degrees have unusual, ambiguous names (August 2, 2013 Yomiuri Shimbun) The variety of bachelor’s degrees has dramatically widened to about 700 in the last two decades, according to a Yomiuri Shimbun survey on the nation’s universities.
An Education Ministry ordinance regulated the names of degrees after World War II, limiting their number to 25 to 29. Since the regulation was relaxed in 1991, however, the number has surged to more than 20 times that level.Many of the newly created names for bachelor’s degrees are unusual, such as career design at Hosei University and hospitality and tourism at Kyorin University. Education experts believe universities are trying to bring in students by using such names to emphasize their uniqueness.The Yomiuri survey was conducted on 740 universities nationwide in June, of which 648 responded.In 1956, 25 bachelor’s degrees, such as bachelor of law and bachelor of economics, were set by the ministry ordinance on establishing universities. The kinds and names of bachelor’s degrees were limited until 1991, and in that period the number rose only by four. Since 1991, however, the number has increased year by year as universities were allowed to freely name their degrees.The Yomiuri Shimbun survey found 696 degrees. Of this number, 426, or about 60 percent, exist only at their respective universities.Many of the new names use such words as joho (information), bunka (culture), fukushi (welfare) and kokusai (international), reflecting trends at the time of their creation. These include Keio University’s Faculty of Environment and Information Studies and Meiji University’s School of Global Japanese Studies.Even among universities with a long history, some have created new bachelor’s degrees this fiscal year. Doshisha University, for example, created a bachelor’s degree for “global and regional studies.”The wider variety of names indicates that universities are hard-pressed to lure students.However, some of the new names make it hard to guess what students in the undergraduate courses study. They include Rikkyo University’s Body Expression and Cinematic Arts, Kinki University’s Department of Career Management, and Fukuoka University of Education’s Intercultural Studies Course.
A professor of a private university said, “One of our students lamented that ‘I couldn’t immediately answer’ when asked during a job interview for details about what they study.”An official at a private university said, “We can’t sufficiently explain to universities overseas [in which its students want to enroll] about the nature of their studies.”As a result, some education experts have voiced concern that such unique names of bachelor’s degrees may work against the universities’ globalization.“Officials at foreign universities in which Japanese students want to enroll may be concerned about what the students have majored in, if it’s hard to tell from the names of their bachelor’s degrees,” said Yoshitaka Hamanaka, senior researcher of the National Institute for Educational Policy Research. “It goes against the trend of globalization.”Prof. Manabu Sato of Gakushuin University said: “Universities have competed so hard to demonstrate uniqueness, the names may have become too diversified. We should consider making rules in this area.”:::This article sums up the recent spate of school crimes …
Local govts tackle daycare waiting lists (Jul 30, 2013)
Govt to pay half tuition for 2nd child in kindergarten (Jun 2, Yomiuri Shimbun via Japan News)The education ministry plans to launch a subsidy program that would cover half of the kindergarten tuition for a second child and make preschool free for subsequent children, with no income restrictions.
About 300,000 children will receive free preschool education or have their fees partly covered under the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry program, which will require a budget of about 30 billion yen, it was learned Friday.However, the ministry is expected to face difficulties in negotiating with the Finance Ministry to secure the necessary funds.The Liberal Democratic Party pledged to make kindergarten education free during its campaign for the House of Representatives election in December as part of a child-rearing support program.Although a related measure was implemented this fiscal year, free preschool education is available for a third child and beyond only when three or more children are enrolled in a kindergarten at the same time.
One must wonder what preparations, protocols and protection details are entailed for a princess’ homestay:
Princess Kako to have homestay in Massachusetts (Japan Today, via JapanNewsJapan, Jul 24, 2013)
Princess Kako, 18, the daughter of Prince Akishino, the emperor’s second son, and Princess Kiko, will have a homestay for a month in Massachusetts next month, the government said Tuesday.
The Aug 3-Sept 4 homestay will be part of the princess’ summer vacation and she will stay at the home of a Harvard professor who is acquainted with her parents, NTV reported. She will also visit Colorado during her trip
Next up, the news on health, crime and safety:
Study: 8.1% of Japan secondary school students may be ‘Internet addicts’ (KYODO, Aug 1, 2013)
A government panel said Thursday that 8.1 percent of around 100,000 junior high and high school students polled nationwide are suspected of being “Internet addicts.”
Based on the finding, the panel under the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry estimates that some 518,000 students in schools nationwide suffer from the addiction, which can trigger health-related problems, including sleep disruptions.
The first-ever national study on Internet addiction among junior high and high school students was conducted between last October and March.
The research team, led by Nihon University professor Takashi Oida, sent questionnaires to around 140,000 students nationwide through their schools to ask how they use the Internet. The team received about 98,000 responses.
Generally, junior high school students range in age from 13 to 15, while high school students are aged between 16 to 18.
Team member Susumu Higuchi, an authority on addictions and director of the state-run Kurihama Medical and Addiction Center in Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture, warned that Internet addiction can cause health problems, including sleep disruptions, and can also have negative mental effects.
Based on international criteria to measure Internet addiction, the team asked eight questions, including whether the respondents have ever felt they need to extend the number of hours to use the Internet to gain satisfaction, whether they have ever failed to stop using the Internet, and whether they have faced difficulties maintaining good relations with family or friends because of their Internet use.
Of the respondents, the 8.1 percent who were judged “addicted users” numbered 7,952.
Among them, 23.2 percent said they had difficulties falling asleep, while 15.6 percent said they wake up during the night.
To a multiple choice question regarding what kind of Internet services they use, about 69.2 percent of the entire respondents said they look for random information and news, while 64.4 percent said they check YouTube and other video sites. Some 62.5 percent said they send and receive emails, while 33.4 percent said they check Facebook pages and Twitter. A total of 28.2 percent said they read and write blogs or message boards, while another 20.2 percent said they use online games.
Children deserve to have safe and crime-free summer vacation (July 25, 2013 The Yomiuri Shimbun)
School is out for summer, and children are free to play outdoors. Yet even at this happy time, measures must be taken to ensure no children fall victim to crimes during their summer vacation.
In late June, a man with a knife injured three first-grade primary school students in front of the gate to a ward primary school in Nerima Ward, Tokyo. The incident took place while the boys were on their way home from school. In mid-July, a fifth-grade primary school student suffered serious injuries when she was beaten by a man on the street in Ryugasaki, Ibaraki Prefecture.
National Police Agency statistics remind us of the disturbing reality that not even children under 13 are safe from criminals. Crimes against them include a significant number of serious offenses, such as sexual assaults and attacks resulting in grave injuries. Parents should immediately call the police if their children have been spoken to or followed by suspicious persons.
Adults must stay on guard
It is essential for the police to thoroughly investigate such cases, while also providing information about suspicious individuals to local organizations likely to be affected by such incidents, including school authorities and neighborhood associations.
School administrators have taken measures to better protect the safety of their students in recent years. The move was prompted by a stabbing incident that took place in Ikeda, Osaka Prefecture, in 2001 at a primary school affiliated with Osaka Kyoiku University. Eight students at Ikeda Primary School were killed by a knife-wielding man, and many others were injured.
Ikeda Primary School has set up a class called “anzen-ka” (safety course) in which students are encouraged to discuss what they should do if they face such situations as total strangers talking to them on the street. An increasing number of schools are adopting similar safety education programs.
A large number of primary and middle schools have installed security cameras and other protective devices around their buildings and grounds, hoping to detect any suspicious person attempting to intrude.
In other cases, parents accompany their children to and from school, while crime-prevention volunteers from neighborhood associations patrol school-commuting roads. Local communities are making progress in implementing various steps to prevent children from becoming crime victims.
However, defense of children tends to become lax during the summer vacation. Particular attention should be given to the safety of children during certain hours of the day–for instance, when they are playing outdoors, and while they are on their way to and from cram schools and or swimming courses. At such times, it is difficult for grown-ups to keep an eye on children. Given this, it is advisable to make sure children carry crime prevention buzzers with them when they go out, so they can sound an alarm if necessary.
Teach kids to be alert
Most importantly, children should be taught how to escape from crimes targeting them. They need to develop such awareness on a routine basis, when it comes to averting potential danger.
For instance, it is a good idea for both parents and children to confirm whether any hazards exist in their neighborhood, such as a vacant house into which children could be taken or an unlit street. Parents would be well advised to tell their children to stay away from such high-risk places.
In many areas around the nation, shops, private homes and other buildings have been designated as emergency shelters for children. Those in charge of such shelters agree to provide temporary protection for children who encountered danger, and report it to the police. If they have been taught where such facilities are located, children will be able to run to the shelter when they recognize danger.
Other facilities that can play a role in crime prevention include convenience stores that stay open round the clock or till late at night.
It is essential for families and local communities to join hands in making sure children can spend the summer vacation in safety.
News on bullying:
Anti-bullying bill enacted (Yomiuri Shimbun, Jun 21); 3 school bullies sent to child consultation center following suicide of victim (Jul 11, NewsonJapan); See also: Earlier news: 4 junior high students arrested for hitting their classmate with mop (Jun 26, Japan Today)
HYOGO — Four junior high school students have been arrested for bullying a classmate by hitting him with a mop and kicking him, police said Tuesday.
The incident took place on June 4 at the school in Tanba, Hyogo Prefecture, NTV reported Tuesday. One of the teachers at the school found the 14-year-old boy crying and the school reported the bullying to police. Three of the four boys have admitted bullying the boy since last year, while fourth denies the charge, police said. One of the bullies said the victim never complained about it before.
Meanwhile, the school said that in May, it had warned one of the bullies after a teacher saw him kick the boy in the stomach, NTV reported.
A look at the bloggable things being blogged about education in Japan (apart from what we are blogging about):
A Cup of Jo features photographer Yoko Inoue, who moved from Brooklyn to the Japanese countryside with her husband and son… and the 10 things that have surprised her about being a mom in Japan..
Other cool stuff during a hot summer:
Out of ideas for summer jiyukenkyu projects? Yesterday’s local terrestrial channels had offerings suggesting free jiyukenkyu projects for kids, from having kids go out with a digital camera and using their observation skills to cover a specific theme, such as transportation vehicles, eg fire-engines or ambulances, and taking to the planetariums or free zoos (did you know there are 160 of these free zoos around the nation?)
Ask your child to try the Bennesse help page:.http://benesse.jp/jiyukenkyu/; Jiyukenkyu and Kid’s Door jiyukenkyu page (in Japanese) and see our previous page: About Jiyu kenkyu – the school summer project
Firms propose summer projects for kids (Aug 2, 2013 The Yomiuri Shimbun)
Massive summer assignments often put a burden on children during their summer vacation. Among the work given out, independent research is one of the most challenging, yet fun, required projects.
To promote their brands, several food makers have launched webpages encouraging children to conduct their research with familiar items. The sites include instructions on a number of experiments and arts and crafts projects, which are easier for primary school students, using food items and empty containers. It is hoped such sites will be useful in helping children choose a research theme.
Mizkan Group has launched “Mr. Smith’s summer vacation independent research” using their vinegar products. By carrying out the experiments posted on the website, such as dissolving an eggshell by soaking it in vinegar, children learn about chemistry. (www. mizkan.co.jp/k-plus/summerkids/index. html?lid-01)
Suntory Holdings Ltd. set up a page on its website dedicated to experiments on the “water education” to teach children the importance of environmental protection. The page outlines several experiments based on water’s properties and attributes. It also shows facts such as the amount of water an average household uses in a day. (http://suntory.jp/mizu-iku/kids/research/?fromid=top_r)
Megmilk Snow Brand Co.’s educational site “Tanoshii Kosaku” (Fun crafts) includes instructions on making 84 kinds of crafts such as pen cases and fans using its packaging. Each project is assigned a level of difficulty through a star rating system so children can choose an appropriate challenge. (www.meg-snow.com/fun/make/craft/)
The Salt Industry Center of Japan has a page detailing 16 experiments related to salt. It shows how to hoist an ice block with salt and extract salt from sea water, among other novel activities. (www.shiojigyo.com/a050study/)
Finally, not so cool news … but do Watch out for the poisonous rove beetle, called Yakedomushi … that could give you nasty boils and blisters… as they flourish and propagate during heavy rains and humid weather…
And that’s all folks for now…till the next blog post!
The movie has been kept unusually tightly under wraps, the promotion and publicity surprisingly low-key, and the teasers devoid of much action, even though the movie was filled with amazing scenes …
Well, now we know why, the Studio promoters must have been worried that the biopic story of the invention of the iconic Mitsubishi A6M Zero fighter plane and the inventor Jiro Horikoshi would become a hot potato of controversy, given that it is the symbol of Japanese imperialism.
The movie, however, focused squarely, in the spirit and tradition of Miyazaki, on the development and fleshing out of the key characters … And the anime film has all the great hallmark stamps of the Miyazaki movie, masterful storytelling, and it was a story of young Jiro’s coming of age, his romance and love story with a girl from the other side of the tracks, beginning with the events of Great Kanto earthquake of 1923, following Jiro’s entry to the working world, and through to the days of rumours, rumblings of and the readying for WWII.
Jiro is a character that many kids will like or relate to, a boy forever with his head in the clouds literally, fixated on perfecting or improving his paper airplanes (incredibly like my son) and his later utter absorption and passion for his art/aviation engineering science. It is obvious that Miyazaki made this movie with a determination to reach and inspire the Japanese youths of today … to reach for the sky, follow their dreams in the face of adversity, poverty, disaster and against all the odds. The movie’s title (based on a French quote by Paul Valery) itself gives the imagery of rising on wings of an eagle, and of seizing the day… and living to the fullest.
On the art of the movie: It is everything we love of all the greatest Ghibili hits, reminding me of scenic beauty of Laputa a little, with its very European feel to it, and the many scenes set in the posh Karuizawa mountain resort, a favorite of the Japanese Royals and elites. The movie, however, resembles more the Graveyard of the Fireflies with some of its pathos, than the recent series of fantasy-related high-octane action anime that Ghibili has turned out.
Some reservations: The bittersweet romance, great success combined with personal loss of Jiro is an aspect of the tale, as well as the dark war history of imperialism, does, however, differentiate this movie from most of the other Ghibili movies. It feels a little more grownup and lacking in childish themes, — which makes me think that the movie may be a bit slow in parts for the very young, and perhaps more suitable for kids from grade 5 or 6 onwards. The complex animation and exquisite detailed art of the earthquake and the many failed test pilot scenes (are reminiscent of all the great inventor stories like the Wright Brothers) …will however, add humour, delight the audience and perhaps be enough to keep the attention of the younger ones.
The movie is in itself fairly educational, imparting to kids a fair bit of information about the Zerofighter, life in Japan before the war, and best of all, will probably inspire considerable summer reading especially in boys. The Zero, so named because of its carrier-based Type O designation, had retractable landing gear and with external drop tanks had a range of 1,929 miles. It exceeded the Japanese Imperial Navy’s specifications with a maximum speed of 331 mph and a ceiling of 33,000 feet. The keys to its superiority were speed, range and maneuverability (see Science, How Stuff Works. Read more about The impact of the A6M Zero Fighter aircraft in WWII ).
All in all, a must-watch life-affirming movie inspite of the darker connected backdrop of war destruction and militarism. Kudos to Hayao Miyazaki for trying to help Japanese youth move past their dark demons of war history.
P.S. Although the mainstream consensus that the zerofighter plane was a model superior to other fighterplanes of the WWII (notwithstanding its lacking ruggedness and its vulnerability to gunfire), for detractors to this view, see Myth of the Zerofighter
Follow up the movie by reading the following resources:
Eagles of Mitsubishi: The Story of the Zero Fighter by Jiro Horikoshi (Author), Shojiro Shindo (Author), Harold N. Wanteiz
Zero Fighter (Ballantine’s illustrated history of World War II: Weapons #9) by Martin Caidin, Saburo Sakai
Zero: Combat and Development History of Japan’s Legendary Mitsubishi A6M Zero Fighter (Motorbooks International Warbird History)
Jiro Horikoshi (Wikipedia)
Articles about the movie “The Wind Rises”:
Impressions from Ghibili’s “The Wind Rises” (Rocket News)
The Summerbreak has just begun, and my daughter has a punishing schedule of badminton club practices as well as tournaments ahead, which also means lots of support and preparation on the part of parents like myself, with bento lunches and two to three water flasks each day to be filled. Then there are homework drillsheets, readings, etc. for the kids to stay on top of (my job the last-minute procrastinators in the family don’t get to leave it all to the stroke of midnight). My son has colleges to visit, and to knuckle down to tackle his entrance exam prep in the “exam hell” year beginning about now. In Secondary and High School, summerbreaks are usually a time when children also get special remedial help from juku cram schools, or intensive revisionwork and special exam prep. towards school or college entrance exams. Families coordinate with teachers over when is the best time to take time off to travel back to their hometowns or overseas, or to go for summer camps or to take family time off. The upside, is that academics-wise, parental support is expected as a matter of course, and the student work sheets duly prepared by the teachers are all very well-laid out, efficiently scheduled and organized. Year-upon-year, pretty much the same method of dispensing work is carried on, there are few surprises and in the typical Japanese spirit, a traditional “way” and standard practice of dispensing revision or remedial self-study work is established. We (and the students) know when to start on their drill sheets, their book reports or essays or projects, when to return to school to water the plants or feed the animals (where pets are kept), and of course, when to attend their scheduled club activities or sports practices and tournaments. The downside? From upper school onwards, we have seldom been able to book our flights early, due to the late releases of the summer schedule and calendar only just before the summerbreak.
There is no talk at Japanese school PTAs or parent-meet-the-teacher sessions about “summer learning loss”, because scheduled homework drills, jiyukenkyu summer projects, book or travel reports and essays have been the standard or universal practice, thanks to the uniform national curriculum. There are tick-off checksheets or charts for parents, so that the more lackadaisical students don’t get away by using their homework sheets as kitty litter, or that our little procrastinators don’t get caught out leaving it all to the stroke of midnight. Some teachers also have a week or two of remedial programs where they see fit to conduct them. Teachers are not overbearing but it is just expected that we would all comply and get it done without complaining. Nike’s “Just Do It” motto must have been invented in the Japanese schooling system!
In articles like “Summer Learning”, Japan is cited as a case where students are given loads of homework to do during the break, I guess it is all relative … if you come from a system where you’ve never had to a jot of work, well, then what the Japanese are given will look like a lot of work to you. However, in our experience, the kids never have to do more than 5 minutes a day of drillsheets at primary level, other work typically involve writing one book report or an investigative essay into a country, or travel report, or usually a project of one’s choice. And this jiyukenkyu summer project is usually something that most kids look forward to, a chance for a creativity at an art-and-craft project or imaginative writing, to investigate some science topic deeper, or to write about and explore one area of interest and passion. All very manageable, and it teaches kids how to manage their free time and meet the submission deadline. Intermediate and high school kids have heavier schedules and concerns, being saddled with entrance exam revisionwork and prep.
Contrast the above summer practices, with the summertalk elsewhere… on either sides of the Atlantic Ocean, it seems that stemming “Summer Learning Loss” and more recently, devising instructional programs and padding the school calendar in the concept of YRE – Year Round Education appear to be the key concerns of educators’ tongues and seen a lot in the press.
Below, we set out some readings and resources pertaining to Summer Learning Loss and the YRE concept:
The term Year Round Education or YRE, and its origins is explained in “The Role of Calendar Innovation in Improving Learning in Schools”:
“A recently released survey from the National Summer Learning Association (NSLA) confirms that teachers spend a significant amount of time re-teaching material due to summer learning loss. The survey, which was based on answers from 500 teachers, found that 66 percent teachers have to spend three to four weeks re-teaching students course material at the beginning of the year, while 24 percent of teachers spend at least five to six weeks re-teaching material from the previous school year.
The numbers surrounding summer learning loss may be especially dire for low-income students. A Johns Hopkins study of Baltimore Public Schools notes that low-income youths “lose more than two months in reading achievement” over summer vacation, while their middle-class counterparts make small gains in reading achievement. Regardless of income level, most students lose “two months of grade-level equivalency” in math skills every summer.
In addition, the NSLA’s website states the following: “Research spanning 100 years shows that students typically score lower on standardized tests at the end of summer vacation than they do on the same tests at the beginning of the summer.”
A significant majority of the teachers surveyed by the NSLA agreed that such summer learning loss could be ameliorated if students participated in a summer learning program.
Gary Huggins, the CEO of the NSLA, told The Huffington Post that he recommends students participate in programs that have “enrichment activities with real academic rigor, connected in a line with what districts are trying to accomplish.”
“We think summer is a great break from school but not a great break from learning,” Huggins added.” Read the rest of the article here
Concerns Raised by the Long Summer Vacation In 1993, the National Education Commission on Time and Learning (NECTL, 1993) urged school districts to develop school calendars that acknowledged differences in student learning and major changes taking place in American society. The report reflected a growing concern about school calendar issues, especially for students at risk for academic failure.
Educators and parents often voice three concerns about the possible negative impact of summer vacation on student learning. One concern is that children learn best when instruction is continuous. The long summer vacation breaks the rhythm of instruction, leads to forgetting, and requires a significant amount of review of material when students return to school in the fall. Also, the long summer break can have a greater negative effect on the learning of children with special educational needs. For example, children who speak a language at home other than English may have their English language skills set back by an extended period without practice, although there currently is little evidence related to this issue. Read more …
Primer on Summer Learning Loss (RIF resource)
JUL 3, 2013 Japan Times
In order to help children’s recovery from the traumatic events of the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami, the Japanese Red Cross Society (JRC) continues to focus on their needs with projects to take children from the three worst-affected prefectures to the relaxing surroundings of Hokkaido.
This summer camp is a part of the JRC reconstruction and recovery program. A four-day event conducted in a series of sessions from July 22 to Aug. 18 (nine sessions in total) in Rusutsu Resort in Hokkaido, the camp gives children the chance to play outside in beautiful natural surroundings and learn skills such as first aid, team building and leadership. Throughout this summer camp, psychologists and nurses will accompany the children 24 hours a day as support staff.
Children will conduct several activities, including as a critical thinking program about helping the visually impaired and about international cultures, a wheelchair experience, rafting, mountain biking and horse riding.
This camp aims not only to ease the stress of children who are still facing a challenging living environment, but also to help them expand their viewpoints through special programs on subjects such as international cultures, environmental problems and nutrition.
For more information, visit www.jrc.or.jp .
Buzzing our readers … on the two exhibitions to check out with your children …
A 39,000-year-old frozen woolly mammoth will be exhibited for the first time in the world.
A 39,000-year-old frozen woolly mammoth arrived in Yokohama from Russia to be exhibited for the first time. The frozen female mammoth named Yuka was found in the Saha Republic. She is believed to have died at the age of 10 years old.
The mammoth was brought to Japan on Tuesday by ferry, and then officials put it in a specialized case that keeps the temperature below -10. …
A representative of the exhibition Norihisa Inuzuka said the frozen woolly mammoth, with its whole skin intact, is very valuable. He said it is the world’s first woolly mammoth to be shown in almost perfect condition. The exhibition will run through September 16. Source: abclocal news, July 10, 2013
Address: 1-1-1 Minato Mirai, Nishi-ku, Yokohama
Address (日本語): 神奈川県横浜市西区みなとみらい１丁目１−１
Nearest Station: Minatomirai.
An archaeological exhibition, touring Japan and now making a stop in Tokyo, is offering a breathtaking glimpse into the lifestyles and thoughts of people who inhabited the Japanese archipelago from prehistoric through medieval times.
Titled “Hakkutsu Sareta Nihon Retto 2013” (The excavated Japanese islands 2013), the exhibit is made up of 510 artifacts from 32 archaeological sites across Japan. The Agency for Cultural Affairs is one of the organizers, and The Asahi Shimbun Co. is among its sponsors.
These “haniwa” clay figurines and sculptures, on exhibit at the Edo-Tokyo Museum, were excavated by the Imperial Household Agency. The figurine shaped like a human head, foreground, is from the Daisen burial mound in Sakai, Osaka Prefecture. (Kazuaki Owaki)
The exhibition includes “magatama” jade beads, bronze mirrors from tumulus mounds, phallic stone clubs, ancient swords, “haniwa” terracotta figurines and sculptures .. and new artefacts unearthed after the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake.
One particular exhibit of note includes 13 select “haniwa” (terracotta figurines and sculptures) that were unearthed from sites administered by the Imperial Household Agency. The sites include those the agency believes to be tombs of emperors and other imperial ancestors.
“Never before have such a large number of haniwa toured Japan at one time,” said an official at the agency’s Mausolea and Tombs Division … Read more about the exhibition here.
Under the newly enacted law, bullying that causes serious physical and mental damage to victimized children or forces them to be absent for long periods of time is defined as constituting a “serious situation.” Watch the Youtube FNN broadcast (in Japanese only). Read also the related: 3 school bullies sent to child consultation center following suicide of victim
Univ. N-studies in decline / Subject failing to attract students (Yomiuri June 22, 2013)
Two out of three departments and five out of nine courses related to nuclear energy at major universities and graduate schools were under-enrolled this academic year, according to a survey by The Yomiuri Shimbun.
Observers point to a lack of clarity in government nuclear energy policy and the harm done to the field’s image by the disaster in Fukushima Prefecture as behind the lack of students.
Students have shunned nuclear-related subjects over uncertainty the field will lead to a bright future.
A lack of well-trained workers could adversely effect the decommissioning of nuclear reactors, which has officials involved in nuclear energy deeply concerned.
There are currently three undergraduate and nine master’s degree courses with words such as “nuclear” or “atomic” in their names. Past enrollment in these courses was surveyed by the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry, while The Yomiuri Shimbun asked about enrollment this academic year.
Two undergraduate and five master’s courses at seven universities and graduate schools, including Fukui University of Technology, Tokai University, Tokyo Institute of Technology and Kyoto University, were underenrolled as of the end of April.
The figure given by Waseda University excludes students who enroll in September.
Courses at the other universities and graduate schools, including the University of Tokyo, were fully enrolled.
In the 2011 academic year, which began just after the disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, only two graduate courses were under-enrolled.
In fiscal 2012, this number rose to six undergraduate and master’s courses, with Tokyo Institute of Technology’s course being underenrolled two years in a row. …
“The chronic suspension of nuclear power plants and the uncertain future of the nuclear industry has affected both students and companies,” a JAIF official said.
Industry needs new workers
Fewer students studying nuclear technology will make it more difficult for related industries to secure human resources and slow down technological development.
Decommissioning the damaged reactors at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, which is expected to take 30-40 years, is a nationwide task that must be completed regardless of the government’s nuclear policy.
Thus worker shortages and reduced technological capabilities in the field could adversely affect reconstruction efforts in Fukushima Prefecture.
Decommissioning is also the inevitable fate of the nation’s other nuclear reactors, but technology for this task is still being developed. … Read more…
An alumni association of Aichi prefectural Zuiryo High School in Mizuho Ward, Nagoya, requested last month that a building at the school be preserved. The association said the building, a former school hall called Kankido that was built in 1924, was a symbol of the school for about 30,000 alumni.The ferroconcrete, roof-tiled building is the oldest such existing hall in Nagoya and is currently used as a dining hall for the school’s part-time students.An examination by the prefectural board of education found that the hall’s quake-resistance was extremely low. But Shigenori Mori, head of the secretariat of the alumni association, said saving the building would help pass on the school’s traditions.
“If an old building like this is carefully preserved and students can feel close to its traditions, it will have welcome educational effects on students at the school,” Mori said.
Tetsuo Seguchi, a professor emeritus of modern architectural history at Nagoya City University, said the building has some special characteristics.
“It has many features particular to the period it was built in,” Seguchi said. “For example, the pillars are outside the building to maximize space inside to be used as a hall.”
But whether the building remains standing could depend on money.
“If constructing a new building is cheaper than repairing the hall, we’ll have to demolish the hall,” an official of the prefectural board of education said.
The board decided to check whether the hall can be made more quake-resistant.
In recent years, there has been a remarkable number of movements to preserve old buildings by improving their ability to withstand strong earthquakes. … Read the rest here.
Left: The Midokanpakuki diary written by Fujiwara no Michinaga in the Heian Period (794-1185) (Provided by Yomei Bunko)
Right: A portrait of Hasekura Tsunenaga, one of the materials related to the Keicho-era Mission to Europe (Sendai City Museum)
Pre-modern Japan mission artifacts to be added to UNESCO registry (Japan Daily Press, June 19, 2013[ via Global Post ] )
Two sets of materials – a collection from a pre-modern Japan mission to Spain and the world’s oldest autographic diary – have been selected to be added to the UNESCO Memory of the World registry. According to the Ministry of Education, the two assets were chosen from among 80 sets of documents and materials that were submitted for inclusion in the registry.
The first set of materials were from the Keicho Mission commissioned by Sendai feudal lord Date Masamune to go to the Vatican and Spain in 1613 to negotiate trade with Spanish possessions in Mexico. They brought back with them a certificate as well as portraits, according to records from delegation leader Hasekura Tsunenaga. The materials were recommended jointly by the Japanese and Spanish governments. The “Midokanpakuki” diary was written by Fujiwara no Michinaga (966-1027), who was a powerful regent in Japan during medieval times. The scrolls were preserved by Yomei Bunko, a library in Kyoto city. Both sets of assets are designated national treasures in Japan.
The UNESCO registry is for preserving rare or ancient records and documents from different countries and societies around the world. In their meeting on Tuesday in Gwangju, South Korea, sources told the ministry that the UNESCO International Advisory Committee proposed that the two be included for inscription and that the final authority for the selection was by UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova. Another Japanese asset was included in the registry in 2011 – the collection of annotated coal mine paintings and diaries of Japanese artist Sakubei Yamamoto (1892-1984).
Survey: Half of students say working abroad ‘impossible’ (Yomiuri — Jun 09 via newsjapan.com)
(Jiji Press, June 19, 2013)
The percentage of the nation’s young people not in education, employment or training, or NEETs, hit a record high in 2012, a government report said Tuesday.
According to the 2012 white paper on children and youngsters, adopted by the Cabinet the same day, NEETs accounted for 2.3 percent of people aged between 15 and 35, the highest figure since comparable data became available in 1995. Year on year, the Neet ratio rose 0.1 point.
“There should be measures to help young people demonstrate their abilities in society,” said the Cabinet Office, which compiled the annual report.
Reflecting an improvement in the overall employment situation, the jobless rate for young people has been on a downtrend. But the white paper found that among those aged 25 to 34, the proportion of nonregular workers to full-time employees moderately increased to 26.5 percent, rewriting an all-time high for the second consecutive year.
Education minister Hakubun Shimomura announced the launch of the team Friday after a regular Cabinet meeting. The group will study a set of proposals presented by the Education Rebuilding Implementation Council.The council recently presented the proposals to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. They emphasize nurturing human resources who can better compete globally, including a recommendation to make English an official subject at primary schools.
Among other things, the ministry’s study team will discuss the possibility of actively utilizing scores from TOEFL and other English proficiency tests as a qualifying measure for entering and graduating from universities, to encourage students to become more communicative in English.
Events for the family:
HARRY POTTER THE EXHIBITION
When: June 22 – Sept 16
Place: Mori Arts Center Gallery, Roppongi Hills, TOKYO
Visitors to the Harry Potter Exhibition can experience everything they wanted to know about the world of the famous boy wizard, his friends and enemies. Props, costumes and accessories are displayed in settings from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry including the Gryffindor common room, Hagrid’s hut and the Great Hall.
The exhibition has been traveling the world since 2009 and now comes to Japan where the books and movies were enormously popular. Harry Potter Daniel Radcliffe one said that more than half his worldwide fan mail comes from Japan.
The exhibition is open daily from June 22 until Sept 16 from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. (last entry 9 p.m.).
Tickets are 2,300 yen in advance for adults (2,500 yen regular), 1,800 yen for university students (2,000 yen regular), 1,300 yen for junior high and high school students (1,500 yen regular) and 800 yen for 4-year-olds to primary school students (1,000 yen regular). (Source of information, Japan Today)
Numerous firefly-viewing opportunities in Aichi
The light of fireflies can be enjoyed in various sites in Aichi Prefecture this month.
Those who are interested should visit Denpark in Anjo (denpark.jp/index.html,) 0566-92-7111, Jokoji Hotarunosato in Seto (www.seto-marutto.info/cgi-bin/data/miru/030.html,) 0561-48-0489, Hirahara Genjibotarunosato in Nishio (www.city.nishio.aichi.jp/index.cfm/9,2252,94,430,html,) 090-7616-8186, and Shimodaira area in Toyota (asuke.info/modules/pico/index.php?content_id=17), 0565-63-2811.
Also, with the summer holls a-looming, here’s an idea for travel, take a sleeper-cum-cruiser train somewhere and go-exploring with the kids. We’ve done it before, taking the Cassiopeia all the way to Hokkaido, it can be a magical experience for the kids and even though you get a sleeper, you can be assured the kids will be too excited to do anything but look out the window. It’s a great way to travel, especially if you got wee little ones … Read this article “Luxury sleeper trains will tour Japan in grand style” for more suggestions like riding the Seven Stars in Kyushu (ななつ星ｉｎ九州 Nanatsuboshi in Kyūshu.
Health and safety issues:
Eyeball licking fad among teens can cause blindness and pink eye, experts warn … (Syracuse, Jun 17, 2013)
Syracuse, N.Y. — Eyeball licking, a teen fad that started in Japan, can cause blindness, “pink eye” and other health problems, health experts are warning.
News of the trend among Japanese teens called oculolinctus, also known as “eyeball licking” or “worming,” went viral last week after the Chinese news site Shanghaiist reported on it.
“This is a dangerous practice which has the potential to spread a number of bacteria that reside in the mouth to the eye resulting in bacterial infections such as conjunctivitis (pink eye) to styes as well as abscesses involving the lids and eye socket,” Dr. Robert Glatter, an emergency medicine physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, told CBSNews.com.
The Huffington Post interviewed ophthalmologists who warned of potential health risks like blindness, corneal abrasions and eye chlamydia.
Some reports say the fad was sparked by a Japanese music video from the band Born, which features an eyeball licking scene.
Japanese blog Naver Matome interviewed one concerned teacher who said that he ran into two sixth grade students licking each others’ eyeballs in an equipment room. After he confronted them, they admitted it was popular in their class. His independent survey of students confirmed his fears: One-third of the children admitted to eyeball licking.
The Japanese teacher also noted with growing concern that he saw up to 10 students at a time wearing eye patches, which he realized were hiding eye ailments. Read more here…
Schools to make allergy manuals/ Meal accidents prompt clearer procedures for teachers, staff (Yomiuri — Jun 09, 2013 via newsjapan.com)
Following the death of a primary school student from food allergies after eating school lunch, the education ministry has decided to ask schools and kindergartens nationwide that are offering lunch to individually compile manuals to address children’s allergies.
The measure will cover about 40,000 primary and middle schools as well as kindergarten, regardless of whether they are run by the state, local governments or private entities, according to sources.
The Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry plans to first conduct a survey targeting all schoolchildren on their allergies, starting this summer. The ministry will then ask each school to establish a system to check children for allergy-related conditions and stipulate steps for administering an epinephrine injection when necessary to treat children for their acute allergic reactions, with the aim of preventing any serious accidents.
Groundwater contaminated with highly radioactive substances is detected from a monitoring well just 27 meters from the seashore within the compound of the crippled Fukushima
Testing revealed strontium-90 readings of 1,000 becquerels per liter, 33 times more than the legal limit, as well as tritium readings of 500,000 becquerels per liter, 8.3 times the limit.
Tepco said it believes the radioactive groundwater has yet to reach the ocean, as radiation readings in seawater samples from near the shore have not shown significant shifts.
Tepco first found a spike in the readings of radioactive strontium-90 and tritium on May 24. The readings in the previous study in December was 8.6 becquerels per liter and 29,000 becquerels per liter, respectively, both well below the legal limits.
Tepco will soon begin building a bank protection along the shore that will be strengthened with waterproof liquid glass in an effort to prevent the contaminated groundwater from reaching the sea.
The utility plans to start construction by the end of this month and finish the project in about 90 days, a Tepco spokesman told reporters at the firm’s Tokyo head office.
If introduced into the food chain, radioactive strontium-90, with a half-life of 28.8 years, can remain in the human body for long periods and eventually cause cancer. Tritium is discharged from the body much quicker and is believed to pose less of a threat in general, but could still pose risks to human health. …
(Jiji Press, June 12)–
Jiji PressFUKUSHIMA (Jiji Press)–More than 60 percent of people affected by the March 2011 nuclear crisis in Fukushima Prefecture fear the impact of radiation exposure could be passed on to their children, a survey showed.
This contradicts findings six years ago that showed no cases of concern that radiation exposure impact could be passed to children in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The latest survey by the Fukushima prefectural government covered about 180,000 people aged 16 or older who were near the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant at the time of the incident. The prefecture collected about 73,000 valid responses between January and October last year. Asked about the risk of radiation exposure having an impact on the health of offspring, 34.9 percent of respondents said it is “extremely high” and 25.3 percent said “high.” The survey revealed that 39.8 percent of respondents said such risk is “low” or “extremely low.”
In 2007, the Radiation Effects Research Foundation in Hiroshima said that its studies on children of atomic bomb survivors found no evidence of an increase in health problems arising from parents’ exposure to radiation.
That’s all folks … for now … have a good weekend.
What does the word “ikumen” mean?
The word “Iku-men” is a play on the Japanese word for child-rearing, “iku-ji”
Stay-at-home fathers in Japan.
(Iku-ji [child-rearing] + Men.)
It initially referred to a relatively new and minority group of prominent stay-home dads who put their career on hold to look after their children, but has now taken a broader meaning to include fathers who are actively engaged or involved in rearing their children.
“A recently coined term that refers to men who actively participate in raising their children, it is a play on words taken from ikuji, Japanese for “child-raising” and “men.” This is partly due to the growing attention given to fathers’ involvement in child-raising and housework while Japanese society has been coping with the trend toward fewer children and increasing dual-income households.” — Wishing to be Ikumen, Benesse
The ikumen parenting phenomenon is gathering momentum…with more and more fathers have been reported taking an active role in childcare. The numbers of fathers taking time off work to take care of their children or all of their allowable leave, while on the increase, remain relatively low, apparently out of job security reasons in the difficult economic climate, or due to the fact that the paternity leave benefit is less generous relative to other countries (see pie chart above) elsewhere given that 98 days’ leave with only 60% pay is allowed (you need more money not less when raising and feeding an extra mouth).
In 2010, the BBC reported that just one in a hundred Japanese fathers take paternity leave, despite laws that allow either parent to take up to one year off. However, a comparative paper by researchers (Hideki Nakazato and Junko Nishimura (Apr 2012) showed that 55.6 per cent, of male workers at workplaces that provided paternity leave and whose partners gave birth from 1 April 2007 to 31 March 2008 took leave. This current picture, if true, is not too disimilar from UK’s, see The politics of paternity leave (BBC) where 45% of new fathers said they did not take paternity leave; Of those, 88% said they would have liked to have done so, and 49% said they could not afford it. However, Japan — hard times for working mothers reported that only 2.63% of Japanese men actually took their paternity leave, according to the Health and Welfare ministry. The reasons given by Japanese fathers for not taking their paternity leave (see Japan’s parental leave(Association for Childhood Educational International):
“Fathers feel conflicted about the child care/work issue; they want to contribute, but feel strongly that they are expected to make a show of devotion to work, especially if they are considered the full-time “breadwinner.” …
Fathers we interviewed say the contradiction comes not so much from a true desire to be at work but rather from the pressure to be a “Japanese workaholic.” …In addition, most contemporary fathers expressed great enjoyment being in the physical presence of their children and family. One father summed it up succinctly: “We are not like our fathers–I never saw my father in the house. We WANT to be involved, but our work situations make it difficult. We can’t just leave when we want to and expect everyone to understand.”
Fathers expressed anxiety that their individual desires are not legitimate, especially in the current economic downturn, when everyone has to make a show of working hard (Yamato, 2008). Despite not living their ideal lives, they nevertheless sacrifice their personal feelings to larger obligations…taking leave for a long period of time threatened to put them “out of touch” with developments at work. They might run the risk of being considered irresponsible or incompetent, or just plain selfish. For fathers in smaller companies (where the majority of Japanese people work), this same fear also was compounded by the psychological pressure of knowing that taking time off would put an extra burden on their co-workers. In Japan, where a company cannot legally fire an employee, perceptions of incompetence, irresponsibility, or any array of behaviors deemed “selfish” can be used to “convince” the employee to volunteer his/her resignation.”
The NPO Ikumen Club, was formed in December 2006 with web resources featuring childcare symposiums and seminars, newsletters, forums, contests, events for fathers and children to participate together. The website also offers advice on parenting and focuses on getting men to simply read a story to their children …and features book resources and tips on storytelling. And since October 2011, “Ikumen of the Year” awards are given out annually for prominent celebrities and personalities who are actively involved in child-rearing. Comedian Ryo Tamura, was interviewed in Sankei News about his ikumen parenting of his two young sons.
To boost the plummeting birth rate, the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare launched the “Ikumen Project” a campaign in June 2010 and revised the Childcare and Family-care Leave Law. Under the new revised law fathers are allowed to take paternity leave for the second child and incorporates a “dad and mum childcare leave plus system”. It also allows employees with children under three years old to work shorter hours. Sumitomo Corp and NTT Data Corp are at the forefront of companies that support the Ikumen Project, and that promote ikumen parenting among their male employees. The welfare ministry has even put up a website asking men to declare themselves as ikumen (www.ikumen-project.jp). Lectures are given by various cities on ikumen parenting. An Ikumen song has even been composed for the ikumen of Kariya city in Aichi prefecture.
Hironobu Narisawa (mayor of Tokyo’s Bunkyo Ward), Seiji Yanagida (mayor of Saku, Nagano Prefecture), Hidehiko Yuzaki (governor of Hiroshima) and Masato Yamada (deputy mayor of Yokohama) and other politicians have become role models in taking paternity leave after the birth of their children.
A large number of shows and documentaries feature Scandanavian, and particularly, Finnish ikumen lifestyles (see Finnish ‘ikumen’ dazzles Japan) of which the Japanese are terribly envious.
Activities at a recent event in Mie Prefecture, for example, aimed at men in their 20s-40s, featured balloon and beanbag play, as well as a workshop on how to make airplanes with paper and bamboo.
Businesses particularly restaurant businesses such as Papa Park!, are finding it worth their while to enhance their corporate image (the latter promotes the ikumen credentials of stars in its stable). Some product brands are practising niche marketing to ikumen fathers (see Ikumen marketing)
My husband has recently become head of his regional office, and tries to promote “ikumen” lifestyle by clocking off at 6 p.m. everyday, so that his staff can return home early, by his example, to spend time with their families (unfortunately, we aren’t able to benefit from his “ikumen parenting” because my husband is currently on a tanshin funin posting).
Sources and further reading:
Fathers step forward (The Star Online, Apr 15, 2013)
Definitions of Fatherhood (Japan Times, Sep 5, 2010)
The Land of the Raising Son (and Daughter) (Band of Fathers, September 30, 2010)
Japan urges more dads to swap desks for diapers (Reuters, Jun 30, 2010)
Finnish ‘ikumen’ dazzles Japan (Yomiuri Shimbun / The Japan News)
Is Japanese family policy turning Nordic? Department of Social Policy and Social Work Barnett House, by Tuukka Toivonen
Ikumen Project page: 育てる男が、家族を変える。社会が動く。イクメンプロジェクト
Comparative country notes on Japan by Hideki Nakazato (Konan University) and Junko Nishimura (Meisei University)
OECD 2007 data: Use of childbirth leave by mothers and fathers
Japanese mayor takes paternity leave (Poligo)
Blogs by ikumen fathers:
Ikumen Dojo: Only Proud Papas Train Here a blog by an ikumen father
Parental Leave (Wikipedia)
The Japanese Tanshin Funin (see also ‘Tanshin- funin’ anger often leads to heavy smoking, study says Majiroxnews, Apr 9, 2012)
Hi to all our regular readers of EDU WATCH,
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe appears to be one of the most decisive leaders Japan has had in a long while, moving forward on a number of reforms and measures, with particularly visible action on the education front.
In this edition, we cover the key policy reforms and educational issues featured in the news through summaries and excerpts. In focus today are measures to reduce childcare waiting lists, reforms to higher education and moves to boost English education in schools.
‘Yokohama method’ gains steam / Can others zap day-care waiting lists? (May 22, 2013 Yomiuri)
“After reducing the nation’s largest number of children on day care center waiting lists to zero after just three years, the “Yokohama method”–with an endorsement from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe–has caught the attention of municipalities nationwide.
Under the Yokohama method, funds from a limited budget are concentrated to encourage corporations to enter the day care business. Following Yokohama’s success, other municipalities have since adopted the method.
However, … funding and how far the initiative will actually spread is unclear…Now at the forefront of the movement, Yokohama faces the challenge of maintaining the quality of its child care facilities.” … Read the rest of the article here.
Related: Yokohama clears out nursery waiting lists (May 21, 2013 Japan Times)
YOKOHAMA – Officials at Yokohama City Hall said Monday the city has reduced the number of children on nursery school waiting lists to zero from 179 as of April 1, meeting its 2010 target of doing so in three years.
City officials credited the reduction of the lists, which at one stage were the longest of any municipality in Japan, mainly to efforts to increase the number of nursery schools by aggressively encouraging private companies to enter the business.
The city also promoted nonregistered day-care facilities that met the city’s standards, which are somewhat more relaxed than the national standard.
According to the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry, similar problems exist in urban areas across the nation because an increasing number of households have both parents working, and most local governments are facing difficulty addressing the problem.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government is willing to learn from Yokohama’s success and intends to address the problem as part of its growth strategy because it has become a major obstacle to women returning to the workforce after childbirth. He has proposed increasing maternity leave.
But some experts say the rapid increase in nursery schools could eventually lead to a shortage of qualified teachers and a deterioration in services, as well as increased pressure on local finances.
In Yokohama, children below the age of 5 on nursery waiting lists rose to a record 1,190 in 2004, the highest in Japan. In 2010, it broke that record with a figure of 1,552, prompting Mayor Fumiko Hayashi, former president of BMW Tokyo Corp. and chairwoman of Daiei Inc., to make solving the problem a priority.
As the city used the private sector to boost the availability of day-care services for children, the number of privately operated nursery schools in Yokohama doubled from its level in April 2010, and now accounts for about a quarter of the total.
The city also deployed special consultants at ward offices to advise parents searching for schools and the availability of convenient facilities in their neighborhood or on their way to work.
The city has spent some ¥49 billion since 2010 on setting up nursery schools and has allocated over ¥76 billion for the operation of such schools for fiscal 2013 through March 31 next year, it said, adding that it has hired about 2,000 new nursery teachers since 2010.
Abe vowed last month to increase the capacity of nursery schools by 400,000 in five years from now through 2017 and also reduce the number of children on waiting lists nationwide to zero.
According to the labor ministry, there were about 46,000 children on waiting lists nationwide as of last October, although the number of potentially eligible children who do not have places at nursery school places could even be as high as 850,000.
Common stroller rules on trains, buses eyed (May 21, 2013 Jiji Press) reported:
The transport ministry is considering drawing up universal rules for the use of baby strollers on buses and trains, ministry officials said Monday.
At present, rules for the use of baby strollers vary significantly among public transport operators across the country.
The ministry plans to set up a committee of representatives from relevant ministries, public transport operators and support groups for child-rearing families to discuss ways to unify the rules, the officials said. They are also expected to adopt a universal sign to indicate priority spaces for baby buggies on buses and trains.”. …
A common sign to indicate priority spaces for baby buggies on buses and trains is also expected to be adopted. The move is aimed at making it easier for parents to go out with their children by clarifying where and how strollers should be positioned on commuter trains and buses.”
The move effectively brings forward a plan to increase the number of authorized nurseries under a new childcare system set to be introduced in April 2015.
The International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum, which culminates in a high school diploma recognized by many prestigious universities around the world, will be partially taught in Japanese starting in April 2015.
The Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry recently reached an agreement with the International Baccalaureate Organization, which is based in Switzerland, that will allow IB course instruction in Japanese.
About 20 national, public and private high schools in Hokkaido, Aichi, Fukui and other prefectures, and Tokyo Gakugei University International Secondary School in Tokyo plan to introduce the program and will start preparing to gain ministry approval from October.
About two-thirds of the classes, including biology, chemistry, world history and politics, and economics, will be taught in Japanese. English, math and art classes will be given in English to improve students’ language skills. In line with the introduction of IB classes in Japanese, final exams for the program will also be given in Japanese starting in November 2017.
Launched in 1968, the IB curriculum is known for its role in developing students’ problem-solving skills through classroom discussions. IB certifications are currently recognized by about 2,000 universities, including Harvard University, as qualification for taking collegiate entrance exams. Furthermore, many universities exempt students with high IB scores from taking such exams altogether.
IB certifications are given after students complete a two-year program and score 24 or higher out of a possible 45 points on oral and paper tests.
According to the ministry, 2,367 high schools across the globe offered IB programs as of January, 16 of which are in Japan. The domestic figure includes some international schools.
The government has set a goal of having 200 schools introduce the IB program by 2018 as part of its strategy to develop human resources who are capable of playing an active role on the global stage.
Widespread implementation of the program has been difficult until now because of the requirement that classes be taught in English.
Now that permission has been obtained to give a majority of classes in Japanese, the ministry hopes to expand the number of schools offering the IB program. (See older related story)
Better English education sought in Japanese elementary schools (Japan Daily Press, May 16, 2013)
As Japan moves into an increasingly global stance – in terms of trade and international relations, as well as its culture opening up to foreign concepts and perspectives – a governmental panel on education is looking to propose major reforms in the way English is taught in elementary school classrooms. The panel is set to pass proposals for major educational reforms, centered on English-language education as an official subject for fifth- and sixth-graders.
Government to encourage more Japanese college students to study abroad (Japan Daily Press, May 7, 2013)
The Education Ministry said it will be doubling its study scholarships for the 2014 academic year to encourage more college students to pursue studies abroad. The reason for this is so that more workers and employees in Japan will have had international experience due to their studies.
Related story: Ambivalent Japan turns on its ‘insular’ youth | 21 May, 2013 The Japan Times (Excerpted below)
The question is, however, whether an “inward-looking orientation” (uchimuki shikō) among young people is the main reason behind the fall in Japanese studying abroad. A 2010 survey by the British Council found that the majority of Japanese high school and university students were actually interested in studying overseas, and if anything had become more interested over the past five years. The survey highlighted worries over safety, expenses and negative influences on school/work as reasons why youngsters ultimately didn’t go abroad.
A 2010 Sanno Institute of Management survey on the “global consciousness” of new employees produced similar findings. While 49 percent replied that they didn’t want to work overseas at all (up from 29.2 percent in 2001), the most common reason given was the “risk” involved. Although “risk” was not specified, the deterioration of the economic situation from 2008 — a period that saw the number adverse to going abroad jump from a third to almost a half of respondents — suggests financial risk, echoing the British Council survey.
What is interesting here is how the uchimuki mentality is offered as the reason for falling numbers when a closer look at the data suggests social and economic conditions may offer a better explanation. Perhaps the problem is less about young people — who are typically blamed for all sorts of social ills — and more about society and the companies that hire youngsters. In particular, Japan’s rigid and inflexible job-hunting system — currently in the middle of a “super ice age” — has been picked out as particularly problematic.
Although a number of high-profile Japanese companies — such as Rakuten and Fast Retailing — have taken concrete measures to cultivate global human resources, not all Japanese companies seem eager to move away from traditional employment models. Indeed, there is evidence that Japanese hierarchical corporate culture is not necessarily comfortable with confident and outspoken returnee students. A long article in The New York Times last year described the experiences of a number of Japanese with study-abroad experience who found Japanese companies unenthusiastic and even reluctant to hire them. The article cites a survey of 1,000 Japanese companies on their recruitment plans in which less than a quarter said in fiscal 2012 they planned to hire Japanese applicants who had studied abroad.
Japanese companies’ lack of global awareness has been criticized both in and outside Japan. The trade ministry’s Global Human Resource Development Committee described top management’s inaction as the same as sitting idly by, literally “waiting to die” (zashite shi o matsu). Jennifer Stout, U.S. deputy assistant secretary for East Asian and Pacific affairs, offered similar criticism. Talking about the drop in Japanese students studying in the U.S., Stout rejected stereotypical discussions of uchimuki youth, suggesting that Japanese corporate culture doesn’t always rate overseas experience and English ability. Indeed, overseas experience can even be a disadvantage for job-hunters.
In its recent proposal to lower the grade when elementary school students start studying English, the government’s Education Rebuilding Implementation Council noted that students in many Asian countries begin much earlier than in Japan. Writing about the relationship between Japan and the English language — particularly Japan’s slowness, compared to its Asian neighbors, in introducing English as a regular subject in elementary schools — Nobuyuki Honna, a professor emeritus at Aoyama Gakuin University, suggests that there is a deep-seated notion in Japan of English not as a global language but as something that belongs to someone else — to Britain and the United States.
This attitude epitomizes Japan’s ambivalent attitude towards globalization. On the one hand, the country is aware that in order to remain economically competitive it must open up, instigate reforms and embrace globalization in all its aspects; on the other, there remains a strong tendency to close in, reject global norms and standards, and retreat inwards. The discussions over global human resources capture the dilemma of a country caught in two minds, a quandary that explains Abe’s ultra-cautious approach to entering even negotiations over TPP.
One of the biggest ironies in these discussions on global human resources is how young people have been made scapegoats for Japan’s failure to resolve this dilemma. Thus, Japan’s problems in attracting and securing such resources are typically explained not by the rigid job-hunting system, parochial immigration policies or conservative corporate culture, but by inward-looking uchimuki youth.
In sum, it may be more accurate to talk of an uchimuki government or even society, one that remains rooted in an insular world view that sees globalization as an external process, something owned by somebody else. Just how far Japan is prepared to emerge from its global hibernation will become clear in October when the 12 TPP countries meet at the sidelines of APEC to hammer out a basic agreement.” Read the entire article here.
Govt links acts of bullying to criminal charges (Yomiuri, May 20, 2013) Excerpted below:
“The education ministry has compiled a list of bullying acts that should be reported promptly to police, and has communicated this list to prefectures and boards of education of large cities through an official notification … as many schools have expressed confusion over what type of behavior could be considered a criminal act, the ministry stepped in to provide concrete examples that should be reported to police, to encourage schools to respond quickly to dangerous behavior.
For example, “hitting and kicking” is equivalent to an assault charge in the penal code, according to the notification. “Putting fecal matter in a person’s mouth and threatening to inflict harm if he or she tries to spit it out” is considered extortion and “intentionally wrecking a bicycle” is property damage.
The notification also gives specific examples of cyberbullying, which has become conspicuous among young people, that could be subject to criminal charges.
Examples of such online behavior include “sending an e-mail threatening harm if a student comes to school,” which is blackmail, and “calling a classmate a ‘shoplifter,’ ‘creep’ or ‘annoying person,’” which is subject to defamation charges.
With the notification, the ministry requested that boards of education conduct a fact-finding survey on bullying in the 2012 school year.”
Phone app ‘Line’ under fire from school after incidents of bullying (May 22, 2013 Japan Today)
What started as a simple school memo sent out to parents last Friday has mushroomed into a nationwide discussion the issues of censorship and bullying in schools and online.
The issue was triggered by a tweet which was sent out on Friday by a now disabled account showing a photo of the letter along with the caption “my school wants to ban Line and stuff lolololol.”
Line has become a highly popular app in Japan for its variety of functions including instant messaging, image sharing, and free voice calls over the internet.
According to the photo that accompanied the original tweet, the memo read:
Regarding Line Ban
“We hope all families are enjoying a healthy and prosperous spring season. Also we would like to thank you for your continuing support and cooperation in the educational activities of our school.
So, regarding the subject of this letter; in this school in April, various incidents occurred which had involved Line. This school feels that aside from contacting parents there is really no need for mobile phones. We especially feel that there is no place for Line in a child’s daily life.
From now on this school would like to ban any and all use of Line. Thank you very much.
We would also like to advise parents to, even at home, check your children’s mobile phones. If the Line application is present then we ask you to delete it.
Also starting now, students who are found using Line in or around the school will be notified of the ban. In order to prevent future trouble regarding Line, we ask for your cooperation in this matter.”
This original message triggered a lot of discussion surrounding the “various incidents” that caused this school to outlaw the application on Twitter and other online forums. Many netizens came out saying that it must have been cases of bullying.
This theory had been supported by many who claimed they were victims of bullying through Line. Some had cited incidents where mass snubs had occurred in group chats in which one person’s comment would cause all other participants to quit the session simultaneously.
The Huffington Post Japan had also reported on cases where Line had been used to harass students, with cases of repeated messages of “die”, along with “sticker shakedowns.”
Stickers are photos or drawings that can be used like emoticons when posting messages. Those are purchased from Naver (the developer of Line) but can also be bought as gifts for other users.
According to reports, bullies would intimidate classmates into gifting them with stickers. This theory is strengthened by an announcement made a week earlier by Naver which said that they would be discontinuing the sticker gift function on iPhone versions of Line at the request of Apple.
1-year training proposal for principals-to-be (Yomiuri — May 13, 2013)
100 schools to teach math, science in English (The Yomiuri Shimbun,
May 22, 2013)
To help foster Japanese capable of successfully competing globally, the education ministry plans to designate about 100 high schools across the country that will teach some science and math in English, ministry sources said Tuesday.
The planned project also hopes to encourage students to attend excellent universities overseas.
The Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry plans to start the project as early as next fiscal year and designate about 100 schools, temporarily dubbed “super global high schools,” in all prefectures over the next five years.
Under the project, the ministry plans to include in its budget request for next fiscal year funds to hire foreign teachers and Japanese teachers proficient in English as well as for developing English curricula.
The ministry is to ask schools through prefectural boards of education to submit applications. It hopes to initially select at least one school from each prefecture, or about 50 schools in total, and gradually increase their number.
The designated schools will be exempt from following ministry-set teaching guidelines and allowed to offer their own curricula, the sources said.
Currently, most high schoolers are grouped into liberal arts- or science-focused classes. Under the new project, however, students will be required to take liberal arts and science subjects across the board.
In a forward-looking move, sections of science and math classes will be taught in English and students will be encouraged to debate and make presentations in English.
The designated high schools would help students study abroad while in high school and prepare to attend universities overseas. They would offer classes to better prepare students for TOEFL, an English proficiency test accepted by universities around the world to assess foreign students’ English, as well as the internationally recognized test offered by International Baccalaureate.
In addition, the special high schools would accept students returning from abroad in the middle of the school year.
At private schools offering six-year middle and high school education in metropolitan areas, many students are opting to enter top-notch universities in foreign countries, instead of the University of Tokyo or other excellent national universities.
Kyoto mayor petitions for permanent resident status for overseas students (Japan Daily Press) ON APR 15 2013
Japan takes No. 1 spot in Asian University Rankings (Japan Daily Press, Apr 16)
A new top 100 university ranking has been published for 2013, focusing on just schools in Asia. Put together by Times Higher Education (THE), the same organization that publishes the World University Rankings, the top 100 list found schools from Japan taking the most honors, and in more ways than one.
Earlier: University of Tokyo maintains reputation as top institution in Asia: survey (Japan Times Mar 6, 2013) Excerpt follows:
The University of Tokyo remains the most prestigious institution of higher education in Asia, according to a study released Tuesday, but the editor of the study said Japan is slipping in relative academic prominence and some action is needed to fight competition.
The institution came in ninth in this year’s Times Higher Education World Reputation Rankings, an annual survey of academic opinion, beaten only by American and British universities.
This year’s global index of university brands saw Harvard University once again come on top, with the University of Tokyo, also known as Todai, slipping one place from 2012.
The University of Tokyo’s nearest rival in Asia was the National University of Singapore, which climbed one place to 22nd. Most of the East Asian universities in the top 100 improved their ranking on 2012.
But China’s two flagship universities have slipped: Tsinghua University, from 30th to 35th, and Peking University from 38th to 45th.
Other Japanese universities to make it into the top 100 were: Kyoto University (23rd, down three places from 2012), Osaka University, (ranked between 51st and 60th, no change), Tohoku University and Tokyo Institute of Technology, (ranked in the 61st to 70th group, down from last year’s rankings, which put them in a cluster between 51st and 60th).
In terms of representation in the top 100, the United States and Britain are followed by Australia, which has moved ahead of Japan and the Netherlands and now has six institutions (up from four last year) … Read the rest here.
A sign that democracy and free speech is alive and well in Japan, is the establishment of a group of Japanese intellectuals and their vocal rallies and protests against the Japanese government’s territorial claim to Dokdo…see Japanese scholars slam Tokyo on history (AsiaOne News, May 22, 2013) Excerpt follows below:
“A group of Japanese intellectuals on Tuesday rebutted their government’s territorial claim to Dokdo and urged Japan to have a correct understanding of history.
During a press conference in Busan, they called on Shimane prefecture to rethink its annual observance of Takeshima (Dokdo in Japanese) Day, designated in 2005 to underline its sovereignty claim to the Dokdo islets in the East Sea.
“We perceive the Dokdo issue as a historical issue rather than a territorial one,” said Kuboi Norimo, former history professor at Momoyama Gakuin University.
“Japan occupied Dokdo to lead the (1904-05) Russo-Japanese War more advantageously, and Tokyo has since recognised it as its territory. Regarding it as a territorial issue is like glorifying its invasion into Korea rather than repenting for it.” …
Established last month, the group consisting of Japanese from academia, the religious sector and civil society has staged a series of rallies against the rightward political shift that has triggered concerns about the reemergence of Japan’s past militarism.
The group also used the news conference to criticise provocative remarks by ultraconservative Japanese politicians including Prime Minister Shinzo Abe that underlined their unwillingness to atone for the country’s wartime aggression.
“The political leaders are using citizens politically to prolong their rule,” the group said in a statement. “It is tantamount to returning to its past militarism, we will stage a civil society campaign to strongly protest it.”
To back up their claim that Dokdo is Korea’s territory, the group revealed a series of historical records and photographs. They included a copy of a Japanese map drawn in the 18th century.
“By next March, we will develop a secondary history textbook to correct the distorted parts of history in Japan’s government textbooks,” the group said.” Read the rest of the article here.
New university grads’ job rate up 2 yrs in row (Yomiuri May 18)
“The rate of new university graduates who secured jobs has improved for the second consecutive year, reaching 93.9 percent, the labor and education ministries announced Friday.
As of April 1, the employment rate of those who graduated from universities this spring rose 0.3 percentage point from the same period last year, according to the latest data. The data also revealed more female graduates were successful in their job searches than male students.
Many companies that suspended recruitment following the so-called Lehman shock hired new young workers, which positively affected the labor statistics, the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry and the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry judged.
The ministries also highlighted that the preference among university students for jobs at large companies has gradually waned.
An estimated 370,000 new graduates found jobs, while 24,000 could not find work despite their desire to do so.
The rate for male graduates was 93.2 percent, up 1.3 percentage points from the same period last year. The figure for female graduates was 94.7 percent, up 2.1 percentage points from a year earlier. This is the first time since fiscal 2007 the rate for female recruits has been higher than that for men.
The employment environment for female job hunters, particularly in the field of medical and nursing care, was strong, and the labor ministry believes this had a favorable effect on hiring.
Hiring figures improved in all regions except Kyushu, which saw the employment rate contract by 2.6 percentage points from the previous year to 90.6 percent.
In Hokkaido and Tohoku, the rate was 91.4 percent, up 1.4 percentage points; Kanto was at 95.8 percent, up 0.7 percentage point; Chubu was at 95 percent, up 0.1 percentage point; Kinki was at 93.2 percent, up 0.2 percentage point; and the Chugoku and Shikoku regions were at 93.8 percent, up 2.1 percentage points.
The two ministries concluded the latest figures reflect many students’ tenacious efforts to find a job.
Additionally, the employment rate of new two-year college graduates rose 5.2 percentage points, reaching 94.7 percent, the highest level since fiscal 1996 when the survey was first taken.
Some individuals in the employment assistance industry linked the positive results to Abenomics, the economic policies of the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
“Due to an improvement in business sentiment brought about by Abenomics, some small and midsize companies decided to hire new workers in the final phase of the recruiting period,” said Takashi Mikami, editor at Mynavi Corp”. Read the rest of the article here.
Universities’ efforts boost job placement for new grads (May 18, 2013 Yomiuri)
A second straight year of improvement in the employment rate of newly graduated university students appears to to reflect not only the positive effects of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s economic policies, but also thorough help given to students by management at four-year colleges.
Universities were the chief contributors for bringing a real “spring” to students, aiming at showcasing themselves with high job placement rates and supporting students who have been facing a gloomy employment situation since the collapse of the Lehman Brothers in 2008. …
Meiji University in March held a one-day “internal recruitment exam and interview” that allowed students to go through the first round of a job interview with invited companies and take a written test.
With 10 percent of the participants receiving job offers, a university official said proudly, “I believe we provide more generous support than other colleges.”
Senshu University also held biweekly employment explanation meetings at the university until early March. Ten to 15 companies participated in each session.
Rissho University tied up with an employment agency to find jobs for students who graduated this spring. The agency selected companies and introduced students to them on the basis of the firms’ human resource requirement.
Companies pay fees to the agency for each placement. The system thus allowed companies to reduce recruitment costs and meant students could do interviews without taking a written test or being eliminated based on documents.” Read more here…
Japan to allow families on welfare to save for university fees (May 15, Jiji Press, via NewsonJapan)
Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare decided Tuesday to allow families on welfare to save for university admission fees for their children. (Jiji Press)
A trend comes and goes in Japan. It is not restricted to fashion but includes many areas that should be neither trendy nor passing. A recent phenomenon of the interest in Kyoyo(教養) might be another trend that comes and goes.
1st year intern learns life lessons on the job (Yomiuri, May 18, 2013) Excerpted below:
The following story is based on a survey by The Yomiuri Shimbun of about 750 public and private universities….
An increasing number of universities have started implementing internship programs as part of their regular curriculum.
A Yomiuri Shimbun survey last year showed that 480 of 642 universities, or 75 percent, had done so.
Although an increasing number of universities have also begun offering credits for studying abroad and engaging in volunteer activities, far more students chose to enroll in internship programs last year.
About 45,000 chose internships for credits, while only 22,000 chose studying abroad and just 9,400 volunteering, according to the survey.
More universities are also inviting business leaders to give lectures and promoting on-the-job training at popular companies.
In the past, many such programs were designed to increase the students’ chances of being hired by the companies they were assigned to. In recent years, however, more universities are creating internship programs to raise awareness about the significance of actual jobs in society.
Tokyo Metropolitan University has placed a high priority on its internship program for first-year students. The university dispatches about 400 students, 30 percent of the total, to government offices, businesses and elsewhere for a week or so during summer vacation.
Programs in which an internship lasts six months, such as the one at Kochi University, are quite rare.
Prof. Hiromi Ikeda, 56, who leads Kochi University’s internship program, said: “By having students do an internship for half a year, we hope they’ll give plenty of thought to what they want to learn [during their time here]. Many university students today need a strong helping hand [to take charge of their education].”
Those who wish to apply for the program are required to attend classes in preparation for beginning work immediately after enrollment, “to help them consider what they’re going to learn on the job,” Ikeda said.
The university tells the applicants which companies they are assigned to once they are about to complete their first year, after they clarify their reasons for participating in the internship program, according to the professor.
Firms accepting the students are currently limited to the Tokyo metropolitan area, far from Kochi Prefecture, and the cost of securing housing and other expenses are a heavy financial burden on students.
If they are not careful about managing their coursework at the university, students may have to repeat a school year, the professor said.
Only about 1 percent of the university’s enrollees participate in the program … Read the rest here.
Gap-year system starts (May 19, 2013 Japan Times)
Gap year students share ‘real world’ plans (Yomiuri, May 13, 2013) Excerpt follows below:
The first batch of University of Tokyo students under the new “gap year” program has unveiled their plans to travel abroad or engage in other activities, indicating their high hopes to gain real-world experience before hitting the books.
The 11 students, who recently secured their enrollment, attended a meeting Friday to share and discuss their plans to visit foreign countries or areas devastated by the Great East Japan Earthquake during the special leave-of-absence year.
The university introduced the system for students newly enrolled in the 2013 academic year. It allows students to take a year off prior to their studies to do volunteer work, study abroad or take up other activities to help broaden their perspectives.
The system is modeled on the gap year at universities in the United States and Europe, in which young students who are accepted by a school can postpone enrollment for a year to expand their horizons by immersing themselves in society.
The Yomiuri Shimbun
The university recruited applicants from a pool of about 3,000 new students. Of the 24 initial applicants, 12 withdrew their applications and one student’s application was rejected.” Read the rest of the article here.
… A typical university cheering squad comprises a group of leaders, cheerleaders and a brass band.
Traditionally, these cheering squads bring to mind the image of wild boys. But recently, more and more female students have joined their ranks, with some even occupying leadership roles.
The leaders’ group stands in front of an audience during sporting and other events while cheering loudly. Clad in student uniform or hakama and haori, they are the face of the squad, as well as the university.
Honjo is the only female among the squad’s 11-member leaders’ group, and is the second to head the squad since it was founded in 1946. The first headed the squad last year.
While it is rare for female students to occupy the top spot at the university level for two consecutive years, Honjo said, “Whether you’re male or female is irrelevant.” Even so, she maintains a strict running and workout regimen to keep up physically with her male squad members.
Kyoto, Kyushu schools to hire more foreign nationals in bid to boost graduates’ competitiveness … see Universities to boost classes in English (Japan Times, Mar 14, 2013)
In an effort to accelerate the internationalization of their institutions, Kyoto University and Kyushu University are looking to drastically boost the number of classes taught in English and educators who are foreign nationals over the next few years.
Kyoto University plans to hire about 100 foreign instructors to teach a half of its liberal arts classes in English. Currently, only about 5 percent of roughly 1,100 liberal arts classes are taught in English.
About 5 percent of classes at Kyushu University are also presently taught in English, but the institution, located in Fukuoka Prefecture, aims to raise that to 25 percent over the next few years by increasing the number of foreign teachers and Japanese instructors who have overseas teaching experience by about 30.
The two national universities both have received five-year subsidies from the education ministry to achieve their goals.
The effort is observed as part of the education ministry’s Global 30 project, which aims to promote the globalization of higher education institutions. Under the project, 13 public and private institutions, including Kyoto and Kyushu universities, have been urged to create an international academic environment for both Japanese and international students. … Read more here.
Only full national achievement test will help improve teaching in school (Yomiuri, May 14, 2013 )
The national achievement test was conducted recently with all students in the sixth year of primary school and in the third year of middle school participating, the first in four years to be held with all children in these grades taking part.
About 2.28 million students from about 30,000 primary and middle schools took part in the test, with the sixth graders tested on Japanese and arithmetic and the middle schoolers on Japanese and mathematics.
Thanks to the revival of the nationwide achievement test with all primary and middle schools taking part, boards of education and schools will be able to correctly assess students’ academic abilities. By finding out what needs to be done to enhance students’ abilities, they need to make use of the results to improve teaching methods.
The Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry introduced the national achievement test in fiscal 2007 as part of efforts to enhance children’s scholastic abilities. For three years to fiscal 2009, the exam was given to all children in these two grades.
Test change had adverse effects
The then Democratic Party of Japan-led administration switched from full-scale exams to sample exams held at about 30 percent of schools from fiscal 2010, justifying this in the name of budget cuts. The DPJ-led administration paid too much attention to criticism from the Japan Teachers’ Union, a large supporter of the party, saying that the test could “fan excessive competition.”
The adverse effect of the switch was enormous.
The result was that only the average rate of questions answered correctly by each prefecture was available. Relevant data comparing schools or different municipalities was no longer available.
Although those schools not designated by the ministry to take part in the sample tests could choose to take part in the exams, they had to score the tests on their own. Despite being the same tests, there were inequalities between the designated schools and the others. This should not be overlooked, either.
Following the change of government late last year, the administration under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe appropriately decided to hold the national exam every year, with all children in these classes taking part. It was an appropriate decision.
The important thing from now is analyzing the enormous amount of data obtained from the tests from various angles and utilizing it to enhance children’s scholastic abilities.
The education ministry will compare the results of those schools with reduced class size with those schools with the number of students not reduced and examine the correlation between class size and academic abilities of students.
By empirically showing the approximate size of classes, the ministry will need to secure the necessary number of teachers.
A problem with the implementation of the full participation test is how to make the test results public.
Data should be shared
The education ministry, in its implementation procedure of the tests, forbids prefectural boards of education to publicize the test results between schools and those between different municipalities. It also forbids municipal boards of education to publicize test results comparing schools.
The bans are to avoid spawning excessive competition and grading among municipalities and among schools.
Yet some local governments hope to publicize the test results, as part of their responsibility for explaining the appropriateness of school lessons to students’ parents.
There were cases whereby relevant data, including the average rate of correct answers by municipality was made public, in response to freedom-of-information requests made by local citizens.
Implementing the test cost the government 5.5 billion yen. By sharing the valuable data with parents and local citizens, rather than having local boards of education monopolize it, public understanding of–and their cooperation with–school management can be won.
The ministry plans to discuss ways to publicize the test results for fiscal 2014 and after, by gathering opinions from local governments. The ministry should review its public-disclosure restriction.
The Ministry of Education conducted a survey spanning 10 months starting April 2012 to March 2013, and it showed that 840 teachers used some sort of corporal punishment on their students. This is more than twice the 404 cases from the whole fiscal year of 2011.
‘Chocolate project’ teaches kids volunteerism (Japan Times, May 2, 2013)
Most Japanese teens have little exposure to issues of worldwide poverty or the volunteerism that seeks to end it. Unlike in the United States and Europe
Left: Activities to help improve balance and physical coordination of children, include giving them handmade geta sandals
This next segment brings you news summaries on educational matters and happenings elsewhere in the world:
Jenna Johnson’s commentary for the Washington Post on College Rankings tells us the methodology behind the college rankings system “has become complicated and controversial — and sometimes the results are inaccurate”, that there ” is no way such lists help students properly pick a college”…and that we should be scrutinizing and caring more about higher ed institutions with “abysmal graduation rates, sky-high student debt loads, teetering accreditation and serious financial problems” Read more here.
Coding boot camps promise to launch tech careers (AP, via Yahoo! news, Apr 12, 2013) A new breed of computer-programming schools, is proliferating in San Francisco and other U.S. tech hubs, focused upon “extreme employability” and offering real-world skills, and attracting students from a wide range of backgrounds, from college dropouts to middle-aged career changers. The “coding academies are helping meet the seemingly insatiable demand for computer programmers in the U.S. tech industry”, and “are launching at a time when many recent college graduates are struggling to find jobs that pay enough to chip away at their hefty student loan debts. One San Francisco school called App Academy doesn’t charge tuition. Instead, it asks for a 15 percent cut of the student’s first-year salary”…
Diverse figures including Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York and Bill Gates have coalesced around a new idea: why not increase class sizes for the best teachers and use the resulting budgetary savings to pay these best teachers more and to help train educators who need improvement? Yes, each class might be bigger on average but at least each child would stand a better chance of having a great teacher, which would-be reformers say is more important.
The proposal is intriguing, and some teachers may be on board. Matthew Chingos, a fellow at the Brookings Institution, has cited a national survey by the journal Education Next and Harvard’s Program on Education Policy and Governance that found that 42 percent of teachers would gladly accept a $10,000 raise to forgo a three-student reduction in class size. Yet perhaps more striking, 47 percent of teachers said they would turn down this substantial pay increase to have just three students fewer in class
Read more here.
Does Class Size Count? (NY Times, Opinionator blog) To many educators, the answer seems obvious: Teachers who have fewer students can give each child more attention and tailored instruction. And parents agree. For years, annual surveys conducted by the New York City Department of Education have shown that the top priority of school parents is reducing class size, far outpacing “more effective leadership,” “more teacher training,” “more or better art programs,” “more challenging courses” and both “more preparation for state tests” and “less preparation for state tests.”
But the data on class size is not conclusive, if only because, in the last quarter-century, there’s been just one proper randomized, controlled study in the United States to measure, at sufficient scale, the effect of smaller and larger classes on student achievement. Known as Project STAR, it found that smaller classes do produce lasting gains, especially for economically disadvantaged and minority-group students.
Hiring more teachers, however, is expensive, and some researchers and policy makers insist that reducing class size is not cost-effective, compared with other possible reforms, and has been oversold to schools. They point to states like California and Florida that have spent billions of taxpayer dollars to reduce pupil-to-teacher ratios without, they argue, a commensurate increase in student performance.
Related story: College Essay Nods to Immigrant Parents
Regis High School student Lyle Li reads from his college application essay about the hard work of his immigrant parents to secure a better education and a better life for him Watch the video clip here.
A court ruling and continuing budgetary difficulties have left Portugal’s government to reduce spending where it can – including in its education system, already one of the weakest in Europe.
Philippines extends schooling to 13 years(Global Post), one of the key reforms said to be aimed at lifting the country out of poverty.
Govt unveils tech, science vision (May 18, 2013)
The government is set to promote the commercialization of advanced technologies in five fields related to people’s livelihood, … and with a focus on energy development and fisheries culturing fields.
Upper House Panel OKs Hague Treaty on Child Custody May 21 (Jiji Press)
“A House of Councillors committee approved Tuesday Japan’s entry into the Hague treaty on parental custody of children from failed international marriages. …
Signatories to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction are required in principle to return any child abducted abroad by a parent to the child’s original country if the other parent requests the return. The parents are to determine the custody before court in the original country.” Read more here.
Related: Diet approves Japan joining child custody pact (Japan Times)
Parenting Secrets – Good Life Skills For Kids 5-12 from Raiseyourkidsright.com
Getting more fathers involved in raising kids can change society (Yomiuri Shimbun, May 5, 2013) Excerpted below
By affectionately raising children, parents also can grow. Some data indicate the more time a husband spends caring for a child, the higher the probability the couple will have a second child. It is important for Japan to produce more fathers dubbed “ikumen” (men actively involved in child rearing) like Nakamura.
Abe for longer care leave
“… A growing number of local governments are arranging courses on daily household chores for fathers, such as cooking and ironing lessons. Nonprofit organizations have been hosting more gatherings at which fathers can talk with each other about the joys and difficulties of rearing children.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has called for the business world to voluntarily extend child care leave, which under current law can be taken for a maximum of 1-1/2 years, up until a child becomes 3 years old, both for male and female employees.
Some companies allow male workers to take paid child care leave for about two weeks. We think every company should make further efforts to encourage male employees to get more involved in child rearing.
Beef up community ties
The ties between parents of small children and communities that look warmly after child-rearing couples are also important.
There have been cases in which parents playing with their kids at a park have been told by neighbors they are “noisy.” So what are they supposed to do?
A Children’s Future Foundation survey found 34 percent of mothers felt “alone and isolated from society” while raising children.
Japan should set up more places where parents and kids can casually get together. Parents can chat and let their kids play at local facilities that support child rearing, such as community centers and children’s centers. We hope people whose children have left the nest will help run these facilities.
Having communities lending a hand and providing more support to mothers with children will greatly help people going through parenthood.”
This and That:
Me, Myself and Math A six-part series that looks at us through the lens of math.
A Team Approach to Get Students College Ready (May 15, 2013 NY Times)
A group called Blue Engine that places recent college graduates as full-time teaching assistants in a few public high schools is showing promising results.
Coursera to offer new MOOC options for teachers (AP, May 1, 2013)
Two Cheers for Web U (NY Times, Apr 20, 2013 ) Excerpted below:
The professor is, in most cases, out of students’ reach, only slightly more accessible than the pope or Thomas Pynchon. Several of my Coursera courses begin by warning students not to e-mail the professor. ..
The MOOC classrooms are growing at Big Bang rates: more than five million students worldwide have registered for classes in topics ranging from physics to history to aboriginal worldviews.
It creates a strange paradox: these professors are simultaneously the most and least accessible teachers in history. And it’s not the only tension inherent in MOOCs.
MOOC boosters tend to speak of these global online classes as if they are the greatest educational advancement since the Athenian agora, highlighting their potential to lift millions of people out of poverty. Skeptics — including the blogger and University of California, Berkeley, doctoral student Aaron Bady — worry that MOOCs will offer a watered-down education, give politicians an excuse to gut state school budgets, and harm less prestigious colleges and universities. … Read the rest here.
Where Private School Is Not a Privilege (NY Times)
How does BRAC, the world’s largest NGO, educate more than 1.25 million of the world’s poorest children for free — and do a better job than government?
The Role of a Dictionary by David Skinner
Good writing may exceed the boundaries suggested, if not intended, by dictionary definitions. More on this…
Low blood-lead levels can affect a child’s reading ability (Pediatrics.DailyRx.com (May 12, 2013)
Kindergartners with blood-lead levels between 5 and 9 µg/dL scored an average 4.5 points lower in reading tests and were 21% less likely to meet benchmarks for reading readiness than those with levels below 5 µg/dL, U.S. researchers found. The children with lead levels of 10 µg/dL and higher were 56% more likely to fail to meet reading readiness benchmarks compared with children with less than 5 µg/dL, according to the study…
A worrying phenomenon has been discovered in Tokyo river eels that have been caught by local residents living near the Edogawa River – the eels that they have been catching, and may have eaten at one time or another, have very high cesium levels, in most cases higher than the safe levels required by the Japanese government. Read more of this post
The experiment involves giving dolls which are identical in every way apart from hair and skin color to young school children. The only differences with the dolls is that one doll is white with yellow hair while the other is brown with black hair. Each child is then asked a series of questions, including which doll is the nice doll. The study showed that all children favored the white doll.
This same study was replicated in 2005 by Kiri Davis. Now this means it was pre-post-racial America, so that’s probably why the 2005 study showed exactly the same results as the one conducted in 1939. I bet if that study were conducted today it would be very different because like Stephen Colbert most of us don’t even see race since the election of President Barack Obama. Oh wait, never mind it looks like Anderson Cooper studied this again in 2012, turns out kids still internalize racism, even in “post-racial” America.
The truth is, racism is still very much alive and children begin to internalize it from a very young age. It manifests in the experiment we see…
Why French kids don’t have ADHD (Psychology Today)
President of the Swiss National Advisory Commission on Biomedical Ethics criticized the use of ADHD drug Ritalin as amounting to interference in the child’s freedom and personal rights, because pharmacological agents induced behavioral changes but failed to educate the child on how to achieve these behavioral changes independently. The child was thus deprived of an essential learning experience to act autonomously and emphatically which “considerably curtails children’s freedom and impairs their personality development” the commission said.
What’s behind the 53% rise in ADHD cases? (Psychology Today);
Shockingly, children are being prescribed potent anti-psychotic drugs.
Autism diagnosis at age 2. College student at 11. … They Said He Wouldn’t Learn the ABCs (A review by the Washington Post of the book “THE SPARK A Mother’s Story of Nurturing Genius” by Kristine Barnett)
“A few years ago, a friend, whose child attends a school for kids with learning disabilities, tried to start a book club for parents at the school. Her motivation was simple: If the parents got together once a month and talked about a book they’d read on…however, when she requested a meeting room for the proposed book club, she was turned down flat. The school, it seemed, didn’t want the parents second-guessing its teaching strategies….”The Spark is compulsive reading, and not simply of Jake’s “savant almost obliterated by the system” story, … she also beats down every other obstacle that life hurls at her and her family….those obstacles are extraordinarily severe. The Barnetts’ second child, Wesley is diagnosed with a reflex disorder soon after he is born. It causes him to have seizures, up to nine a day, and to choke on simple liquids”…. and many more terrible personal setbacks. “Why is it all about what these kids can’t do? Why isn’t anyone looking more closely at what they can do? in “The Spark” — Kristine Barnett This is the inspiring story of a mother’s persistence in defying the experts and proving them wrong and to unearth her son’s personality and potential despite terrible developmental challenges …
We also recommend Christine Gross-Loh’s new book, “Parenting Without Borders: Surprising Lessons Parents Around the World Can Teach Us” see her interview with Christiane Amanpour etc. “What American Parents Need to Do Better: Lessons from the Rest of the World” (via news.yahoo.com) and the book reviews by Huffington Post “Have American parents got it all backwards?” and Judy Bolton-Fasman (The Judy Chronicles)
Last but not least, if you want to know what’s happening on the international school circuit, check in on the website run by Caroline Plover at Japan School News.
That’s all folks, until the next edition …
After decades of intense public criticism of the rigidity and inflexibility of the higher education entrance exam system, Todai and Kyoto University, two universities at the top of the university ranking pyramid, have finally decided to redress these perceived weaknesses through their planned introduction of the recommendation-based entrance exam and admissions office exams.
The planned reform changes are also meant to address the criticisms that Japanese elite higher education, along with the rest of Japanese universities in the mid-to lower ranks, have been producing students, who may be adept at rote learning and passing academic entrance exams, but yet who lack academic proficiency, enthusiasm, motivation to learn or other broad skills necessary for future career or social success.
The negative effects of the over-reliance on standardized test scores, as well as of the competitiveness of and rigidity of the Japanese entrance exam system on student learning – have been noted in the 2009 paper by Dennis Riches, “The practices of university admissions and entrance examinations: Their impact on learning and educational programs“. In it, Riches roots strongly for Japan’s reform of university entrance exam practices drawing upon the American experience with:
“a growing movement in America to reduce or eliminate reliance on SAT scores and admit students based on their high school record, or other skills and achievements. Pink (2004, pp. 57-59), for example, describes new methods of assessing “right brain” creative problem solving to be used in formal admissions screening. An organization in Boston, The National Center for Fair and Open Testing, has been advocating in favor of reform of university admissions since 2002, and it has already been influential in the few years of its existence. All of the schools that have abandoned reliance on standardized test scores report improved student satisfaction and performance, and improved reputation of the institution. A skeptic would notice that few elite universities are in this group, but this is beside the point. This is an innovation that is useful to the second and mid-ranking universities who want to give the best education possible to the students they actually get, not the ones they wish they could have.”
Riches also levels other criticisms such as the problem of lack of open scrutiny or transparency of the entrance exam creation process and the lack of training of test developers (rendering the possibility that entrance exams may be unreliable or invalid tests)
“If universities still want to insist that prospective students take a difficult examination, they could rely on specialized test producers that have the resources to make reliable and valid tests that are open to public scrutiny. This would allow professors to devote more time to teaching and research in their specialties. Yet this would also require the individual professors and the universities to forego the financial incentives involved in holding entrance examinations. Unfortunately, most universities are stuck on having their own branded examination as a way of signaling to the public that their standards are difficult to attain.
Riches gives several reasons why exam reforms such as introducing greater flexibility such as AO exams would have a beneficial effect:
“High school graduates in Japan have already completed standardized national achievement tests and received grades and diplomas from a standardized national education system. Making them take entrance examinations is just overkill, or it is an admission that universities consider the public education system to be unreliable. Whether students succeed at university depends on the quality of their experience after entering university, and such quality is much more likely to be achieved if students have not experienced a phenomenon which their society refers to as “entrance exam hell.”
The planned reforms will also introduce essays which addresses the latter of Riches’ criticisms of the validity of Japanese entrance exams due to the opaque test design process and their overreliance of multiple-choice questions:
“Much worse is test design in which validity is not explicitly defined. Unfortunately, the situation at Japanese universities is that values and priorities are implicit and unexamined, buried in the traditional way of designing English tests. When validity does not exist, test results are only self-referential. A high score on a multiple choice grammar test tells only that the test taker is talented at this particular multiple choice grammar test. There is no evidence of a relation to skills that need to be applied in ‘real world’ situations.“
The overdue reforms, while they will be welcomed by many, are still rather modest … with Kyoto University proposals, out of admission quota of about 2,900 students, only 100 are selected, and the top 5 percent of students at each high school will be allowed to take special entrance exam which clearly continues to emphasize a reliance on academic testing scores (albeit those of the high school).
Note that Admissions Office or AO exams are not new in Japan, they have been introduced by a fair number of universities, but are sometimes viewed in a negative light as an easy route of student entry to universities with lower rankings or lesser reputations. A definition of AO entrance exams, for example, is given by Yamaguchi University as follows:
“The Admissions Office Entrance Examination differs from traditional written exams that only look at academic ability in that applicants are selected based on their comprehension creative thinking abilities, academic ambitions and other factors.
An interview examines the applicant’s character, curiosity and interest in humanity, society, culture, language, logic and other subject matter covered in the humanities. A written test following a lecture examines the applicant’s comprehension of the lecture. As with the general exam, any student with the appropriate qualifications to enter university may take this examination.”
Another article to which we might pay heed to when considering what drives university reform in Japan as well as worldwide is William Bradley’s Educational Policy in 21st Century Japan: Neoliberalism and Beyond? which suggests that Japan’s educational policies have been driven by the same forces affecting educational policy-makers and educators worldwide … forces which Bradley identifies as competition resulting from neoliberalism, and he notes “that the concepts of internationalization are of less importance than the actual numbers of foreign students, faculty and course offerings in English” as well as the number of Nobel prize winners produced, to Japan’s elite higher educational institutions. The article suggests that such overriding motives prioritizing competition will have a negative impact on cooperative learning and critical pedagogy and thinking. We need to consider whether this statement is true, and whether consequently, the planned reforms will merely be surface deep.
By Aileen Kawagoe
To examine the details of the Japan News (Yomiuri Shimbun) report on the planned university entrance exam reforms, see below:
Japan in Depth / Todai, Kyoto University eye reforming entrance exams (Yomiuri Shimbun, April 16, 2013)
Two of the nation’s top universities–the University of Tokyo and Kyoto University–have decided to reform their entrance exams to cope with students’ changing qualities and a sense of crisis of being left behind globally in securing quality students.
Both schools have screened applicants solely with scholastic ability tests. For students starting in the 2016 academic year, however, Todai will start a special exam for candidates recommended by high schools. Kyoto University plans to introduce an “admission-office entrance exam,” an interview- and essay-based test designed to evaluate students’ motivation and abilities.
Each will admit about 100 students through the new system.
‘Sense of crisis’ behind decisions
“Todai is the leading university in Japan, and one of the most prestigious in the world, but a dark cloud seems to be forming over us. The review on the entrance exam represents the sense of crisis Todai has today,” said Kiyoshi Kurokawa, a professor emeritus at the university, at the school’s entrance ceremony at Nippon Budokan hall Friday.
Kurokawa, a former president of the Science Council of Japan, made the remarks in his speech to new students.
At the ceremony, university President Junichi Hamada touched on the “weakness” of the school.
“I’d like to frankly point to the University’s weakness as an organization,” he said, citing delayed internationalization and the homogeneity of the student body and the low number of foreign students.
As a matter of fact, the planned introduction of the recommendation-based entrance exam mainly aims at diversifying the student body, according to Hamada. Under the new system, which was announced in March, applicants require recommendations from their high schools, but Todai will not designate the schools from which they will accept recommendations, as many universities do. Instead, any school will be allowed to recommend up to two students.
The system is aimed at accepting applicants not only from certain prestigious high schools, but also those from rural areas and even those students who may be seen as mavericks.
The university said it wants to accept students with extraordinary talent in specific academic fields such as physics and history.
Among those who entered the university this spring, 56 percent graduated from high schools in the Kanto region, including 36 percent from Tokyo high schools. This is because of the tendency of the school to accept an increasing number of students from certain private schools in the Tokyo metropolitan area that offer integrated middle and high school education.
On the other hand, students from overseas accounted for only 1.6 percent. In addition, only 72 Japanese undergraduates studied overseas in the 2012 academic year, clearly indicating the university’s “introspective” nature.
“Having spent their school life with the same classmates through middle and high school, an increasing number of our students apparently have no opinion on society,” an associate professor of the College of Arts and Sciences said. “Those who are good at exams, but who have no chance to interact with those with different characteristics will never grow into people who will be active in global society.”
When it comes to the problem of declining motivation to study, Todai and Kyoto University students are no exception.
“We’ve traditionally had an atmosphere where students would learn on their own [without instruction],” Kyoto University President Hiroshi Matsumoto said at a press conference in late March.
He announced the introduction of an admission-office entrance exam, which the university calls “a characteristic exam,” at the press conference.
He said many students at Kyoto University cannot keep up with classes as they lack the academic ability or motivation for subjects other than those required for entrance exams.
“We need ambitious, knowledge-hungry students with comprehensive scholastic abilities acquired through studying a wide range of subjects at high school. We want to nurture such students into people who can actively participate in international society,” Matsumoto said.
In addition to evaluating applicants’ high school performance, Kyoto University requires them to take the national center test for university admissions and tests in individual faculties. Todai also plans to require candidates to take the national center test.
Yukitoshi Sakaguchi, head of the entrance exam information center at cram school chain Yoyogi Seminar, said, “The universities are after top talent and want to secure those with high scholastic ability through the new recommendation-based exam and the admission-office exam.“
New standard of excellence
What prompted the two top universities to carry out entrance exam reforms?
Shuji Hashimoto, vice president of Waseda University, said it is because the standard of excellence required for university graduates has changed over the years. Waseda University will discuss entrance exam reform from this academic year.
With increased globalization, companies are eyeing universities critically. Shuji Narazaki, deputy chief of personnel at Nissan Motor Co. said: “A leader in business requires not only language skills, but also the ability to negotiate and work with people from various countries. Compared with young people in other countries, Japanese youth are lagging.”
An executive of a manufacturer doing business overseas said the excellence businesses seek is not fulfilled by the students of Japanese universities, saying, “They have high academic ability but lack independence and are weak-minded.”
Other universities cut back
Though recommendation-based exams and admission office exams have taken root in national universities, except Todai, Kyoto University and the Tokyo University of the Arts, an increasing number of universities have started downsizing those exams.
Okayama University cut the number of students to be accepted through admission-office exams this academic year. “Because students admitted through admission office exams didn’t do well, we wanted to accept students with basic academic skills through regular exams.”
Other universities have different opinions.
“It became difficult to get the students we are looking for because high schools and cram schools started taking measures [to help students pass entrance exams],” one university official said. “We don’t see any real benefit though, and it requires additional screening,” another said.
While the two top universities’ attempt to attract public attention, a Todai lecturer who graduated from another university expressed concern regarding the reform.
“Many faculty members are Todai graduates who have passed the traditional entrance exam of the university. So, they are bound with the traditional view on academic ability. Todai may end up choosing the same kind of students they take through regular entrance exams.”
– Entrance exam at University of Tokyo (based on recommendation for enrollment in academic year 2016 or later)
–Out of admission quota of about 3,100 students, 100 are selected.
–Each high school recommends one to two students.
–Candidates submit academic records, reference letters and proof of extracurricular activities.
–Admission begins in November. Candidates who pass document screening are interviewed in December. After National Center Test for University Admissions releases scores in January, successful candidates are confirmed.
– Special entrance exam at Kyoto University (based on enrollment in academic year 2016 or later)
–Out of admission quota of about 2,900 students, 100 are selected.
–Top 5 percent of students at each high school are allowed to take special entrance exam.
–Candidates must submit academic records, extracurricular activity reports and plan of study after enrollment.
–Candidates are comprehensively evaluated through document screening, National Center Test for University Admissions and interviews. Successful candidates are confirmed before secondary screening portion of general entrance exam.
– Current admissions at Harvard University
–About 2,000 students from around world are selected.
–Candidates are comprehensively evaluated based on extracurricular activities, personal statements, essays, academic records and SAT scores.
–Specialized university admissions staff screen application documents. Alumni around the world interview candidates.
|Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
Elections: 1979, 1983, 1987
4 May 1979 – 28 November 1990
Margaret Thatcher: A Japanese icon? (BBC News Dec 26,2012) Excerpt follows:
“While former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher is a divisive figure in the UK, many people in Japan regard her as an icon. So why are they fascinated with the Iron Lady?
Grantham has no tourist attractions dedicated to its most famous daughter but that does not stop visitors from around the world coming to see where Margaret Thatcher grew up.
Japanese people regularly visit the premises where her father once ran his grocery shop in the Lincolnshire town, now occupied by a natural health and chiropractic centre.
“It is not uncommon to see Japanese tourists having photographs taken outside the building,” said Sandra Good, who owns the business.
“It is rare that tourists venture inside but my staff know that they are welcome to show interested parties around and to show them her bedroom if it is free and there is time.”
“She’s huge,” said Jayne Robb, the museum’s general manager.
“She’s held up as this goddess in a way so far as 20th Century political history goes.”
She is so popular with international visitors – particularly those from Japan – that the museum is in the process of fitting its displays with QR codes, a type of barcode.
These can be scanned with mobile phones and the text can then be translated into Japanese or other languages.
So why do people say they have come to the museum?
“From what we can gather, obviously she’s a strong, powerful woman, and that’s quite a novelty still in that Asian culture,” said Ms Robb.
“They are just fascinated by her for lots of reasons but predominantly I think because she was a woman in a man’s world, and that’s a very rare thing in Asian culture.”
‘Sheer hard work’
Her rise to power from relatively humble beginnings also makes her interesting to Japanese visitors, said Ms Robb.
“She literally was a grocer’s daughter from a humble little market town corner grocery shop,” she said.
“I think they find it particularly fascinating; rising from the ranks, so to speak.
“It’s very much in keeping with their culture, the fascination with her, because she didn’t come from some dynasty, she got to the top of her tree through sheer hard work.” …
“They just see this incredibly tenacious, substantial woman achieving.
“They are always asking me questions. I think they want to know what she was like as a child.
“They want to draw from those qualities to create their own success.”
Mr Sawamura recently visited Grantham himself to write a column for his newspaper, which sells millions of copies every day.
“Japanese population is looking for having strong leadership after prolonged political turmoil. We have (had) different prime ministers almost every year since 2006,” he said.
“Also we are gradually fed up with a sort of populism. There seems to be some shift of opinion among Japanese.
“They prefer the political figure who might seek unpopular politics but are firm on political belief rather than someone who pleases electorates but deliver nothing.
“That is why if you ask Japanese intellectuals, probably they give you a positive view on Thatcher.“
Tim ParkerPolitical Reporter, BBC News
OPINION As a former ESOL teacher in Japan, I know there aren’t that many “famous” British names you can mention that Japanese people recognise. Mention Margaret Thatcher however and most students and adults in an otherwise shy and reserved English conversation class will burst into life.
She’s a unique and inspirational figure to many in Japan, reaching her position and succeeding in her role nationally and internationally in a way most women – and indeed many men – can only aspire to there.
Japanese politicians tend to be non-descript, usually elderly, men and the parties are countless and confusing, many accused of corruption or collusion.
Most people on the streets feel utterly disconnected from the political system and are cynical of its actions and motives. Governments appear slow to act and lacking inspiration – so you can see why Thatcher’s leadership-style appears to be at least fresh and different.
Margaret Hilda Roberts was born October 13, 1925, to Alfred and Beatrice Roberts in the market town of Grantham, Lincolnshire, England. Her parents ran a grocery business and lived in an apartment above the shop. They were Methodists who were very involved in the local congregation, raising Margaret and her older sister Muriel in an atmosphere that emphasized self-help, charity, and personal truthfulness. Alfred Roberts was a local councilor in Grantham and a Conservative, and the family would often discuss current political issues.
Just as Chamberlain had had his umbrella and Churchill his cigar, “Maggie’s” physical and metaphorical prop was her handbag. It contained crumpled notes full of facts and figures that could floor an interlocutor at 20 paces. “She cannot see an institution without hitting it with her handbag,” another observer wrote.
The “handbagger”—prime minister for 11 years, six months and 24 days (1979-90)—turned around the ruinously ailing British economy of the 1970s and shook the nation out of its demoralized slough. She broke the mold—she was the first woman prime minister in Europe and the longest-serving head of government in Britain in the 20th century. She achieved iconic status in the Conservative Party and, as the country’s representative, internationally. “Thatcherism” became a label not just for her aggressive “conviction” politics but also a byword for the changed spirit of the 1980s.
It’s a paradox, then, how much Thatcher was an Establishment outsider. She herself noted, in her autobiography The Path to Power, “I was often portrayed as an outsider who by some odd mixture of circumstances had stepped inside and stayed there for eleven and a half years; in my case the portrayal was not inaccurate.” By virtue of her social and nonconformist religious background she was an outsider in the patrician Conservative Party. By her heretical economic views she was a minority voice. By her individualism in the notoriously clubby world of politics, she generated suspicion. By her behavior in the European arena, she made heads of state bristle. By her very handbag, that symbol of femininity, she stood out from the male crowd of politicians. And by the fact that she wielded it with such masculine force she seemed an aberration of genteel womanhood. What shaped such individualism?
Margaret Hilda Roberts was born October 13, 1925. Her father, Alfred, a self-made man, ran a grocery with his wife, Beatrice, in the provincial Lincolnshire market town of Grantham. They had an elder daughter, Muriel, born in 1921. Home was, Margaret recalled, “practical, serious and intensely religious.” Indeed life revolved around Methodism, with its churchgoing and music. Young Margaret became an accomplished pianist.
This childhood living over the shop was “an idyllic blur,” with customers coming and going, Margaret helping to weigh out sugar, tea and coffee. The grocer’s daughter learned the basic tenets of economics, and from her mother she absorbed the efficient, make-good-and-mend housekeeping of the self-respecting middle class, virtues accentuated by World War II privations. Her father was an upstanding figure in the community, a lay preacher, an independent town councilor and later alderman. “Individual responsibility was his watchword and sound finance his passion,” Margaret remembered. From him she claimed her integrity—and a fondness for homespun aphorisms. “Never do things just because other people do them” was a favorite, and it was to stand the Grantham girl in good stead.
The family was “highly political,” and Margaret, aged just 10, could be found folding general election leaflets for a local Conservative candidate. At Kesteven and Grantham Girls’ (grammar) School she was a diligent but not star pupil; blessed with logic and determination, she shone in the debating society. She took elocution lessons—a pre-requisite for getting on in the world.
Hers was also a dreamy nature. She loved Rudyard Kipling, the patriotic poet of British Empire, and the exotic worlds beyond Grantham that he portrayed. And when the cinema arrived in town, she was entranced by Hollywood romance, reflecting that maybe it was a “fortunate restraint” that she was not allowed to watch films too often.
Margaret won a place to study chemistry at Somerville College, Oxford, in 1943. She cut a rather serious, slightly lonely figure: work, religion and, increasingly, politics filled her time rather than socializing. In 1946 she became president of the Oxford University Conservative Association—only the second female to hold the post in its history. Strange, perhaps, that a middle-class grammar school girl should be drawn to an essentially public school-dominated party. But its dicta, such as self-reliance, appealed to her.
The “handbagger”—prime minister for 11 years, six months and 24 days (1979-90)—turned around the ruinously ailing British economy of the 1970s and shook the nation out of its demoralized slough. She broke the mold—she was the first woman prime minister in Europe and the longest-serving head of government in Britain in the 20th century. She achieved iconic status in the Conservative Party and, as the country’s representative, internationally. “Thatcherism” became a label not just for her aggressive “conviction” politics but also a byword for the changed spirit of the 1980s.
It’s a paradox, then, how much Thatcher was an Establishment outsider. She herself noted, in her autobiography The Path to Power, “I was often portrayed as an outsider who by some odd mixture of circumstances had stepped inside and stayed there for eleven and a half years; in my case the portrayal was not inaccurate.” By virtue of her social and nonconformist religious background she was an outsider in the patrician Conservative Party. By her heretical economic views she was a minority voice. By her individualism in the notoriously clubby world of politics, she generated suspicion. By her behavior in the European arena, she made heads of state bristle. By her very handbag, that symbol of femininity, she stood out from the male crowd of politicians. And by the fact that she wielded it with such masculine force she seemed an aberration of genteel womanhood. What shaped such individualism?
Margaret Hilda Roberts was born October 13, 1925. Her father, Alfred, a self-made man, ran a grocery with his wife, Beatrice, in the provincial Lincolnshire market town of Grantham. They had an elder daughter, Muriel, born in 1921. Home was, Margaret recalled, “practical, serious and intensely religious.” Indeed life revolved around Methodism, with its churchgoing and music. Young Margaret became an accomplished pianist.
This childhood living over the shop was “an idyllic blur,” with customers coming and going, Margaret helping to weigh out sugar, tea and coffee. The grocer’s daughter learned the basic tenets of economics, and from her mother she absorbed the efficient, make-good-and-mend housekeeping of the self-respecting middle class, virtues accentuated by World War II privations. Her father was an upstanding figure in the community, a lay preacher, an independent town councilor and later alderman. “Individual responsibility was his watchword and sound finance his passion,” Margaret remembered. From him she claimed her integrity—and a fondness for homespun aphorisms. “Never do things just because other people do them” was a favorite, and it was to stand the Grantham girl in good stead.
The family was “highly political,” and Margaret, aged just 10, could be found folding general election leaflets for a local Conservative candidate. At Kesteven and Grantham Girls’ (grammar) School she was a diligent but not star pupil; blessed with logic and determination, she shone in the debating society. She took elocution lessons—a pre-requisite for getting on in the world.
Hers was also a dreamy nature. She loved Rudyard Kipling, the patriotic poet of British Empire, and the exotic worlds beyond Grantham that he portrayed. And when the cinema arrived in town, she was entranced by Hollywood romance, reflecting that maybe it was a “fortunate restraint” that she was not allowed to watch films too often. …When she left Oxford with a second-class chemistry degree, she joined BX Plastics near Colchester to work in research and development. However, she knew her true ambition was to be a member of Parliament.
She got her wish, after a struggle, in 1959 when she was elected Conservative MP for Finchley, north London. It had been a busy decade post-Oxford: in 1951 she wed Denis Thatcher, a well-to-do businessman and divorcé 10 years her senior. Early married life was “very heaven,” and in ensuing years in a series of homes in London and Kent she enjoyed interior decorating, gardening and collecting porcelain. Denis’ income meant Margaret no longer needed to earn a living, and she studied law. In 1953 she gave birth to twins, Mark and Carol; by the time they were 6 months old she had passed her bar exams. “While the home must always be the centre of one’s life, it should not be the boundary of one’s ambitions,” she liked to say. Fortunately, the Thatchers could afford a nanny to allow this.
The London Evening News heralded Margaret Thatcher’s entry into Parliament with the headline “Mark’s Mummy is an MP Now.” Women were a rarity at this level of politics—just 25 of 630 MPs—and Thatcher was given various shadow cabinet positions in “women’s” areas such as pensions. In the 1970 Conservative government under Edward Heath, she became secretary of state for education and science (1970-74). Sadly, neither her father nor her mother had lived to see this success.
“The fifties marked the start of a major change in the role of women,” Thatcher reflected in her autobiography. In the male preserve of the House of Commons and in the cabinet she felt isolated. Her strident tone, perhaps an overcompensation as she tried to prove herself, further alienated male colleagues. Yet there were plus-points to being different. Blonde, attractive, always immaculately dressed and a zealous worker, she stood out and was for some while a media darling. The tide turned when as education secretary, forced to cut her budget, she stopped the provision of free milk to schoolchildren over the age of 7. Tabloid headlines raged “Mrs. Thatcher, Milk Snatcher” and asked if she was the most hated woman in Britain. She was deeply upset….Behind the scenes, Thatcher had an awesome work ethic. She slept only four hours a night and “living over the shop” at 10 Downing St. suited her (there’s a delicious irony in a grocer’s daughter running a “nation of shopkeepers”). She quickly mastered briefs in minute detail and was intolerant of “woolly” thinking. Yet, despite popular opinion to the contrary, she could be persuaded by others’ views—if well argued.
Behind the hectoring caricatures—Attila the Hen, TBW (That Bloody Woman)—a far more charming, feminine side existed and was employed to get her own way. “Perhaps we were a little bit in love with her,” one young man who worked for her recalled. She enjoyed male company, female less so (the Queen was said to dislike their weekly meetings). Staff at No. 10 adored her for the thousand small kindnesses she showed, such as asking after the health of an ailing family member. This was not the uncaring tyrant of cartoonists. On occasion she appeared blissfully unstreetwise, most famously when she declared in admiration of her faithful deputy, Willie Whitelaw, “Every prime minister needs a Willie.”
Thatcher’s home life, indeed her career, had the firm anchor of her husband Denis. The media affectionately portrayed him as a gin-swilling, golf-playing buffoon, but he fulfilled his role of consort to perfection, content to support, a silent smile on his face. He had helped give the Grantham girl social confidence, and his money had allowed her to chase her ambition; his own success meant he felt unthreatened by her achievement. He encouraged, advised, gave the arm that consoled, and he alone could call late-night meetings to a close, tapping his watch and reminding, “Margaret, time for Bedfordshire.” In the morning, Margaret would cook his breakfast. She also doted on her son, Mark; relations with Carol seemed a little less close….
Margaret Thatcher and Thatcherism often evoke visceral love or hate. She was a role model for individualism and the success of the individual who worked hard—not always an easy trajectory in a nation of team players where traditionally it’s the playing, not the winning, that counts. Some said her policies legitimized selfishness. Feminists murmured that she failed to help other women break into public life—women were notably absent from high office in her governments. But that missed the point of her individualism, and she led by example.
Her legacy, like her life, is one of paradox. A force for change, she saved her country from the economic mire and made it governable again, but threw the Conservative Party into turmoil. She altered national attitudes: After monetarism there has been no return to Keynesian economics, and Britain is no longer the sick country of Europe. She consolidated the Atlantic Alliance and helped create the dynamics of the post–Cold War world, but left the Tory Party—and the country—deeply divided on Europe and integration into its union. However these legacies play out, Margaret Thatcher will be seen as an icon of the 20th century and one of Britain’s outstanding peacetime prime ministers.” End of excerpt.
In the last few days several commentators have reminded us that the Thatcher government was not only ideologically committed to free markets but also pragmatic in its approach. Mrs Thatcher understood perfectly well that the ‘free markets’ do not arise spontaneously – they have to be created.
Take for example her privatisation of the utility industries. Mrs Thatcher and her advisers understood that simply transferring a public sector monopoly to the private sector would not automatically result in vigorous price competition. The privatisation of British Telecom required a revolution in the regulation of industries that had previously been considered ‘natural monopolies’.
Instead of arguing over Thatcher’s legacy, the Coalition ministers hoping to introduce choice and competition in our university system through variable tuition fees should take note: universities won’t compete over prices for students until the reward structure is changed.
To date, this lesson has been ignored. This is because of a fundamental misconception about higher education which makes it appear different: in 1979 it was impossible for most people to conceive of competition between providers of electricity or gas; in my experience, is it hard for outsiders to understand the extent to which universities do not compete.
Yes, in many respects the global higher education market is intensely competitive. Research-intensive universities compete to produce the best research and they compete for the best students.
And yes, the market for students is also competitive. Competition for places at top-ranked universities is a far more pronounced feature of higher education today than it was a generation ago.
But universities simply do not compete on the basis of teaching or price. For example, in London the price of a one year taught masters in economics at University College is £14,250 at the London School of Economics is £22,176. Why? After all, the content of these courses is almost identical.
The price difference depends almost entirely on differences in the prestige of these two departments. The higher fee is a result of a longer history of outstanding research at LSE.
It is almost universally assumed that if universities compete to attract the most talented students they must do so on the basis of their teaching. They do not. The problem arises because both research and the academic ability of students are relatively easy to observe – we know which universities have produced the best research and we know which universities recruit the most academically gifted students.
We have no equivalent way of assessing the teaching these universities offer. Just as the utility companies have been forced to publish transparent tariffs, universities must be required to make this essential element of the university experience less opaque.
Today there are few people who would recommend the renationalisation of the utility industries. However, this competition was created by a government that was truly radical in its approach.
Choice and competition cannot be taken for granted. The removal of ‘unnecessary regulations’ does not on its own guarantee success.
Excerpts from Margaret Thatcher, Education Reformer below…
On her side of the Atlantic, this three-decade reform enterprise really did start with Margaret Thatcher, and I doubt it would have continued through changes of party, prime minister, and education ministers had the movement not been fundamentally right-headed, as she was on pretty nearly everything she touched.
She established more comprehensive schools than any other secretary of state for education. She raised the school leaving age. She set up the Bullock Committee which produced a ground-breaking report on language and learning still held in awe by teachers of English. She accepted the James Report on teacher training and in-service education recomend that teachers should be released for in-service training for periods equivalent to one term in every 7 years of service. Her most substantial White Paper - Education, A Framework for Expansion - envisaged that within ten years “nursery education should become available without charge to those children of three and four whose parents wish them to benefit from it” , that the number of teachers in schools would increase by 10% above the number required to maintain existing class size …
She set up the commission which produced the Warnock Report on special educational needs, and the legislation based on the report introduced the concept of statementing to secure appropriate provision for children with additional learning needs. Her government funded the most lavish programme of technical and vocational curriculum development the country had ever seen.
She did not introduce local financial management of schools – that had been done by local authorities such as Solihull – but the 1986 Education Act extended financial management to all schools. She did not introduce parental choice – which still does not exist as a legal right in England – but the 1981 Education Act gave parents the right to express a preference on which school their children should go to. She introduced the first statutory entitlement to a broad and balanced curriculum England had seen. Her 1988 Education Act introducing this national curriculum was, at the time, the largest single piece of legislation Parliament had enacted, though she subsequently regretted the excessive detail the act had introduced. She introduced national testing at 7, 14, 11 and 16. The ‘City Technology Colleges’ introduced in 1988 prefigured City Academies; ‘grant maintained schools’ – for all practical purposes revised as converter academies in 2010 – were harbingers of autonomous schools. She abolished tenure for university academics.
Sir Peter Scott, professor of higher education studies at the Institute of Education, University of London – and editor of the Times Higher Education Supplement while Lady Thatcher was prime minister – said “her main legacy was the 1981 cuts in university funding, which set the pattern of squeezing the unit-of-resource that continued until after the election of the Blair government in 1997”.
John Akker, deputy general secretary of the Association of University Teachers in the 1980s, said Lady Thatcher’s “unprecedented” cuts to higher education meant it “was not a golden age for universities”.
“At the time, people regarded the period as an unmitigated disaster for universities,” he said.
“People should realise how close we came to several universities actually closing. Without the good sense of staff and university leaders, there would have been mass redundancies across the sector.
“Thatcher’s legacy was a disillusioned workforce as staff morale collapsed, while many young people were put off a career in academia.”
Thatcher implemented a core curriculum and national standards for secondary schools arguing that that it was the government’s job to see that children get a basic education, “We do not want to dictate the total of education to teachers, but it really is a core curriculum. Not in every subject, but in core curriculum, and to work out a syllabus in certain fundamental subjects: arithmetic, English — spoken, written and some of the literature — and basic science … This ought to be a part of the education of every child, and parents are all for it because they want their children to be taught.”
In the Conservative Government Manifesto of 1979, Thatcher discussed the need to promote higher standards of achievement in basic skills, “We shall promote higher achievement in basic skills. The Government Assessment of Performance Unit will set national standards in reading, writing, and arithmetic.” In the Education Act of 1980, Thatcher enacted policies which gave public money for children to go to private schools and gave parents greater power in governing bodies and admission at schools. Echos of Thatcher’s policies can be seen in the United States in debates over school choice and voucher programs. School reformers in the U.S. are seeing choice models take off and strongholds of teacher’s unions in areas weakening.
As Prime Minister Thatcher sought to increase market forces within higher education, introducing fees at universities. Thatcher oversaw the introduction of fees for international students at higher education, prior to 1981 international students were educated essentially for free. Universities feared the move would decrease international students, and following an initial dip have since soared. A lasting legacy of Thatcher’s university policies is both Tony Blair and David Cameron instituted fees for undergraduates — moves which were highly unpopular among students but have allowed for better university funding and universities to be more receptive to student needs. Margaret Thatcher, a defender of smaller government and deregulation in education policies, understood there was a limited role for government in people’s lives. She sought to have the government serve the public interest and the people, rather than have people in service for government. By campaigning for higher education standards and introducing market measures into education, she understood Britain would be better for it. Margaret Thatcher dead, Britain was better off with her education policies
“…she was a deeply moral thinker, and the moral superiority of the free market was central to her thinking. She made the case for it like no other major political leader.
Before Thatcher, the Conservative party had more or less acquiesced to the Labour view of the economy — as a fixed lump of wealth to be parceled out to whatever interest groups spoke up most loudly. But Thatcher freed up markets to vastly increase national wealth …There were, she declared, “only two political philosophies, noly two ways of governing a country. One is the Socialist-Marxist way in which what matters is not the people but the State. In which decisions affecting people’s lives are taken from them, instead of being taken by them. In which property and savings are taken from the people instead of being more widely held among them. In which directives replace incentives. In which the State is the master of the individual, instead of the servant.” The other, she said, was, “A free economic system” which “not only guarantees the freedom of each individual citizen, it is the surest way to increase the prosperity of the nation as a whole.”
The no-nonsense small-town grocer’s daughter learned, by careful study of the work of F.A. Hayek and Milton Friedman, both of whose lectures she attended, that her instincts about hard work, market competition, thrift and a sound currency were exactly the blast of oxygen Britain needed to save it from slow asphyxiation by the trade unions.
In 1981, during a round of fiscal tightening, she said of her opponents, “I tell you what they really mean, they mean, ‘We don’t like the expenditure we have agreed, we are unwilling to raise the tax to pay for it. Let us print the money instead.’ The most immoral path of all. Because what that is saying is let us quietly steal a certain amount from every pound in circulation, let us steal a certain amount from every pound saved in building societies, in national savings, from every person who has been thrifty.”
The unions’ many supporters in the media and popular culture failed to recognize that big labor’s demands were unsustainable in the long run — Britain could no longer maintain coal, steel and shipbuilding without massive subsidies that simply transferred wealth from productive industries to moribund ones. Moreover, a country’s ability to keep increasing the standard of living depends on more growth, more efficiency, more output per hour worked. The nationalized union-run industries were a drag on everyone’s advancement.
“I am not declaring war on the unions or their leaders,” Thatcher said in 1980. “But I am challenging their illusion that Government can be a universal provider. (Forbes)
Margaret Thatcher’s influence on women (Guardian)
Mrs. Thatcher came to power 1½ years before Ronald Reagan won election as the US President, and she immediately began to implement her governing program. During that memorable eleven years, including smashing electoral victories in 1983 and 1987, Dame Margaret revived the British economy and then she took on and defeated Arthur Scargill and the coal miners union. In foreign matters she sent the storied British navy to slap down the impertinent Argentines in 1982, she worked closely with President Reagan (and indirectly with Pope John Paul II) in efforts to undermine and sink communism in Eastern Europe, and she continued to stand with the USA through the Cold warand beyond by sending British combat units to fight in the first Gulf War of 1990-91.
“Thatcher had little sympathy for universities. She was inclined to see universities as bastions of privilege and dilettantism, generally radical politics and producing graduates unprepared to enter the real world of work.
Her views were partially a matter of cost. She insisted that university could no longer continue. In 1981, a 15% cut over three years was imposed”.
“She was the first woman to win the Prime Ministership of the UK, and she took office at a critical moment in British history. The sun had long since set on the British Empire, and the country was quickly becoming an international laughingstock. Paul Johnson and other British literary lions have noted the disdain they encountered when discussing their English heritage during the late 1970s. Mrs. Thatcher came to power 1½ years before Ronald Reagan won election as the US President, and she immediately began to implement her governing program. During that memorable eleven years, including smashing electoral victories in 1983 and 1987, Dame Margaret revived the British economy and then she took on and defeated Arthur Scargill and the coal miners union. In foreign matters she sent the storied British navy to slap down the impertinent Argentines in 1982, she worked closely with President Reagan (and indirectly with Pope John Paul II) in efforts to undermine and sink communism in Eastern Europe, and she continued to stand with the USA through the Cold war and beyond by sending British combat units to fight in the first Gulf War of 1990-91….
The material point of this disquisition is the fact that Margaret Thatcher initiated all of these efforts. These triumphs were not the result of luck, or being in the right place, or of a friendly environment. None of the familiar determinist fallback positions fit the reality of Margaret Thatcher. She was a genuinely heroic figure, who defied and refuted the daft idea that no individual can control historical events. Much more than any particular policy victory, this is Dame Margaret Thatcher’s great historical legacy. Margaret Thatcher, a great friend of America, was a giant and the world will not see her like again!”
“Before Mrs Thatcher, universities were very similar to public utilities – run for the benefit of staff with government money. Now they are stellar,” said Professor Kealey.
“She was determined to introduce a much higher level of accountability for public funding and greater accountability for students as customers,” he said.
The introduction of full tuition fees for international students in 1981 was a good example of Baroness Thatcher’s benign legacy to higher education, he said.
“It was condemned by almost everyone as a catastrophe for higher education when it was introduced,” he said.
“We were told no foreign students would ever come to Britain. What happened was that, after an initial one-year dip in student numbers, international student numbers continued to grow, providing an invaluable, independent source of income to universities.”
As an academic scientist, my first thought on Thatcher’s legacy relates to the university sector. The introduction, in 1986, of the first assessment of research had its roots in her unwillingness to trust anyone with anything unless it was centrally checked, and from it has grown an ever more burdensome attempt to quantify and rank university departments.
This desire to check and control was manifest in her attitude to science itself. As secretary of state for education and science in 1971, she oversaw a change of policy in science funding that had, and has, far-reaching consequences. Government departments became “consumers” of the work that was to be commissioned by the various research councils: civilian research was expected to have utility in and of itself. Science was just there as a source of wealth creation.
Over the following 20 years or so, control of scientists seems to have become a core strategy. There was a reduction in civilian scientific spend by the government. And what money there was had to be directed towards industrial needs, and industry (which meant large industry) was increasingly at the heart of the decision-making. Little room for unexpected innovations in a model like that.
See an author’s opinion that Thatcher’s legacy is Britain’s isolation (FT, April 12, 2013) and that Thatcher’s “instincts were completely out of touch with modern Europe”…however, the author also expressed her admiration of Thatcher “as a woman who achieved power at the highest levels and demonstrated that she could wield it as well, or as ill, as any man”.
“…in O Fiaich’s mind that day, nor mine today, that Thatcher’s intransigence drove many young men into the waiting arms of the IRA. She was one of the IRA’s best recruiters. She pushed the end of the war back at least 10 years and consigned a generation to conflict. Instead of seeking compromise, instead of learning from history, she thumbed her nose at it.
When it was over, 10 men were dead of starvation in the H-Blocks, and many more died outside the prison walls in the rioting and recrimination that followed. Worse, Irish and British moderates were in no mood to accommodate each other.
To her credit, Thatcher learned from her mistake, as did successive British governments, and there’s a Boston connection: US House Speaker Tip O’Neill.
In 1981, Thatcher met with O Fiaich, because Irish republican prisoners were on hunger strike over Thatcher’s attempts to criminalize them by removing their political prisoner status. O Fiaich had helped avert a deadly hunger strike the previous year, but the republican prisoners accused Thatcher of reneging on promises, and Bobby Sands had launched what would prove to be a pivotal moment in the war in Northern Ireland.
In the middle of what O Fiaich recalled as a lecture, Thatcher told him she believed the prisoners were determined to kill themselves in the most torturous way imaginable, by starving themselves to death, to prove how tough and virile they were.
O Fiaich was dumbfounded. …
Hume persuaded O’Neill to prevail upon the guy who, besides her husband Denis, Thatcher loved most: Ronald Reagan.
Hume told O’Neill who told President Reagan who told Thatcher that she had to work with the Irish, to show that nonviolent nationalism was the only way forward, and she did. The Anglo-Irish Agreement she signed in 1985 with Irish premier Garret FitzGerald led inexorably to the Good Friday Agreement of 1998, ending the war and ushering in a new era of Anglo-Irish relations.
When it came to education, Thatcher had a interesting record during her time as Prime Minister, working to centralize primary and secondary education away from local authority and privatizing higher education through the introduction of fees.”
The Japan News [The Yomiuri Shimbun]
The University of Tokyo will introduce this academic year a seminar on teaching methods for graduate students who want to become university lecturers.
The university judged lecturers should have teaching abilities in addition to research skills, a demand that is growing among other similar institutions.
In the program, students will learn how to create teaching plans and conduct lectures focused on student participation, including the incorporation of discussions and group presentations. The three-hour seminar will be held eight times a semester, and about 100 students will participate in the program this academic year. Students who complete the course will receive certificates they can use when applying for positions as university lecturers.
As of May 2012, there were about 6,000 doctoral students at the University of Tokyo. Each year, it is estimated that about 200 students become lecturers at universities across the nation. Kayoko Kurita, a special associate professor in charge of the program, said, “Lecturers formerly concentrated solely on their research, but now they must also possess teaching skills.”
When universities hire lecturers, they focus on candidates’ research performance such as academic papers and conference presentations. However, an increasing number of university students are exhibiting a lack of motivation for learning, including those at the University of Tokyo. Therefore, many schools are now requiring candidates to submit teaching plans or give demonstration lectures as part of the selection process.
Additionally, the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry has urged universities to improve lecturers’ teaching abilities and the quality of lectures. Kyoto, Tohoku and other universities have already implemented a similar program.
Other news on education in Japan:
Abe wants TOEFL to be key exam Japan Times, MAR 25, 2013
“Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is not satisfied with just revising monetary policy to spark the weak economy. He also appears bent on reviving another failing field — the public’s ability to speak English.
The ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s panel on education will propose using TOEFL scores as criteria for entering and graduating from
universities, reports said Monday.
Although the idea is still in its early stages, it is hoped the effort will help transform the way foreign languages are taught in the country, where English ability is considered subpar.
“It could have an impact on improving the level of English among Japanese in the long run,” Manabu Horiuchi of TOFL Seminar in Osaka told The Japan Times on Monday. The school specializes in teaching preparatory classes for the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), Test of English for International Communication (TOEIC), the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) and other language tests.
“If the level of each student improves, the country’s skills should go up as well,” he said.” … end of extract
The first proposal from the Liberal Democratic Party’s education panel includes establishing “advanced Super Science High Schools (SSHs)”. -Yomiuri Shimbun/ANN
Sat, Mar 23, 2013
The Yomiuri Shimbun/Asia News Network
JAPAN – The first proposal from the Liberal Democratic Party’s education panel includes establishing “advanced Super Science High Schools (SSHs)” and having universities require applicants to achieve a certain score on the Test of English as Foreign Language (TOEFL), it has been learned.
Advanced SSHs are institutions where university professors specialising in mathematics and science instruct motivated students of high scholastic standing.
The party’s Headquarters for the Revitalization of Education, chaired by Toshiaki Endo, will make an official decision on the proposal this month. The goal of the proposal is to implement educational reforms to nurture human resources who can actively contribute to the international community.
The LDP plans to include the proposal in its pledge for the House of Councillors election campaign this summer and is considering preparing legislation to realise it.
The proposal recommends a three-pronged approach for revitalizing the education system: drastic reform of English education, improved science and mathematics, and development of information and communication technology education. The proposal requests about 1 trillion yen (S$13 billion) to pursue these three strategies.
Specifically, the proposal advocates doubling the number of doctorate degree holders in the fields of science and mathematics to 35,000 a year, on par with the United States. For this, the establishment of advanced SSHs within seven to 10 universities is proposed across the nation.
The plan also recommends increasing the number of SSHs from the current figure of about 180 and placing science teachers in primary schools to interest more students in the subject.
Regarding English education reform, it proposes all public and private universities designate minimum TOEFL scores for each faculty and stipulate only applicants who achieve or surpass those score may take entrance examinations. The minimum scores would be set independently by each university. TOEFL is used to assess English proficiency and is often used as a screening tool for students who wish to study abroad.
In terms of the developing information and communication technology education, the proposal clearly includes the provision of tablet computers as teaching aids to each student at all primary, middle, high and special-needs schools before 2020.
- End of news brief run-down -
The University of Tokyo, one of the most prestigious universities in Japan, aims to introduce a recommendation-based entrance examination system for the first time since its establishment in 1877, university sources said Tuesday.
In about five years, the national university will scrap written exams in part of its exam process in order to introduce a new screening system, the sources said.
The university is considering a system based mainly on interviews and recommendations from the high schools of the applicants, but no firm details have been set, the sources added.
The university hopes to work out details by holding discussions with high schools, the sources said.
National university entrance exams at present are conducted in two stages. The first one is common tests administered by the National Center for University Examinations and the second one is university-specific exams administered by each institute.
Usually, those passing the first-stage tests can take the university-specific tests, which have two types — conventional written exams carried out in the first period and other exams focusing on essays and interviews in the second period. Applicants can choose from either type.
The University of Tokyo plans to start the recommendation-based exam system on a trial basis only for the university-specific test in the second period. If the system works well, the university will consider introducing it also in the first-period test.
The university set the enrollment limit for fiscal 2013 on 100 students for those taking the second-period test, far fewer than the nearly 3,000 students for those taking the first-period test.
The university last April set up a panel, chaired by Executive Vice President Takao Shimizu, to discuss university reforms, including entrance exam reforms and a possible change in the admission period from spring to autumn.
The idea of introducing the recommendation-based entrance exam system has been floated at meetings of university executives and faculty members. None of them has clearly expressed opposition to the system, the sources said.
Japanese elementary pupils set melodica world record (NHK — Mar 05) for the largest number of children ( 712 pupils from 13 schools in Hamamatsu, central Japan) collectively playing melodicas, also known as keyboard harmonicas.
Quote of the day:
“Despite what our accelerating culture seems to think, great work is not always done with a gun held to your head. On the contrary, good thinking often takes time. The SAT, like most standardized tests, simply gets this wrong and unfortunately, one particular type of intelligence is thereby unfairly rewarded.” — Bill, SAT is getting a redesign
In about a week’s time, most schools will be thronging with parents and students attending their sotsugyoshiki graduating ceremonies, with many busy cameras clicking away against a backdrop of sakura blossoms.
As a wrap to the schoolyear, we bring you this edition of EDU WATCH, summarizing the key news and goings-on in the educational scene in Japan… as well as elsewhere around the globe.
Here’s what’s happening on the local educational scene:
Prime Minister Abe appears to be doing something about his stated priority to stamp out bullying in schools … see A government panel on education proposes that schools enforce suspensions of bullies more strictly (Japan Times, Feb 27), and Education panel wants 3rd-party to deal with bullying, physical punishment in schools (Japan Daily Press, Feb 27) Excerpt below:
In the meantime, school bullying cases hit record in 2012 (Jiji Press Mar 4) with procedures having been launched in 3,988 cases to rescue victims of school bullying in 2012, up 20.6 pct from the previous year…the worst on record. (See also related: Bullying cases swamp legal bureaus (Japan Ties, Mar 2)
Police handled 260 school bullying-related cases in 2012, 2.3 times as many as the previous year, following the story of a bullying victim who committed suicide in Otsu, Shiga Prefecture, the National Police Agency said Thursday.
The number skyrocketed after the suicide attracted nationwide attention in July. Of the cases, 65 were reported in January through June and 195 were reported from July through December.
The result does not necessarily indicate an increase in bullying, but suggests the suicide in Otsu triggered an increase of bullying reports to police, the NPA said.
The total number for 2012 was the fourth-largest since records were first kept in 1984. Of the total, 122 cases were categorized as injury cases, up 65 from a year before. Assault accounted for 74 cases, up 56, and blackmail for 20 cases, up 12. …
The article Solution to bullying lies in ‘resetting’ culprits (Japan Times) excerpted below discusses some new philosophical thinking that’s underpinning a new experimental approach called “resetting” a child’s character. It has allegedly shown proven results…
“The biggest problem in Japanese education is the idea that you can eliminate bullying by reforming the system.”
That provocative statement opens an article in Shukan Gendai by the eminent Catholic novelist and conservative thinker Ayako Sono. It is provocative because the prevailing view is that bullying, not the effort to eliminate it, is the problem. Bullying, Sono maintains, is a fact of life — school life, professional life, social life. It arises in turn from another fact — that the human heart is not and never will be purely good; that evil is an ineradicable part of our nature. Her solution, imperfect but realistic, would be to strengthen individuals to cope with adversity rather than to struggle against the grain to build an adversity-free society.
The suicide in December of an Osaka high school basketball player physically abused by his coach is the latest evidence of something rotten beneath the polite and considerate surface of Japanese life. No doubt every society has its own variety of rottenness beneath, if not actually on, the surface. One point substantiating Sono’s position is that the flurry of hand-wringing and reform talk attendant on the Osaka incident will seem as repetitious and predictable to a long-term observer as will the incident itself. To go back no more than 27 years, in May 1985 a 16-year-old high school boy from Gifu Prefecture was beaten to death by his teacher while on a school trip. The boy had been using an electric hair dryer. That was against school rules. The teacher beat him as a disciplinary measure. The boy went into shock and died. There was talk then too of reform. Twenty-seven years is a long time. Maybe Sono is right. Maybe the problem is simply eternal.
Sono refers to the Osaka suicide, but in an unexpected way. She says it reminded her of something she witnessed among the Inuit. A lot of transportation in the Arctic is by dogsled. Among the dogs attached to the sled is one whose sole purpose is to be whipped. Its barking spurs the others on. Such, she says, metaphorically speaking, was the boy’s role on the basketball team. Inuit or Japanese, she implies, primitive or hyper-civilized, humans are human and the variations among them count for less than their similarities.
To what extent is the world subject to change, and to what extent must it be simply accepted as given? It’s an ancient question. Broadly speaking, Asian culture stresses acceptance, Western culture change. One Christian answer through the ages has been that only divine grace can change sinful human nature. Sono writes, “Humans, unlike animals, can exercise self-control through reason. The training to do so is called education.”
But is education — especially mass, standardized, career-oriented education — always sufficient? Bullying is not the only evidence that many children are going astray. Some children turn violent and destructive at home. Others experience eating disorders. Hikikomori — complete withdrawal from society — is widespread; so is the condition known as NEET — not in education, employment or training; doing nothing, in short. Sono’s “strength to cope” and “self-control through reason” are obviously not universal. She rejects the notion of systemic failure, but the evidence of failure at some level is hard to ignore.
The weekly Shukan Post raises an issue it calls “resetting children’s characters.” Conscientious parents of growing children are beset by doubts at the best of times. At worst, the doubts turn to anguish: “I was a bad parent, I did it all wrong, if only I could raise my child over again!”
You actually can, claim some specialists.
The expert Shukan Post speaks to is Aichi Gakusen University early childhood education specialist Harutaka Kadota. From infancy to age 9, he explains, is “the period of direct experience” — youngsters soak up whatever happens to them without much brooding over what it all means. This is when they learn — or fail to learn — to trust the adult world. It depends on the unconditional love and attention received from parents and teachers. Failure here — sometimes the parents’ fault, sometimes society’s, sometimes nobody’s — can warp the adolescent character-building that follows.
That’s where “resetting” comes in.
Kadota cites a boy who’d been a “quiet type” until his final year of junior high school, when suddenly he began physically attacking his mother and kicking in the walls at home. What had gone wrong? What could be done? Kadota’s advice: “Never mind that he’s 15; treat him like a 1-year-old; indulge him, make excuses for him.” To his violent outbursts his mother would respond, “You’re doing this because there’s something you don’t like, is that it? Go ahead, just do as you please.” The effect was dramatic; within a week the boy calmed down and “began trying to put his feelings into words.” Pity the story doesn’t tell us what those feelings were.” — End of excerpt. Read more here.
An even more spectacular illustration is the famous case of “Youth A,” who at age 14 in Kobe in 1994 killed and beheaded a 10-year-old. Sentenced non-punitively to rehabilitation because of his age, he was given treatment that included a “counterfeit family” — the head of the treatment institution was “grandpa,” a male psychiatrist was “dad,” a female psychiatrist was “mom.” This “family,” in effect, reared him all over again, from infancy on, with results considered successful enough to allow his release into society under a totally new identity.”
PM Abe’s gov. began to focus on educational reforms starting in January, see Abe brings back education reform panel from 2006 (KYODO, Jan 25) Excerpts of his gov.’s discussions on education reform below:
“To re-create a strong Japan, it is essential to revive the education of the children who will be responsible for the country’s future,” Abe said during the first meeting of a 15-member panel on education reform. “The revival of education is a top priority, just as much as economic revival.”
The meeting marked the restart of the Education Rebuilding Council, which was created in 2006 under the first Abe administration. The panel will meet twice a month.
During his previous stint, Abe, known as an advocate of education reform, engineered changes to the Basic Act on Education, putting more emphasis on instilling a sense of patriotism in students.
The panel, consisting of scholars, business leaders and education-related Cabinet members, discussed measures to prevent school bullying, among other issues, at its first meeting.
Based on the panel’s discussions, the government and the ruling parties will aim to enact legislation to deal with bullying during the next Diet session.
The panel will also seek to reform boards of education across Japan after the Osaka board drew criticism recently for its slow response to a case in which a high school basketball captain committed suicide as a result of being beaten by his coach.
The council is tasked with recommending whether to change the nation’s 6-3-3-4 education system as well, which refers to six years in elementary school, three in junior high school, three in high school and four in college.
Phil Baty, editor of the Times Higher Education Rankings, was quoted saying,
“The country’s government has acknowledged that Japan step up its efforts to attract more overseas academics and students and internationalize its research, but the latest ranking shows that more needs to be done.
Japan’s showing in the reputation rankings is much better than its record in the overall World University Rankings, (coming 27th in 2012) based on 13 largely objective indicators, so there is a concern that the country has for too long been resting on its laurels and historical reputation. Strong action is needed to protect Japan from falling behind Asian rivals.”
Read Louise George Kittaka’s balanced look at an ever current issue for parents in Japan: Juku: an unnecessary evil or vital steppingstone to success? (Mar 5, 2013 Japan Times)
Parents ‘turn stricter eyes’ on middle schools (Yomiuri, February 9)
Gov. eyes tuition aid increase (Mar 4, Yomiuri)
The government is considering increasing financial aid to low-income families with children attending private high schools to cover their tuition. MEXT is to set a household income ceiling to ensure it can obtain the necessary fiscal resources by reviewing the current tuition aid program for high schools, and the ministry plans to decide on the details of the program by summer when it makes a budgetary request for fiscal 2014. …
Tuition-free education plan eyed (Yomiuri, Feb. 19, 2013)
The government will establish a panel to study a plan to eliminate tuition fees for children aged 3 to 5 in a bid to improve preschool education and stem the declining birthrate by easing the burdens of child-rearing households, according to sources.
The government aims to flesh out the details of the plan before the House of Councillors election this summer, and implement the new system from as early as fiscal 2014. …
The panel will be led by three Cabinet ministers–Mori, education minister Hakubun Shimomura and welfare minister Norihisa Tamura….
A rough “preschool education outline” will be compiled by around June, the sources said.
Among the facilities the panel will consider making tuition-free are kindergartens, day care centers and so-called authorized kodomo-en facilities, a hybrid between kindergarten and day care.
The Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry has estimated about 790 billion yen would be needed annually to finance the measure.
While the consumption tax rate is scheduled to be raised to 10 percent in October 2015, increased tax revenues will be unavailable for the tuition-free plan. The government therefore needs to allocate other funding for the plan when compiling the fiscal 2014 budget or later.
Some within the ruling parties have proposed a plan to gradually introduce tuition-free preschool education by first targeting 5-year-olds. Other lawmakers have suggested reviewing the way increased tax revenues from the planned consumption hike would be utilized.
However, such a review would likely be met with opposition from the Democratic Party of Japan and groups of day care facility operators, among others. As a result, observers say the government will likely have a hard time securing the necessary funds to implement the plan. …
According to the Mar 4 Japan Today report Identity of Osaka elementary school bandit discovered , they’ve finally nabbed the thief who had been stolen up to 235,000 yen in 16 different incidents, from the wallets of teachers who had been working at the Nozato Elementary School in Osaka City … it was the vice principal!
98 windows smashed, staff room flooded at Odawara school (Japan Today, Feb 24) Police said they were alerted by an alarm just after 4 a.m. at Johoku Junior High School. TBS reported that police found 98 window panes smashed. A hose had been placed through a hole in the window of the staff room and left turned on.
Saga colleges to train development disorder experts (Japan Times, Feb 7)
Five colleges in Saga Prefecture will introduce a joint program in April to educate nursery teachers about developmental disorders to support such children at an early stage … Those who earn the required number of credits for courses, including child health, support for children’s families and practical work, will be designated as “teachers to support child development” and will be expected to lead approaches to the issue.
Turning the page on history books (KYODO via Japan Times, Jan 29)
Publishers of school textbooks may one day no longer have to give so-called special consideration to neighboring parts of Asia when describing historical events.
The education ministry will start discussing revising this guideline, which publishers of textbooks used from elementary to high school must follow, sources close to the ministry said.
Stricter vetting of social studies textbooks began in 1982 after China and South Korea objected strongly to Japanese high school history textbooks the previous year that began referring to Japan’s past “invasions” in Asia as “advancements.”
To counter anticipated criticism of the revision by the two countries, both of which Japan occupied, the scope of “giving consideration” may be expanded from Asian neighbors to the “global community,” according to the sources.
The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology is expected to start a detailed study of the issue, the sources said.
Many Liberal Democratic Party lawmakers believe the current guidelines result in “masochistic” or “self-condemning” views of history in textbooks.
During the campaign for the general election in December, the LDP pledged to revise the guidelines so students can use textbooks that “allow them to be proud of traditional culture.”
Although education minister Hirofumi Shimomura has said it is “not a subject that we should work on immediately,” officials at the ministry say discussions on the possible revision could start soon after the Upper House election in July, in time for the fiscal 2014 textbook screening.
Even after the 1982 guideline, China and South Korea repeatedly criticized the wording of some history textbooks in the screening process, claiming they were glorifying past aggression. In 2001, a junior high school textbook written by a group of Japanese nationalists invited strong criticism from the two countries.”
Here’s a useful educational video for the classroom to get students thinking: A War Between China and Japan: What It Could Cost You .. in view of the recent escalation in the Japan-China conflict over the Senkaku-Diaoyu Islands issue may be accessed by clicking on the link below:
Created by: OnlineMBA.com
On the impact of N. Korean nuclear tests, find out what happens when support for Korean schools in Japan is withdrawn here.
Entrance exam tutors go digital / Cash-strapped university hopefuls flock to free online lecture service (Yomiuri Feb 27)
Good news for university hopefuls who cannot afford prep schools: A popular website is now offering free video lectures given by successful entrants of prestigious universities. The site, “manavee,” was launched two years ago by a University of Tokyo student to support those who may not be able to attend cram or prep schools for financial or other reasons. Currently, about 170 students from 15 universities nationwide are participating in the initiative to help teach over 10,000 users. Student teachers film their lectures using their own video cameras and upload them onto the website as a free learning service.
American teacher’s spin on Japan’s racism riles Internet nationalists (Washington Post via Japan Times)
Spotlighting educational issues elsewhere in the world:
BBC news reported that East Asia universities ‘gain ground’ in world rankings (Mar 4) that universities in East Asia have gained ground on western institutions in the latest university reputation rankings, East Asian institutions were quietly gaining ground although the table was dominated by western universities. The University of Tokyo is now in ninth place, Japan has five institutions in the top 100, Singapore and Hong Kong three each, China and Korea two each and Taiwan one. Cambridge came third and Oxford fourth in the rankings, behind Harvard in first place and Massachusetts Institute of Technology in second. Oxford and Cambridge remain in “an elite top six of Anglo-American super-brands”, according to Times Higher Education magazine’s 2013 rankings. The report noted that “three UK universities have fallen out of the top 100 since 2011″ and that some “UK institutions are losing stature”, urging that to stay competitive, there was a need to increase university funding with a view to “protecting the research budget, making UK research more accessible and delivering a better student experience.” Sally Hunt, of the University and College Union, was quoted saying: “It is unlikely that recent negative headlines around the world about the UK threatening to deport students, coupled with changes to how students are classified for migration figures, will have done much to enhance our reputation on the international stage.
In FEATURE: Tsunami images displayed at U.N.’s “Journeys to School” exhibit (Kyodo, Mar 6) Called “Journeys to School”, an ongoing photo exhibit at U.N. headquarters that runs through March 26 features photos of children on their way to school, including students in the coastal city of Higashimatsushima, where most schools were destroyed by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in northeastern Japan two years ago. The photos show how a natural disaster can really affect the way children go to school even in a country where things are pretty well organized as well as other challenges brought on by natural disasters, conflicts, extreme poverty or discrimination that the students have to overcome.
SAT is getting a redesign (NY Times Feb 28, 2013) Excerpted below:
The College Board is planning to redesign the SAT, less than a decade since its last revision, which introduced a writing section, eliminated analogies and raised the value of a perfect score.
It’s too early to tell how or when the SAT will change, said Kathleen Steinberg, a spokeswoman for the College Board, which administers the exam. But David Coleman, the College Board’s new president, has criticized the SAT before, in part for the vocabulary words on the exam and for failing to provide source material to analyze and cite in the written portion that requires students to construct an argument.
Mr. Coleman did not address those issues in a letter to College Board members this week, but he did identify some broad goals for the redesign.
“We will develop an assessment that mirrors the work that students will do in college so that they will practice the work they need to do to complete college,” Mr. Coleman wrote. “An improved SAT will strongly focus on the core knowledge and skills that evidence shows are most important to prepare students for the rigors of college and career.”
Mr. Coleman, who became president of the College Board last October after having served as an architect of the Common Core curriculum standards, praised the SAT for being “aligned to the Common Core as well as or better than any assessment that has been developed for college admission and placement.”
He called the SAT “the best standardized measure of college and career readiness currently available” but added that “the College Board has a responsibility to the millions of students we serve each year to ensure that our programs are continuously evaluated and enhanced, and most importantly respond to the emerging needs of those we serve.
Some education professionals interpreted the announcement as the College Board’s response to increased competition with the ACT, Inside Higher Ed reported.”
See related article: Getting In Without the SAT (NY Times Blog, Mar 1) shows students two alternatives to relying on SAT scores: “you can withhold your scores from test-optional institutions, or you can apply exclusively to schools on this growing list, dropping out of the testing process entirely”… Read more here.
NY Times reported that the reopening of the newly refurbished and expanded Yale University Art Gallery with its added fourth-four gallery at a cost of $135 million is now where Classroom Meets Gallery (NY Times, Feb 1), allowing Yale professors to choose pieces from Yale’s vast collection “to serve as teaching tools. The unorthodox space, open to the public as well as students, serves as a potent visual metaphor for what is happening throughout the institution, the nation’s oldest university art museum, and in a broader movement to embed campus art collections much more deeply into university curriculums.”
What if students learn more quickly on their own, working in teams, than in a classroom with a teacher?
What if tests and discipline get in the way of the learning process rather than accelerate it?
Those are the questions Sugata Mitra has been asking since the late 1990s, and for which he was awarded the $1 million TED Prize on Tuesday, the first day of the TED 2013 conference….
Mitra, professor of educational technology at Newcastle University, won the prize for his concept of “self organizing learning environments,” an alternative to traditional schooling that relies on empowering students to work together on computers with broadband access to solve their own problems, with adults intervening to provide encouragement and admiration, rather than top-down instruction…
He [Mitra] argues that today’s world needs a new system in which the role of computers in aiding learning is paramount.
To help speed learning, Mitra has recruited hundreds of “grannies,” volunteers from the United Kingdom, many of them retired teachers, who function more in the role of “grandparents” than teachers, skypeing into learning environments around the world, encouraging students to do their best and praising their achievements….
With the TED Prize money, Mitra intends to build a laboratory, most likely in India, where he can test his theories through experiments that supplement schoolwork. He likens it to a “safe cybercafe for children” where they can strengthen their English skills, which can be a route to economic advancement.
Mitra said he doesn’t think teachers are obsolete but suggests their roles may be changing as students increasingly have access to self-learning through computers. And he argues that his self-organized teams may be an alternative to regular schools in places where teachers may not be available. …”
‘Dokdo’ island classes to become mandatory for S Korean children (Japan Today, Feb 27) Article excerpt below:
“Beginning this year, all schools will be required to provide a minimum of 10 hours of classes annually on “the importance of Dokdo”, a ministry spokesman told AFP.
The South Korea-controlled islets in the East Sea (Sea of Japan) are known as Takeshima in Japan and are the subject of a bitter and decades-old territorial dispute…
The education ministry said the new Dokdo classes were aimed at countering what it sees as a growing disinformation campaign by Tokyo.
“Some schools have already offered such Dokdo-related classes, but we viewed it necessary to set specific hours,” the spokesman said.
On Thursday, a state-funded education center, known as the “Dokdo School” will be officially dedicated in the midwestern city of Cheonan, providing families and schoolchildren with historical background on the islets…
The territorial row deepened last year following a surprise visit by then South Korean president Lee Myung-Bak to the island chain.”
Another historical link to visit: Analects: Let’s not forget Re-examining the cultural Revolution (The Economist, Mar 7)
Daniel Wong in Is it a terrible mistake to send your children for tuition classes? (Yahoo! news, Feb 28) addresses the fears that lead parents to send children to tuition classes and suggests antidotes and alternatives to a life that over-emphasizes academics…
Having shut most same-sex schools after the Communist Party came to power in 1949, China’s only all-boys junior high schools in the country are now privately run. Now Shanghai tries out all-boys classes as girls leap forward (Japan Times, Feb 27)
“SHANGHAI – Teenage boys in a Shanghai school are on the front line of teaching reform after the world’s top-scoring education system introduced male-only classes over worries they are lagging behind girls.
Rows of white-shirted boys are put through their paces as they are called up individually to complete a chemical formula by teacher Shen Huimin, who hopes that a switch to male-only classes will help them overcome their reticence. …
The Shanghai school system topped the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) worldwide assessment tests of 15-year-olds in 2009, the most recent available, ahead of South Korea, Finland, Hong Kong and Singapore.
But even so officials are concerned that some male students may be slower than their female counterparts in development and certain academic areas, such as language, and the shift toward single-sex classes aims to boost boys’ confidence.
A prominent Chinese educator, Sun Yunxiao, found the proportion of boys classed among the top scholars in the country’s “gaokao” university entrance exams plunged from 66.2 percent to 39.7 percent between 1999 and 2008. …
Shanghai’s elite No. 8 High School is halfway through the initial year of an experiment, putting 60 boys into two classes of their own — a quarter of its first-year students — and teaching them with a special curriculum.
“This is a big breakthrough,” said school principal Lu Qi- sheng. “There’s lots of hope — hope that boys will grow up better.
“Boys when they are young do not spend enough time studying,” he explained. “Boys’ maturity, especially for language and showing self-control, lags behind girls.”…
The scheme was launched after China’s government called for more “diversification” in educational choices within the state system….
A Peking University professor has called for an even bolder reform, suggesting in September that boys should start school one or two years later than girls.”
Next up, we take a look at educational issues brewing in the UK:
The school with 20 spoken languages (Guardian, Feb 28) Not one pupil at Gladstone primary in Peterborough speaks English as a first language. But, despite the challenges, it has received a glowing Ofsted report. This is a good story about multiculturalism and bilingualism from the UK … about “the 450-pupil school has made the national news. Gladstone Primary is believed to be the only school in the country where none of its children speak English as their first language. This fact fascinates and repels media commentators. “If you wonder what’s gone wrong with Britain look no further than Gladstone Primary School, Peterborough, where not one pupil speaks English as a first language,” thundered Peter Hill in The Express, without actually explaining why. Is Gladstone Primary a vision of a dystopian future or a triumph of multiculturalism? And what is it like to be a pupil and a teacher there?…Where does a school begin when faced with so many foreign languages? … “Bilingualism isn’t a learning difficulty. A positive view of the bilingual child is the key…”
Guardian takes a look at The Oxford race gap: exploring the data (Guardian, 26 Feb 2013)
“New findings published in the Guardian reveal that 25.7% of white applicants received an offer to attend Oxford, versus 17.2% of students from ethnic minorities in 2010/11. …
White students were more than twice as likely to receive an offer to study medicine than those from ethnic minorities. The effect persisted for the most able students: 43% of white students who went on to receive three or more A* grades at A-level got offers, compared with just 22.1% of minority students.
For economics and management, the university’s most competitive course, 19.1% of white applicants received offers, compared with 9.3% for ethnic minorities. Among the most able, these success rates increased to 44.4% and 29.5% respectively….
The overall application gaps between different ethnic groups are stark, whether for all applicants or even just for those who go on to get the top grades (A*A*A* or better at A-level)…
More than half of white students achieving three A*s at A level and applying to Oxford in 2010 and 2011 were awarded a place, compared to one in three Chinese or Asian students, and less than one in four black applicants. These ethnic disparities were higher than those between all applicants regardless of grade …”
In her blog post, We’re so well educated – but we’re useless (Guardian Blog, Feb 25) Leonie Veerman lampoons her generation for being internet-savvy but hopelessly bankrupt in terms of life skills… somewhat in the same vein, we have Mari-Jane Willia’s articleshe urges that beyond skills in academic area, we
Eton College is a school that occupies a very particular place in the country’s psychology – and its influence is spreading. Is this where Michael Gove is getting his education idea …
Why Gove’s type of education is not the way forward (Guardian, Feb 25) “There is plenty of rigour in education already – even in arts and humanities. We don’t need to go back to the past to find it” … writes Estelle Morris
Secondary schools should look to primaries for innovative ideas (Guardian, 6 Feb)
The creative curriculum is alive and kicking in primary schools, but it is in danger of being dead and buried in secondary education, says Adam Webster…
English Students Lag International Peers by Nearly 2 Years (Educationnews.org, Feb 26) Not even the brightest students in England are performing as well in academics as their similarly talented peers in the Far East, according to a study from the University of London’s Institute of Education. Although at age 10 the academic outcomes are similar, as children get older England begins to lose ground, with the gap widening to as much as 2 years by the time they turn 16.
I’m setting up a free school – and I know the system isn’t working with implications we can’t control, Toby Blume tells us why leaving things to market forces won’t work… in a Guardian commentary (excerpted below):
“Leaving things to the market clearly won’t work. In fact I’m deeply uncomfortable about even describing education as a market: it’s children’s education we’re talking about. But neither do I believe that the alternative is to call for a return to a post-1945 model. Rather than rejecting outright the idea of free schools, I would encourage consideration of how the policy can be adapted to deliver the education provision we want.
Two things need to happen if free schools are to become a force for social good. First, the government needs to play a more directive role in determining where the current provision is inadequate. Support could be targeted at areas that are currently poorly served – not just by the quality of provision, but also the type of provision. Outstanding selective schools that take just a tiny proportion of local children, or high-performing single-sex schools offer no choice for parents.
Second, we need to support parents and local communities in areas that are poorly served by current schools, to believe that there is an alternative and then help them to realise their ambitions. This will require educational experts and community development practitioners to work together to encourage local parents to develop their own solutions to the problems they face and bring these ambitions to fruition. Until those two things happen, it’s my belief that we will see increasing evidence of market failure accompanying state failure in our education system …”
More article links on reforms to UK education:
Computing in schools: teaching the next generation of computer scientists (Guardian, Feb 13) and the related Computer science added to English Baccalaureate: ICT teachers react
Not even the brightest students in England are performing as well in academics as their similarly… according to this Telegraph article English Students Lag International Peers by Nearly 2 Years
Online Learning May Not Help Those Who Need Help Most (Educationnews.org)
A study by Di Xu and Shanna Smith Jaggars from the Community College Research Center at Teachers College, Columbia University finds that students perform worse in online courses than they do in traditional ones. This is one of the first comprehensive research efforts aimed at figuring out how such courses compare to the ones taught. The authors looked at the results of more than 40,000 students and their results in nearly 500,000 courses and found that those enrolled in online courses were more likely to drop out or fail compared to their peers taking classes face-to-face with the instructor. The likelihood of failure was also determined to be inconsistent across all subjects and across groups studied, such as for humanities, like English and Social Studies (which the article surmised required peer support). Males, Black students, younger kids and those who already had lower grade-point-average had the widest gap between their performance in online courses and those taught in a typical classroom. Read the article here
Study: College Students Resist Idea of Switching to E-Books (educationnews.org, Feb 25) The march towards the total replacement of traditional textbooks with e-book counterparts has hit a snag in the form of a new study released by researchers from Canada’s Ted Rogers School of Management at Ryerson University. The findings show that students think that they learn better from traditional texts and would feel that their studies would suffer if they were forced to make the switch to electronic versions…
Spotlight on books:
Read Japan Times review of the Law reference title: The Compendium of Basic Laws of Japan, by Ted Toku Morita
“The Art of Changing the Brain by James E. Zull (2002, Stylus Publishing), it is subtitled “Enriching the Practice of Teaching by Exploring the Biology of the Brain” (Read this review by Rebecca Reid)
I found an article by James Zull himself “The Art of Changing the Brain” http://www.dekampanje.org/NL/Artikelen/includes/el200409_zull.pdf where he informs us of his teaching practices, and I found the sections “Don’t Explain” and “Build on Errors” to be very helpful, especially where he shows us how he practises it in the classroom.
On kids’ health, growth, safety and parenting matters:
Nearly a year after the government set tougher safety standards for radioactive materials in food and drink, roughly 2,000 samples–mostly from wild mushrooms, seafood and game–were found to exceed the new limit.
Most of the food products showing cesium levels higher than the safety standards were not for commercial distribution and were collected only for the test.
Marine products such as flatfish, boar and other wild meat and mushrooms accounted for 80 percent of the contaminated items seen in tests from April 2012 to January 2013. The vegetables that exceeded the standards were mostly gathered from the wild.
All drinking water, infant formula and baby milk tested showed lower cesium levels than the standards.
Under the standards that took effect on April 1, 2012, the limit for general food items is 100 becquerels of radioactive cesium per kilogram. The limit for milk and infant formula is 50 becquerels per kilogram. The new standards are much tougher than the tentative ones decided on immediately after the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant following the March 11, 2011, Great East Japan Earthquake.
“After a round of the seasons with the new standards, we have gone through almost all of the food items that could contain radioactivity,” a health ministry official said.
Experts say radiation levels will be affected for a long time. Cesium 137, for instance, has a half-life of 30 years, and radioactive contamination in mountainous areas can reach seawater through river flow.
Yasuyuki Muramatsu, a chemistry professor at Gakushuin University who has been studying the radioactive content in mushrooms, said some types of fungi may absorb higher radioactivity levels.
“It depends upon the variety,” he said. “But wild mushrooms need to be tested for at least 10 years.”
Muramatsu has tested wild mushrooms growing in Fukushima Prefecture.
He said there was no sign of cesium levels having decreased in the second year after the accident.
While cesium has no longer been detected in rivers and seawater, it can cling to organic substances such as clay and fallen leaves.
“Bottom fish, which consume marine organisms that eat accumulated leaves in the sea bottom, are likely to remain contaminated,” said Tatsuo Aono, an expert in marine radioecology at the National Institute of Radiological Sciences.
According to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, the central and local governments carried out about 230,000 tests for cesium between April 2012 and January 2013.
Of those tests, about 2,000, or 0.9 percent, had cesium levels that exceeded government standards. Cesium levels are diminishing, the ministry said.
Fifty-five percent of the samples with higher cesium levels were detected in Fukushima Prefecture, while Iwate, Tochigi, Miyagi, Ibaraki and Gunma prefectures each had more than 100 samples that exceeded the government limit.
The central government asked 17 prefectural governments mainly in eastern Japan to test food and drink for cesium. When high levels are detected in a food item, its distribution is stopped either voluntarily by the producer or by a government ban.
While the government focused its testing on foods and areas that showed high levels of radioactivity in the past, the results painted a different picture.
More than 60 percent of the food samples tested were beef, as radioactive cesium had been detected in cows that were fed rice straw immediately following the Fukushima No. 1 accident. But none of the roughly 17,000 tests conducted on beef in January exceeded the government limit.
On the other hand, only 1,493 commercially distributed food items, including vegetables and fruits, were tested. Of those, only one item, dried mushrooms, were found to have had radioactive levels exceeding the government standards.
While the risk of radiation-contaminated food escaping the tests and appearing on store shelves has been sharply reduced, it is still not zero.
Since April 2012, the government has introduced new shipping bans on more than 130 food items in 14 prefectures.
On the other hand, shipping bans on many other items have been lifted after their radiation levels dropped below the government standards.
The government plans to review food items to be tested from fiscal 2013, which starts in April.
(This article was written by Senior Staff Writer Fumikazu Asai and Akiyoshi Abe.)
Related news: New way to remove cesium from rice fields (Yomiuri, Feb.23)
A team of researchers has announced positive results with an experimental new method using clay to remove radioactive cesium from rice paddies, without scraping off surface soil…but as the method involves draining the paddy water and separating the clay from the soil (and thereby the nutrients), the resultant yield was also lower.
A global team of experts says residents zapped by the most radiation from the Fukushima nuclear meltdowns face an increased cancer risk so small it probably won’t be detectable.
LONDON – Two years after the Fukushima nuclear disaster, an international team of experts said Thursday that residents of areas hit by the highest doses of radiation face an increased cancer risk so small it probably won’t be detectable.
In fact, experts calculated the increase at about 1 extra percentage point added to a Japanese infant’s lifetime cancer risk.
“The additional risk is quite small and will probably be hidden by the noise of other (cancer) risks like people’s lifestyle choices and statistical fluctuations,” said Richard Wakeford of the University of Manchester, one of the authors of the report. “It’s more important not to start smoking than having been in Fukushima.”
The report was issued by the World Health Organization, which asked scientists to study the health effects of the disaster in Fukushima Prefecture.
The most exposed populations were directly under the plumes of radiation after three reactors at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant suffered meltdown and spewed radiation into the surrounding air, soil and water.
In the report, the highest increases in risk are for people exposed as babies to radiation in the most heavily affected areas. Normally in Japan, the lifetime risk of developing cancer of an organ is about 41 percent for men and 29 percent for women.
The new report says that for infants in the most heavily exposed areas, the radiation from the nuclear plant would add about 1 percentage point to those numbers.
Experts had been particularly worried about a spike in thyroid cancer, because radioactive iodine released in nuclear accidents is absorbed by the thyroid, especially in children. After the Chernobyl disaster, about 6,000 children exposed to radiation later developed thyroid cancer because many drank contaminated milk after the accident.
After Fukushima, dairy radiation levels were closely monitored, but children in Japan generally are not big milk drinkers.
The WHO report estimates that women exposed as infants to the most radiation after the Fukushima accident would have a 70 percent higher chance of getting thyroid cancer in their lifetimes. But thyroid cancer is extremely rare and one of the most treatable cancers when caught early. A woman’s normal lifetime risk of developing it is about 0.75 percent. That number would rise by 0.5 under the calculated increase for women who got the highest radiation doses as infants.
Wakeford said the increase may be so small it will probably not be observable.
For people beyond the most directly affected areas of Fukushima, Wakeford said the projected cancer risk from the radiation dropped dramatically. “The risks to everyone else were just infinitesimal.”
David Brenner of Columbia University in New York, an expert on radiation-induced cancers, said that although the risk to individuals is tiny outside the most contaminated areas, some cancers might still result, at least in theory. But they’d be too rare to be detectable in overall cancer rates, he said.
Brenner said the numerical risk estimates in the WHO report were not surprising. He also said they should be considered imprecise because of the difficulty in determining risk from low doses of radiation. He was not connected with the WHO report. …”
“A greenling caught in the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant’s small harbor contained 510,000 becquerels of radioactive cesium per kilogram, 5,100 times above the state-set safety limit, Tokyo Electric Power Co. said.
If someone were to eat 1 kg of fish with this level, they would be exposed to about 7.7 millisieverts of internal radiation. Also caught during efforts by Tepco to rid the harbor of all fish was a spotbelly rockfish containing 277,000 becquerels of radioactive cesium per kilogram. …
The highest level of radioactive cesium found in fish had been 254,000 becquerels per kilogram, also in a spotbelly rockfish caught in the harbor …” Read more here…
Radiation levels fall 40 pct in 80 km of Fukushima Plant last year Article excerpt below:
The decrease was much sharper than the expected annual fall of about 21 pct from natural radioactive decay of cesium-134 and cesium-137, due possibly to the effects of rain and other factors, the ministry said.
The recent aircraft survey was conducted in the 80-kilometer-radius zone from last October through November.”
Student program with China cut due to smog (Yomiuri, Feb.23). The Awara municipal government in Fukui Prefecture decided to cancel an annual exchange program for middle and high school students with its Chinese sister city due to strong parental concerns over the potential health hazard caused by the PM2.5 pollutant problem in China.
Eighteen middle and high school students were scheduled to visit a middle school in Shaoxing, Zhejiang Province, for six days from March 13.
However, the Awara municipal government decided to skip the event city officials said.
Some topics of interest by the BBC:
Many parents can’t help but try to shape their children’s taste in music. But is it an effort doomed to failure, or worse, will it make children hate the music their parents love, and love the music their parents hate?
Katherine Lee has a few pointers on Table Manners for Kids
Distracted smartphone ‘addicts’ at greater risk of mishaps (Japan Today, Feb 24) Article excerpt below:
“… such public nuisances appear to be on the increase.
Katsumi Tokuda, a professor at Tsukuba University medical school, conducted a survey of 300 people in January. The survey compiled cases in which the respondents said they had experienced collisions with smartphone users on station platforms or steps.
One of the most frequent type, so-called “mixed accidents,” involve people who utilize more than one device simultaneously, such as those who listen to iPods while operating their smartphones, while crossing the street against the traffic light.
“Smartphones can handle larger amounts of data than do regular cell phones, so users devote more time to looking at them, and use them for longer durations,” observes Tokuda. “Users will suddenly stop whatever they’re doing while operating. Under such circumstances, it’s natural for collisions to occur.”
Tokuda’s survey found that phone owners used their devices to access visual data 83% of the time, as opposed to 11% for voice communications.
“Visually handicapped people tend to compensate by becoming more sensitive to sounds,” observes Takao Yanagihara, a lecturer at Kinki University Faculty of Engineering. “But people with normal vision who gaze at their smart phones while walking are not receptive to sounds. And by simply screening out visual data, it’s extremely dangerous.”
To be clear, the article is not referring to people who glance at their phone screen to check arrival of incoming mails, but those who feel the urge to access them constantly—whether walking or cycling or even, yes, driving their cars.
“Many smartphone addicts are actually SNS addicts,” says Kobayashi. An Internet survey of 556 people between the ages of 25 to 59 conducted last summer by Mobile Marketing Data Labo found that about 40% of respondents said they periodically accessed an SNS via their smartphones. Broken down by age segment, it’s apparent that usage by younger people is particularly heavy: 52.7% in their 20s and 42.2% in their 30s gave positive replies, as opposed to 37.8% in their 40s and 26.5% in their 50s.”…
Parents if you want to boost your child’s writing skills, you might find this service useful: Online Writing Enrichment Classes for Homeschoolers – San Diego Scribblers now offers online classes for students everywhere– visit their website www.sandiegoscribblers.com and click on Online Classes
Last but not least, just because it’s cool to pass the following along…
Hideki Watanabe, a 45-year-old dentist from Tobe invents a Self-stirring saucepan that has foodies in a spin
Microsoft unveils self-sketching whiteboard prototype (BBC news, technology), an interactive whiteboard that aims to interpret users’ sketches to complete the diagrams they were drawing.
Kagoshima’s 1st Japanese ceratopsian fossil found (Yomiuri, Feb.27)
KAGOSHIMA–The Satsumasendai municipal board of education in Kagoshima Prefecture has announced the discovery of the fossilized tooth of a ceratopsian dinosaur in an 80-million-year-old stratum on Shimokoshiki Island.
Ceratopsians were a group of plant-eating, horned dinosaurs that originated in East Asia in the early Cretaceous period. They migrated to North America, where they flourished in the late Cretaceous period.
According to the National Museum of Nature and Science in Tokyo, there had been a previous discovery of neoceratops, a more primitive dinosaur, in Hyogo Prefecture. This is the second discovery of fossils belonging to horned dinosaurs and the first discovery of a ceratopsian fossil in the country. There have only been two other discoveries of ceratops fossils in Asia, in China and Uzbekistan. This finding will be reported at a meeting of the Paleontological Society of Japan in Kumamoto Prefecture in June.
The tooth fossil constitutes a joint of a dental root measuring 12.1 millimeters long, 8.6 millimeters high and 3.7 millimeters thick. It was discovered during a survey conducted by the board of education in November 2011.
As ceratopsians were believed to bite off vegetation using their mouth like a pair of scissors, they were the only dinosaurs to have two dental roots. The discovery’s shape helped its identification as pertaining to ceratopsians. In particular, it nearly matched triceratops fossils, which have been discovered mainly in North America. Experts judged the length of the dinosaur’s body to be two to three meters or more, based on the size of the dental root.
That’s all folks till the next schoolyear, enjoy your springbreak!
Are you a Japanese college student who would like to like to spend 9 months (September 2013 through May 2014) working as a intern at The Carter Center in Atlanta?
The Carter Center is a nongovernmental, not-for-profit organization founded in 1982 by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalynn Carter and works to advance human rights and alleviate human suffering. The Yoshida Scholarship provides interns with round trip airfare from Japan to Atlanta and a monthly stipend for living expenses. The deadline to apply is April 19, 2013. Details in Japanese can be found at this page of the Yoshida Scholarship Foundation.
Public Yakan Gakko ['ya-kan' lit. means 'night-time'] are public night schools designated for people who were not able to complete their compulsory education. ‘Yakan gakkyu’ means education by night classes.
Part-time schools at junior highs, high schools and universities run programs for people who want to continue their learning while working, and they function as educational institutions for people in all sorts of situations. Take, for example, junior high night school. It offers retraining for people who were not able to receive sufficient education because of the Second World War. In addition, recently many repatriated orphans who had been left behind in China and Koreans living in Japan have studied Japanese in junior high night schools.
Generally speaking, while you should check with your local ward or city office for local requirements, the requirements to enrol generally are cited as follows:
People who meet the following conditions are eligible to take classes:
- Did not graduate from either elementary school or junior high school
- Living or working in Tokyo (requirement of Tokyo Metropolitan Board of Education) or other ward/city location depending on where the night classes in question are held
- 15 years old or older
In addition to full-time high schools, part-time (daytime or nighttime) and correspondence high schools exist, however information on the internet is hard to come by. It is best to contact your local city or ward office (shi-yakusho or ku-yakusho) as the case might be, and ask for a listing, and to talk to your Board of Education official or school counselor there.
For other information on night high school classes, contact the Zenkoku Juku Kyoukai (The Japan Juku Association). Their website offers juku information all over Japan and gives some form of assessments on the jukus. In addition, http://yakan-senmon.com/ offers a search function for vocational night schools in your area. Toyo Institute of Art and Design runs night programs as well.
Public Junior High Night Schools – to read more about the night schools see this page from the Japanese Model of Schooling.
The public night junior high schools for Tokyo Metropolitan area are listed here below.
【Hachioji city Dai-go Junior High School】
【Katsushika ward Futaba Junior High School】
【Sumida ward Bunka Junior High School】
【Kojiya Junior High School of Ota City】
【Arakawa ward Dai-kyu junior high school】
【Edogawa ward Komatsugawa Daini junior high scool】
For public night junior high school classes in Shinjuku, visit the Shinjuku City Official website page here. Or see listings below.
Adachi Municipal Daiyon Junior High School
1-2-33 Umejima, Adachi City
Hachioji Municipal Daigo Junior High School
4-19-1 Myojin-cho, Hachioji City
Katsushika Municipal Futaba Junior High School
1-10-1 Ohanajaya, Katsushika City
Sumida Municipal Bunka Junior High School
1-22-7 Bunka, Sumida City
Ota Municipal Kojiya Junior High School
3-6-23 Nishi-Kojiya, Ota City
Setagaya Municipal Mishuku Junior High School
1-3-43 Taishido, Setagaya City
Arakawa Municipal Daikyu Junior High School
2-23-5 Higashi-Ogu, Arakawa City
Edogawa Municipal Komatsugawa Daini Junior High School
3-20-1 Hirai, Edogawa City
There are 5 night junior high schools in Yokohama for persons living or working in Yokohama who are of a designated age (age 15 or older as of April), but have not graduated from junior high school. Non-Japanese who have completed their home country’s compulsory education are not eligible. Classes are taught in Japanese, and held 5 times a week from Monday to Friday from 5:30PM to 8:30PM.
•Yokohama City Tsurumi Middle School: Tsurumi station (Keikyu express / JR), 10 minutes walk
•Yokohama City Urashimaoka Middle School: By bus from JR Higashi Kanagawa station, Urashimaoka Middle School stop, 2 minutes walk
•Yokohama City Nishi Middle School: 10 minutes walk from Keikyu Express Tobe station
•Yokohama City Nakaodai Middle School: 5 minutes walk from JR Yamate station
•Yokohama City Maita Middle School: 5 minutes walk from Maita station on subway
To enter these classes, please contact Yokohama City Board of Education Instructions and Planning Division (Phone : 045-671-3266).
Or contact the Board of Education Secretariat, Elementary and Junior High School Education Division (Phone: 045-671-3266)
Source: City of Yokohama website
For the Sapporo area: please refer to the SapporoEnjyuku website
夜間中学生 : 133人からのメッセージ /
Yakan chūgakusei : hyaku sanjūsannin karano messēji 東方出版, Ōsaka : Tōhō Shuppan, 2005.
Last month, on our Edu Watch column, we reported that Japanese children improving in the TIMSS rankings, reversing the previous declining trend. Policy-makers and observers of Japanese educational scene, along with those in the US and UK, have often made much of any perceived slide in rankings-related academic decline of students.
However, this hand-wringing might be pointless…because according to a New Scientist report, researchers say that new analyses’ results suggest that there may no statistically significant relationship between prowess shown on TIMSS or PISA tests and the prosperity or future success of a country, OR that high test scores could instead indicate the lack of entrepreneurial creativity and initiative and therefore be a predictor of economic failure.
Below are excerpts from the New Scientist 7 January 2013 report:
West vs Asia education rankings are misleading by MacGregor Campbell
“MATHEMATICS and science are as essential to modern economies as coal was to the industrial revolution. So when the results of international tests show Western schoolchildren lagging behind their peers in countries like Singapore and Japan, alarm bells start ringing.
The latest results to cause consternation are from a comparison of mathematical and scientific knowledge called TIMSS, or Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study. This is given every four years to 9-10-year-olds and 13-14-year-olds from more than 50 countries.
The results, released last month, show that students from the UK, US and Australia continue to perform disappointingly. In maths, for example, English, American and Australian 13-year-olds were outperformed by their peers in South Korea, Singapore, Chinese Taipei, Hong Kong, Japan and Russia. It was a similar story in science.
Cue much wailing and gnashing of teeth. US secretary of education Arne Duncan lamented that “a number of nations are out-educating us today… If we as a nation don’t turn that around, those nations will soon be outcompeting us in a knowledge-based, global economy.” …
… the common-sense connection between test scores and future economic success doesn’t necessarily hold up. For developed nations, there is scant evidence that TIMSS rankings correlate with measures of prosperity or future success. The same holds for a similar test, the Program for International Student Achievement (PISA).
In 2008, Christopher Tienken, then at Rutgers University in New Jersey, compared 1995 TIMSS scores with the 2006 Growth Competitiveness Index. This index was devised by the World Economic Forum to measure a nation’s future economic health. Tienken found that for developed countries there was no statistically significant relationship (International Journal of Education Policy & Leadership, vol 3, no 4).
Tienken, now at Seton Hall University in South Orange, New Jersey, has since done a similar analysis of the 2003 PISA mathematics rankings and two measures of economic success: per-capita GDP in 2010, and the 2010-2011 Growth Competitiveness Index. The study, to be published in April, again found no statistically significant relationship.
These findings make TIMSS and PISA rankings seem irrelevant. But it could be worse than that. In many cases, high test scores correlate with economic failure.
Japanese students, for example, have always been near the top of the TIMSS. You might expect those high-flying students to be driving a high-flying economy. Yet the Japanese economy stagnated throughout the 1990s and 2000s.
There may be no causal connection, but the same negative correlation is seen elsewhere.
In 2007, Keith Baker of the US Department of Education made a rough comparison of long-term correlations between the 1964 mathematics scores and several measures of national success decades later.
Baker found negative relationships between mathematics rankings and numerous measures of prosperity and well-being: 2002 per-capita wealth, economic growth from 1992 to 2002 and the UN’s Quality of Life Index. Countries scoring well on the tests were also less democratic. Baker concluded that league tables of international success are “worthless” (Phi Delta Kappan, vol 89, p 101).
A more recent analysis of 23 countries found a significant negative relationship between 2009 PISA scores and ranking on the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor’s measure of perceived entrepreneurial capabilities. This counts the percentage of people in a country who feel confident that they could start a business.
With so many indicators showing a negative relationship, perhaps we need to reconsider how we interpret success – or failure – on international education scores. “If we believe that these tests actually tell us how well a kid or a country is doing, and then we hold people accountable for that, those people are going to focus on what’s most likely to be tested, and they’re going to cut out everything else,” says Tienken….
We might instead consider that in a global economy, where the answers to almost any standard question are a few smartphone taps away, skills like creativity and initiative will be the true drivers of prosperity. None of these traits can be measured easily by tests. When testing consumes precious educational time, focus and money, they get squeezed out.
“Standardised tests reward the ability to find answers to pre-existing questions, but finding the question is more important,” says Yong Zhao, an education researcher at the University of Oregon in Eugene who found the negative relationship between PISA scores and entrepreneurship. …” Read more here.
Santa Claus is here to stay in Japan, as well as in the December festive city scenes of much of the developed world. And while the background to Santa Claus is increasingly better known, a most recent archaeological discovery helps throw more light on the early historical origins and background of the Santa celebration and tradition.
The practice of venerating the early 4th century Greek Saint Nicholas (and the derivative Dutch Sinterklaas and pre-cursor to Santa Claus) who lived in Lycia or modern-day Demre, Turkey and who is the patron saint of sailors, fishermen, merchants, in many of the Balkan and Central European nations, is believed to have been a Christian replacement for pagan deity worship, and the Bulgarian remains represented the takeover of worship buildings that housed the older pre-Christian pagan deity, Poseidon*. A new archaeological discovery in Bulgaria (see news report posted below) of the well-preserved remains of what is believed to be the altar to Poseidon’s temple, located virtually at the doorstep of a Christian church dedicated to Saint Nicholas, supports this theory.
Poseidon holding a trident. Corinthian plaque, 550-525 BC. From Penteskouphia currently in the Louvre Photo: Wikipedia
From the Wikipedia:
“The historical Saint Nicholas is commemorated and revered among Anglican, Catholic, Lutheran, and Orthodox Christians. In addition, some Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, and Reformed churches have been named in honor of Saint Nicholas. Saint Nicholas is the patron saint of sailors, merchants, archers, thieves, children, pawnbrokers and students in various countries in the Balkans, Central Europe (Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, and Hungary), and Eastern Europe (Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Georgia, Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania, Russia, Serbia), as well as in parts of Western Europe (Belgium, France, the Netherlands, Greece, and Portugal). He is also the patron saint of Aberdeen, Amsterdam, Barranquilla, Bari, Burgas, Beit Jala, Fribourg, Huguenots, Kozani, Liverpool, Paternopoli, Sassari, Siggiewi, and Lorraine. He was also a patron of the Varangian Guard of the Byzantine emperors, who protected his relics in Bari.
The Dutch St. Nicholas holiday tradition, a variant of the pan-European St. Nicholas custom, filtered into the United States through the many European immigrants who guarded their cherished customs, and in time turned into the current celebration of Santa Claus. A number of common characteristics between the Dutch St. Nicholas and Santa Claus festive celebrations can be discerned, click here to read about them.
How Sinterklaas morphed into Santa Claus (Extreme Llft sculpture by Ron Hendriks) Photo: St Nicholas Center Collection
Fit for a god: Archaeologists find Poseidon temple in Bulgaria A summary and excerpt follow below:
Archaeologists think an ancient building found in Sozopol, Bulgaria, could have been a temple for Poseidon, the Greek god of the sea. A large and relatively intact altar recently discovered in the building led to that conclusion, said National History Museum Director Bozhidar Dimitrov. The Roman empire’s official shift from polytheism to Christianity in 330 A.D. sparked the destruction of many such temples, which were replaced with Christian worship sites. Greek Reporter blog (12/16)
By A. Papapostolou on December 16, 2012 In Bulgaria, News
One of the buildings excavated in the Bulgarian Black Sea town of Sozopol appears to have been a temple to Poseidon, going by the discovery of a large and relatively well-preserved altar to the Greek god. This is according to Bozhidar Dimitrov, Director of Bulgaria’s National History Museum. Archaeologists found the building in front of the medieval fortified wall of the seaside town, Dimitrov said.
He said that the numerous pieces of marble found during excavations indicate that after the declaration of Christianity as the office religion of the Roman empire in 330 CE, the emperor’s order to destroy the temples of other religions was carried out, followed by the building of houses of worship dedicated to Christian saints, with iconography with features similar to that of the ancient gods.
Dimitrov said that in Sozopol, there was an example of how a temple to the Thracian horseman in the centre of the old town was converted into a church dedicated to Saint George. He said, according to a report by local news agency Focus, that in the case of the temple to Poseidon – the god of the sea – the time of its destruction saw the building of a Christian church a very short distance away, dedicated to Saint Nicholas, the patron saint of fishermen and sailors. The statement about one of the latest archaeological finds in Sozopol is the town’s newest headline-maker on the archaeological front this year….”
(Sources: Sofia globe, Focus)
Sources & References:
Saint Nicholas (Wikipedia)
Domenico, Roy Palmer (2002). The regions of Italy: a reference guide to history and culture. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 21. ISBN 0-313-30733-4. “Saint Nicholas (Bishop of Myra) replaced Sabino as the patron saint of the city…A Greek from what is now Turkey, he lived in the early fourth century.”
St. Nicholas and American Christmas customs (St. Nicholas Center)
“In mid-November Dutch television broadcasts the official arrival of St. Nicholas and his helper Zwarte Piet live to the nation. Coming by steamer from Spain, each year they dock in the harbor of a different city or village. Wearing traditional bishop’s robes, Sinterklaas rides into town on a white horse to be greeted by the mayor. A motorcade and a brass band begin a great parade which leads Sinterklaas and his Piets through the town.
Nearly every city, town and village has its own Sinterklaas parade. He usually arrives by horseback, but occaisionally he comes by boat, carriage, moped, or helicopter.
In the following weeks before St. Nicholas Day, December 6, Sinterklaas goes about the country to determine if the children have been well-behaved. He and his Zwarte Piet helpers visit children in schools, hospitals, department stores, and even at home. Bakeries are busy making speculaas, molded spice cookies, for the season.
During this time children sing Sinterklaas songs and put their shoes next to the window or door, or, by the fireplace or heater, along with a nice drawing, a wish-list and a carrot or hay, and maybe a saucer of water, for the horse. If St. Nicholas happens by while checking on their behavior, the next morning children may find chocolate coins or initial letter, candy treats, pepernoten, and little gifts in their shoes….
The Dutch celebrate Sinterklaas on December 5th, St. Nicholas Eve, with festive family parties when gifts and surprises are exchanged. In the Netherlands, unlike other places, adults as well as children join in the fun. As the Dutch like an element of surprise, a small gift may be wrapped in a huge box, or it may be hidden and require following clues to discover where it is.”
Poseidon, god of water and the sea as well as of earthquakes, was an important deity for the sea-faring Greeks. He lived at the bottom of the ocean and used his trident – a gift from the Cyclopes – to rule the waves. He used his trident to create straits, ports, islands and springs.
Although Poseidon is a greek god, according to Greek mythology, he is the son and product of the union of Cronus/Kronos and Rhea…and may thus have been of Mesopotamian/Middle Eastern/Anatolian origin. From Kronos, Poseidon received the dominion of the sea upon the division of the cosmos…which suggests a foreign borrowing. Kronos is connected to a festival called Kronia held in honour of Kronos to celebrate the harvest, and associated with the Canaanite-El/Hurrian-Sumerian-Anu sky-gods. Thus, Poseidon is believed to be a Phoenician-semitic derived deity. When Greek writers encountered the Levantine deity El, they rendered his name as Kronos. According to other sources, Cronus during Hellenic times, was the supreme god of Byblos (Syria) and was depicted on the coinage of Antiochus IV (175-164 BC) nude, leaning on a scepter, with three pairs of wings, two spread and one folded.
Alternative theories from the Wikipedia suggest an Indo-European or Anatolian provenance:
“Given Poseidon’s connection with horses as well as the sea, and the landlocked situation of the likely Indo-European homeland, Nobuo Komita has proposed that Poseidon was originally an aristocratic Indo-European horse-god who was then assimilated to Near Eastern aquatic deities when the basis of the Greek livelihood shifted from the land to the sea, or a god of fresh waters who was assigned a secondary role as god of the sea, where he overwhelmed the original Aegean sea deities such as Proteus and Nereus. Walter Burkert suggests that the Hellene cult worship of Poseidon as a horse god may be connected to the introduction of the horse and war-chariot from Anatolia to Greece around 1600 BC (Source: Burkert, Walter (1985). Greek Religion)”
Poseidon is said to have inherited the powers from Rhea, mother of Poseidon who hailed from Minoan-Crete and who was thought to be behind the delphic oracle at Delphi, is thought to have its origins in Gaia the pre-Indo-European Great Mother goddesses of Mesopotamia-through-Anatolia (James Mellaart, Marija Gimbutas and Barbara Walker), or Cybele, the Anatolian or Phrygian earth goddess. According to Wikipedia, “in historical times, the resemblances between the two goddesses were so marked that some Greeks regarded Cybele as their own Rhea, who had deserted her original home on Mount Ida in Crete and fled to Mount Ida in the wilds of Phrygia to escape Cronus. A reverse view was expressed by Virgil, and it is probably true that cultural contacts with the mainland brought Cybele to Crete, where she was transformed into Rhea or identified with an existing local goddess and her rites.” Rhea is also associated with the pomegranate, a fruit native to Iran and Iraq, and cultivated from the Caucasus and throughout the Middle East, as well as the Mediterranean region of southern Europe…
Photo credit for Poseidon temple image (top of the page): Focus news agency
Students, academics and professionals in Japan have been standing by their dependable FUJITSU Lifebooks for a long time, but where academic-life is concerned, only now has FUJITSU finally come through with the most winning tablet-PC and PC-tablet of all.
Windows® 8 Professional is everything the student needs for his/her work at school or college and at home.
“With the new STYLISTIC Q702 hybrid tablet, Fujitsu is delivering the best of both worlds: the portability and ease-of-use of a tablet, which is perfect for consuming content, and an attachable keyboard that converts the device into a full-fledged notebook for ergonomic content creation.” — Craig Parker, head of product marketing at Fujitsu
Called the “hybrid form factor, with a split personality” by Fujitsu tablet product manager, Dave Shaw, the device is “is absolut