Thursday, July 13, 2006

Fixing Japanese Education not Impossible

The Japanese education system is in horrendous condition. My children attend a Japanese public school. I talk to many parents and teachers. I also have 5 years experience as an inspirational speaker, and I have given more than 150 lectures to teachers, students and parents all over Japan. I have exchanged ideas on education, bullying, suicide, violence in the school and juvenile crime with more than 500 educators.

Even though the situation has rapidly worsened, the education authorities have shown a lack of will or wisdom, or both, to do what is necessary to fix the system. I believe a few matters should be considered:
- Students feel very put upon. They have an education system forced upon them in which the have no choice of courses and no input. In addition, they are taught what to think, but not how to think for themselves.
- Generally, teachers are insensitive to students and the struggles they face. They often neither teach nor nurture. The system is not designed to do that.
- The authorities, starting at the top, allow no effective means to punish students -- not even denial of club activities. Teachers are not taught in college how to deal with problem students, and many principals are afraid to take a stand for fear of losing their jobs.
- Parents, unable to nurture or discipline their children, demand that teachers do something that the parents themselves cannot do. Many teachers eventually pull into their shells and try to protect themselves. Children now have equal rights with parents and teachers, and in confrontations, it is usually the child who wins.
- Children have not been taught -- neither in the home nor at school -- moral direction. The message of the day is "We make our own rules," and I have heard students say this many times.
- Some principals have complained to me that it is impossible to teach morals and ethics apart from religion, in which these beliefs are rooted. The Japanese education system is founded upon Humanism, a nontheistic religion that lacks moral absolutes necessary for moral development.

The solution to this problem will not be easy, but it is also not impossible. We need to make the effort, pay the price and work to fix the system. We can do it!