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Thinking about Yutori Education: Japan, Taiwan, and the U.S. - 4

Earlier, my impression was that the educational reforms in Taiwan was a positive development, whereas reforms in the U.S. and Japan appeared to have somewhat negative implications. However, it is not appropriate to judge whether the educational systems of the three countries have been successful or not, based on limited information from some of my friends. In this closing essay, I summarize the overall trends and present some themes for current and future educational systems in Japan.

Japan is not only the country that has been struggling in finding the best balance in its educational system. The dilemma may be a continuous cyclical process, going back and forth between education for creativity and education for standardized examinations. Also, it may be a tendency that Japan and Taiwan follow the traces that the U.S. has left.
It is obvious that societal attributes affect the reforms of educational system in each country. In capitalistic worlds, such as Japan, Taiwan, and the U.S., a country must be competitive than others, considering other countries as rivals. Otherwise, they lose and cannot survive. The classification of countries, as well as of people, into winners or losers works globally. It must be debated whether education should agree with and reinforce the win-or-lose capitalistic principle.

National Policies
Political forces also affect the reforms in educational system. Governmental policies have determined the directions for the reform of educational systems in all of the three countries. For example, the U.S. government has even set punishments as well as rewards in order to promote the "No Child Left Behind" policy. The No Child Left Behind policy aims to help all children obtain equal outcomes, rather than equal opportunities.
Each policy has pros and cons: the No Child Left Behind policy focuses on minimizing disparities among children. It is meaningful to decrease and prevent disparities between children of rich and poor parents, or between more intellectually talented and less gifted children. When a public educational system is not sufficient for a child, his/her parents may provide their child with additional educational opportunities to achieve their desired outcomes. Affluent families can afford extra educational services for their children; however, poor families cannot. In addition, generally speaking, there are less alternative choices in rural areas to meet each family's expectations. Consequently, education disparities between rich and poor and between rural and urban can lead to further disparities in society in the future. Therefore, government is responsible for maintaining a certain level of public education for all children.
As equal outcomes among different children are too difficult to achieve, it may be worthwhile to evaluate the processes which are used to implement "No Child Left Behind". Experiences in which people are willing to share power with diverse people are precious learning opportunities for future adults. In this world of globalization, cultural competency becomes important in which you accept, respect, and collaborate with others with different backgrounds from your own. In particular, Japan has a rather homogeneous population, compared to other countries, and such training in developing cultural competency may have been missing in our traditional education system.

Conclusion: Community Participation
Finally, although governmental policies have strong impacts on the educational system for children, the level of community participation can be the key when people are accountable for the evaluation of their educational system. We need to keep paying attention to children's voices as well as parents' and teachers': what children want to do and how they want to be. What should children learn in their childhood to have a quality childhood and become mature adults who can contribute to their societies? In the long run, the educational system of a country is evaluated by means of the perceptions and behaviors of the children and people around them, both inside and outside their country.
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