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[YRP Students' Essays] The Education System in Japan

In the Japanese language, there are words such as 知恵 (wisdom), 知性 (intellect), 知識 (knowledge), and 知能 (intelligence), which all includes the "知" kanji. This means that all these words are related, and have a similar meaning. Furthermore, of course it is also true that by considering the meanings of each word, it would be noticeable that each word has its own meaning. So, what do they mean? Narrow it down to the definition of knowledge and intelligence, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, knowledge is information or awareness gained through experience or education and intelligence is the ability to gain and apply knowledge and skills. In other words, intelligence is the ability to learn, and knowledge is the result of applied intelligence. Moreover, when understanding the meaning of intelligence, the Latin word "intellectus" is understandable. The Latin word "intellectus" derives from "intus" (which means inside) and "legere" (which means to read). So, intelligence is the ability to go to depths by reading inside the facts to understand to discover the real, hidden meanings. Adding to that, it can also be said that intelligence is inherent, and knowledge is learnt.

That being said, how can intelligence which is inherent, be developed? What makes a person an intelligent person? There are no clear definitions on who is intelligent and who is not, but people have quoted about intelligence. Maya Angelou, an American author has been quoted as saying, "I'm grateful to intelligent people. That doesn't mean educated. That doesn't mean intellectual. I mean really intelligent. What black old people used to call 'mother wit' means intelligence that you had in your mother's womb. That's what you rely on. You know what's right to do." A Spanish artist Salvador Dali said, "Intelligence without ambition is a bird without wings." Albert Einstein has said, "The measure of intelligence is the ability to change." This quote can be connected to what Robert Anton Wilson said, that "Belief is the death of intelligence." Jiddu Krishnamurti, a popular writer had also said "The ability to observe without evaluating is the highest form of intelligence."

For centuries, the question on what intelligence is, and the true measure of intelligence has been questioned by many philosophers and geniuses. People have thought, what makes some brains smarter than others? From all the things that have been said, what Socrates said, "I know that I am intelligent, because I know that I know nothing" is very meaningful, and makes people rethink about our present education system in Japan. What comes out from most Japanese students' mouth is the question on how useful the information they are learning presently is going to be useful for them after they finish school. They feel that what they are remembering is useless after the test finishes. The truth is that the present education system in Japan does give students knowledge, but it does not give students much intelligence, which should be given to them more than knowledge. What teachers do is that they teach students information according to the textbook and make students remember that. Of course, this information does not last on students' memory for long, and soon students are left with nothing.

So, from the education's viewpoint, what can be done to develop students' intelligence? What kind of education makes a person someone who knows what is right to do, who has ambition, who understands beliefs, and who has the ability to observe without judging? It is clear that the one-way education common in Japan is not the answer. The keyword was hidden in the definition of intelligence. Intelligence is the ability to go to depths by reading inside the facts to understand to discover the real, hidden meanings. So, how can education develop this ability? What is important is to make students notice that the facts they know, or facts they are going to learn might not be always be completely true, and there might be hidden meanings to that information. For example, when learning the history of Japan, if an emperor died teachers must teach students that perhaps it was only made to look like he died and actually he did not die, or maybe this was said to be because of a sickness, but actually he was killed. When doing this, teachers should not give the answer to students immediately, but make them think about it first. Adding to that, debates and researches are always good to do, making students really think about that topic, and also curious about that topic.

Curiosity is definitely important to develop a person's intelligence. The present education system in Japan is one-way and very simple. Teachers give information according to their textbook, and students remember that information for the test. This system does not give either teachers or students to be curious about the information and discuss it deeply. If this time was given to them, studying will become something that is more exciting and interesting for students.

Students tend to make it their teachers fault that the classes they have is boring and sleepy. However, the principle of this problem is the current education system in Japan. This education system is forcing students to only develop their knowledge (which is not working) and hindering students from developing their intelligence. Intelligence is the ability to learn, and knowledge is the result of applied intelligence. This means that if a person has a low intelligence, even if they work hard to develop their knowledge, they will never be able to be beyond someone with higher intelligence. This also means that by developing your intelligence, you will be able to develop your knowledge, too. Albert Einstein said, "The value of a college education is not the learning of many facts but the training of the mind to think." This can be also said of education in general, not just in college. The facts we learn at school are going to fade away from our memories some day. However, you are never going to forget the training that makes your mind think. The Japanese population must not make the government take all the responsibility for this problem. The Japanese population must reconsider Japan's education system and make it better for the future of Japan.


Child Research Net would like to thank the Doshisha International Junior/Senior High School and Airi Kaimasu, student and author, for permitting reproduction of this article on the CRN web site.

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