Something's Strange: Education in Japan (4) Teachers Who Put a Ceiling on Learning! - Director's Blog



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Something's Strange: Education in Japan (4) Teachers Who Put a Ceiling on Learning!


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Generally speaking, a physician's work is to cure the disease and illness that afflict patients. In the same manner, a teacher's work is to develop the capabilities of children through education. That is what I simply believed. But recently, I had an experience that called this belief into question.

A ten-year old boy came to me for consultation. His homeroom teacher had recommended that he take special support classes, and he wanted advice. The teacher's major reason for suggesting special support classes was that classes at school would become increasingly difficult, and based on the results of an intelligence test, it would be hard for the student to keep up with the class. I then asked the parents to show me the results of the intelligence test and recent report cards.

According to the results of the intelligence test (WISC-IV), the student's IQ was reported to be 59. The average IQ score is set at 100, and a score of 70 or lower signifies impaired cognitive development. A score between 70 and 50 indicates possible mild mental disability. However, I was later surprised when I saw the report card. On two-thirds of all the subjects, the student received a 2 (Satisfactory) on a scale of 1 to 3, which indicated the student was capable of doing the schoolwork.

His grades were above the level received by children with intellectual disabilities, so I told his mother, "He's doing well. The results of intelligence tests vary considerably depending on motivation and mood at the time, so the score is surely somewhat higher. At this rate, I think he can manage in regular classes." However, afterwards I was shocked when she told me what the homeroom teacher had said to her: "Considering your son's IQ, these grades are higher than what your son is capable of."

I recalled the following astonishing anecdote that refers to bumblebees. Bumblebees have stocky bodies with tiny wings attached. One university professor whose research focused on fluid dynamics calculated the bumblebee's weight, wing area, and flapping frequency and then concluded that "with these wings, the bumblebee should not be able to fly."

Actually, the bumblebees fly quite smoothly with little wings. And the boy had also received a 2 (Satisfactory) in 60 to 70 percent of his subjects.

The university professor, a specialist in fluid dynamics, and the boy's homeroom teacher had something in common, namely, they were both unable to recognize the facts. Far from developing the child's abilities, we can say that teacher has arbitrarily set up a barrier in the child's life by putting a ceiling on his growth and development.

sakakihara_2013.jpg Yoichi Sakakihara
M.D., Ph.D., Professor Emeritus, Ochanomizu University; Director of Child Research Net, Executive Advisor of Benesse Educational Research and Development Institute (BERD), President of Japanese Society of Child Science. Specializes in pediatric neurology, developmental neurology, in particular, treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Asperger's syndrome and other developmental disorders, and neuroscience. Born in 1951. Graduated from the Faculty of Medicine, the University of Tokyo in 1976 and taught as an instructor in the Department of the Pediatrics before working with Ochanomizu University.