To succeed after high school

Fukuyama, Hiroshima

It’s time for teachers, professors, parents, boards of education and ministry officials to get together, take a good look at the education system and ask, “Why is it that high school study, so focused on preparation for university entrance, does so little to prepare students for actual university life?”

The university student, in contrast to the high school student, is expected to be a much more interactive self-reliant learner. Study may include group work, discussion seminars, presentations, debating clubs and often a compulsory communicative English component. Many students are also required, regardless of major, to be able to read in English with a reasonable degree of fluency. There is also the ever popular TOEIC, which requires a high level of reading proficiency to attain a reasonable score.

My point is this: If the goal of high school education is to prepare young people for the challenges ahead, which for many is university, schools and universities must become more aware of and supportive of each other. My proposals are fourfold:

First, high schools and universities should invest in sets of graded reading books for their library. The benefits of regular extensive reading are well documented.

Second, discussion and debating — in Japanese — should become a feature in all high school programs. Social studies classes cover a wide range of topics that would lend themselves well to this.

Third, schools should provide opportunities to develop and hone presentation writing and speaking skills, primarily in Japanese, but in due course they could be in English as well.

Finally, universities need to become far more aware of the effects that current entrance-test requirements have on high school syllabus design, and consider a testing system that promotes more than just memorization.

Change is badly needed. Let’s think ahead for the future, now!

The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.

steve hampshire