• Osaka

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The
anonymous Oct. 29 letter titled “Root causes of education problems” is enlightening as to Japan’s education system flaws that afflict students before they enter their first university class. Certainly one cannot hope to improve education in this country without reforming the system at all levels. However, there are other serious problems in the structure of university education that are growing worse as academies compete for fewer and fewer students. A university in Japan is not organized as a place of learning but rather as a place for fulfilling obligations.

Japanese students take many more classes during their first years than students in other countries. They repeat the words “tired” and “difficult” like a mantra, but they know that standards are lax and that they cannot flunk. Some universities don’t even require students to attend classes in order to pass. Almost every university has a “sports day” during which they cancel classes. Clubs are much more important than academics, even at the most prestigious Japanese higher education institutions.

As a Chinese exchange student once remarked to me, “in China students are everywhere studying; in Japan students are everywhere playing.” Taking into account Japan’s future challenges, I believe it is a real gamble to let things continue this way. However, the desire to change the system, among teachers and administrators, still seems like a mere velleity

name withheld by request

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