Shiga University President Takamitsu Sawa’s Dec. 19 article, “Motivation for college study,” leads me to believe that he missed the point of his own article. Japanese students, generally speaking, are not motivated to attend college abroad mainly because they are not motivated to study or encouraged to work toward higher goals.
We currently have an education system where failure is nonexistent, so why should students work harder when they know they will advance to the next level regardless of their performance? Because of the belief that studying for the test will get them to the next level, there seems to be very little interest in applying what they have learned to their everyday lives.
If you study for the test and get into the best university, then it is a breeze, because Japanese companies farm the best universities for new employees — employees who will conform and follow directives without ever questioning why or being creative.
I have worked in the Japanese public school system for almost a decade and have noticed a blatant lack of accountability or sense of responsibility from every aspect: the students, the parents and the school. I have seen students come to school and do absolutely nothing, yet graduate to the next grade. I have seen students miss most of the school year, without reason, and still graduate.
The dependence on juku (cram schools) to help them study for the test is a deplorable system that undermines the public school system itself. So, again, why would a Japanese student leave this secure, welfare state to chance it abroad, where a person is supposed to be independent and self-motivated?
In the article, it was mentioned that American universities are easy to get into. They are also very difficult to graduate from. What you do with the opportunity to get a proper education determines whether you will later succeed or not.
In the United States, attending university in itself is cause for motivation, as a university education opens up doors and opportunities for achieving the American dream. To me, the opposite situation seems to apply in Japan.
By making entry into a Japanese university so difficult, we limit and exclude a large percentage of the population from reaching their potential. It is the quality of education, not the brand, that should determine a graduate’s hiring potential.
I partially agree with Sawa’s closing statement that Chinese and South Korean students, by comparison, “pay close attention to the costs and benefits of studying so hard.” They also pay attention to the benefits of setting goals, being self-motivated and understanding that the key to achieving goals is a higher education.
I would not attribute the allegation that today’s Japanese students are inward-looking to the lack of motivation to attend college. Instead, it’s because that from the early stages of school, they have been instilled with the traits of dependence, conformity, monotony, and an overall sense of indolence and dependency — traits that did not afflict the post-World War II generation.
We have failed to provide the younger generation with the leadership qualities that once made Japan a force to be reckoned with. The absence of these qualities is apparent from the top down. For example, Japan has had as many prime ministers recently as President Barack Obama has had years in office.
If we cannot provide the skills, talents and prowess for the younger generations, why should we expect them to be motivated to achieve the bare minimum — a quality education?
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.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.