Regarding the Jan. 23 article, "More crucial than English" (by Takamitsu Sawa): The question of why Japanese students' intellectual capacities are not developed has not been adequately addressed. When it comes to the humanities, Japanese students are discouraged from developing critical thinking skills.

Unlike many of their peers overseas, they don't do much independent study. They are kept busy most of the day listening to lectures. They take at least triple the amount of classes that most university students in other countries take and have much less time alone to read books. Then, in their third year, their "education" basically ends as their time is taken up with job-hunting.

It's worth remembering that the late philosopher Richard Rorty described the purpose of nonvocational higher education as "to help students realize that they can reshape themselves." The question of improving education in Japan has to do with whether young Japanese have a say in what kind of future they will face. Whether they like it or not, the future is theirs.

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.

brett gross