Loath to see return of old drills


The Feb. 3 editorial “Entrance exam change needed” reminded me of Japan’s continuous failure to educate its young citizens. The problem of college entrance exams is directly tied to how the system itself is structured.

I was among the last generation to experience the “drilling method” from grade one to nine. The primary purpose of this education model was to make us memorize as much information as possible. I took advantage of this system by scheduling my study plans by exam dates. All I had to do was do well on each exam.

In 2002 the education ministry changed this long-time method in an attempt to make schools less stressful for teachers and students. As a result, all textbooks went on a diet, and Saturday class was gone. But the curriculum cuts led to a gradual decline in academic performance. Now the experts in this country fear the worst outcome of this change far more than the possible effects of a return to the highly stressful and oppressive form of education.

As a survivor of the old system, I didn’t get to experience the good and bad aspects of the changes since 2002. But if the drilling method is revived, then I feel nothing but great sympathy for kids.

mina otsuka

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.

  • irairaneko

    I would say the drilling method is still alive. It may have had a haircut, but nothing much has changed. The same teachers taught before and after 2002, and many weren’t able to adjust to anything new, not ever having had teacher training in the first instance. I taught senior high school in Saitama and found it was very difficult to assess students in a way that reflected their real level of understanding of class material, and class performance, when teacher-set exams were the only method of assessment available. By third year, students were so well ‘drilled’ in exam taking and swotting that even the toughest exam paper hardly phased them. That and I was instructed to write exam papers that were “difficult, but no-one can fail”. Altering curriculum guidelines and textbook content mean nothing without changes in teacher training and assessment methods. Standardized and externally produced exams would show up all the whitewashing of high school results.