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The assertion that a nation’s education system is the key to its economic health has great intuitive appeal. But it is called into question by events in Japan.

Over the last quarter of a century, Japanese students have consistently finished near the top of the pile on tests of international competition. For example, on the latest Program for International Student Assessment, Japan finished in 7th place, with scores of 536 in math, 538 in reading, and 547 in science.

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