I founded and have run an international school for expat families and multicultural children for nearly a quarter century. There have been frequent visits from Japanese parents asking to enroll their children in our school because they were not satisfied with what the local Japanese schools offered. Although it is an honor to have such requests, I am always surprised to find so many Japanese think in such a way. In Japan, some families migrate to another country because of educational preferences. Sometimes only the mother moves overseas with the children, while the father stays in Japan to continue with his job. Malaysia is so far their most popular destination. It is indeed a radical trend.

Several years ago, I was among the guests to dine with an education minister of the Netherlands. He told us that during his visit to Japan, he was often told by Japanese people that they envied the education in his country and wished the Japanese education system could be more like it. He said he was surprised since he had come to Japan to learn about Japanese education, which in Europe enjoys the reputation of having a high academic standard and success rate. He wondered why there was so much dissatisfaction.

We all know that there is no such thing as a perfect education. Every system has its strengths and weaknesses. But is education in Japan as bad as many Japanese people seem to think? Education is a complex field, but let's take a look at some research and OECD data first.