Reader Mail

Japan's schools not as bad as portrayed

I agree with Asia Dobbs’ main point that secondary education in Japan would do better to value diversity more (“To create an immigrant-friendly Japan, start with education reform” in the Sept. 12 edition). However, the article portrays some aspects of education in Japan as distinctive when they are not, and sometimes it is simply inaccurate.

Dobbs calls the fact that the Japanese government sets a national curriculum “censorship.” Many countries set a national curriculum for their schools, and it is a system that has many advantages. It does not imply shaping children into conformity.

Dobbs asserts that the Japanese curriculum excludes humanistic education about, for example, human rights. This is incorrect. The curriculum includes domains such as Integrated Studies and Special Activities, which can be used by schools flexibly, to teach whatever they consider appropriate, including human rights issues. For example, I have researched schools that had children visit facilities for people with disabilities, and study about “barrier-free” issues.

Dobbs rightly points out that bullying is a serious problem in Japanese schools. However, research has shown that it is also a serious problem in schools in other countries, many of which place much less emphasis on issues such as uniform appearance than Japan. This suggests that school bullying is an intractable problem and needs careful study to tackle it.

Finally, Dobbs asserts that “the Japanese school system incorporates … militaristic … ethics.” I do not understand what is referred to here. There is nothing specifically militaristic about having students wear uniforms, for example. Many schools in the United Kingdom have uniforms. Does Dobbs therefore think that these school systems also incorporate militaristic ethics?

PETER CAVE
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND

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.