Sunday, February 24, 2013

Happy Valentine's day! -Japan vs the US

Did you celebrate it? I made chocolate (see pictures) and give it to my boyfriend and a few of my friends, too. I got a cute stuffed squirrel holding a flower made of chocolate.

Japan also have a Valentine's day. But the way to celebrate the day is different between the US and Japan.

In Japan, only women give chocolates to men, but not the other way. They give expensive and thoughtful chocolate to their boyfriend/husband. Woman is traditionally not allowed to declare her love, but only the valentine's day is exception. They also give small chocolates to many men, like their male friends, colleagues and bosses.

Do you think men are lucky?
Actually, the answer is "NO".

There is a day called "white day" in Japan. It's on March 14th, one month after the Valentine's day. It's the time that men return presents to women. You are supposed to prepare a present three times as expensive as the chocolate you got!

How lucky women are! :)

Friday, February 15, 2013

What did you learn first when you started studying a foreign language?

I started learning English in a middle school.

What we learn first is " This is a pen" while we point out the pen. We also learn at the same time "This is not a pencil." Isn't it funny? We never use these sentences. You know if it's a pen or a pencil when you see it. Then we next learn "Is this a pen?" Are you making fun of me!?

Another thing we learn is this conversation.
" Hello, Taro. How are you?" "I'm fine, thank you. And you?"
Well, I don't think they are wrong. But because everyone learns just this pattern, if you ask Japanese "how are you?", everyone makes exactly the same answer. If you ask "How's it going?" or "How are you doing?", Japanese people would be confused. "I'm not going..." " I'm doing... I'm talking with you..."

I also learned " How do you do?" which I have never used or heard since I came to the US.

As time passes... learning English is getting more popular and important. Now children start learning English in elementary school. I think English education in Japan should be changed.

Monday, February 4, 2013

The education race

The Japanese educational system may be the most effective in the world, even though the government provides fewer funds for education than several other countries including the US. For example, Japanese factory workers are more educated than American workers and the illiteracy rate is very low in Japan. Furthermore, Japanese youngsters get higher test scores than children of other countries. These achievements are not because the government spends much money on education. In fact, only five percent of Japanese GNP is devoted to public education whereas six to eight percent are devoted in other countries. The Japanese educational achievement depends on their effective education system.     
One of the reasons why the Japanese educational system works well is that Japanese schools are more consistent than American schools in what they teach and how they teach. The Ministry of Education in Japan distributes a very detailed curriculum, and specifies exactly what subjects should be taught and what materials should be used. This uniformity in education is acceptable to Japanese based on their culturally ingrained reluctance to be different from others because of their very homogeneous country. Therefore, everyone from slow learners to good learners can get the same education in elementary and junior high school and all students desire to learn at least basic skills to keep up with others, although the children are afraid to lose their individuality in the consistent education system.
Another plausible reason for the high educational achievement in Japan might be that academic competition for getting admission to university is very severe. This competition begins in kindergarten to get into good primary schools. Admission to good primary schools generally provides success to good junior high schools and good high schools followed by good universities. To help children succeed on their competition, Japanese parents hustle them into supplementing regular schools called jukus, which are aimed at children who are already doing well. Jukus are necessary for the competition because only how the applicant does on the entrance exam matters but not other characteristics, such as wealth or personality for getting admission to a public university. Even though Japan has numerous numbers of universities including many more private universities, most major corporations, institutions and the government invite only graduates of selected universities. Indeed, the status that a Japanese youngster ultimately achieves in life is determined by what university he manages to get into.  However, even though Japanese youngsters desperately do everything, only two out of three applicants win university admission, and the remainders are relegated to obscurity. Therefore, many students endure great mental stress imposed by this educational competition, and some of them have nervous breakdown. Thus, the Japanese academic battle might be effective and very severe but it comes at a cost. 
However, despite the effectiveness in Japanese education, there is at least one point in which Japanese education is less efficient than American education. Most universities in Japan do not give opportunities for youngsters to pursue individual interests. Indeed, many youngsters are put into large classes whose studies are rigidly prescribed and Japanese professors are not dedicated for education. These environments make youngsters lose their motivation to study in university. Even more important, Japanese youngsters think that university is the only time that they are likely experience genuine personal freedom, while American youngsters find themselves working harder. Japanese professors also do not regard if students attend classes and study hard. Because Japanese industry does not require specialized skills of youngsters but they are measured by the university entrance exam, the admission to university is a kind of liberation in Japan. In addition, graduate schools in Japan are generally small and not good so that Japanese universities play a smaller role in the national research than American universities. As a result, Japanese who need graduate study are much more likely attempt to go abroad than Americans.   
The other problem of Japanese education is bad teaching of the English language. Even though Japanese students learn English from junior high school through high school, they learn the grammatical technicalities of English but not speaking skills. Therefore, most Japanese do not speak good English. However, the bad instruction in English has been changing and the number of the young Japanese people who can speak good English is increasing with the advance of globalization. 
Thus, the Japanese education system might be effective but it also has several problems, and this system is based on their cultural elements such as the desire to obtain a secure position in a company.