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View Full Version : Link between Education and Success in Japan



byakko
May 27th, 2013, 15:16
I`m seeking insight into whether unsuccessful students are likely to become unsuccessful adults IN JAPAN.

As an American, I tend to take this cause-effect generalization for granted. It`s hammered into us as children, and as an adult I`ve observed it to be generally true. For instance, I`ve observed this pattern among far too many fellow Americans:

Poor grades in high school -> Fewer options for college -> Less likely to attend/finish college -> poor job options -> financial difficulty -> poor credit rating -> low lender trust -> shabby essentials (car, home) -> greater dissatisfaction with life, circumstances

It`s only a generalization, of course. There are exceptions. But it`s a pretty ingrained assumption in American culture.

How about in Japan? Are underperforming students likely to suffer later in life due to their poor study habits? Or will they face pretty much the same job options as anyone else (save the very top achievers) in their classes?

Often, as I observe how underperformance is becoming the new normal in Japanese public schools, I wonder if it will have any real impact on students` lives later. What do you think? What have you seen/heard/read?

BeckyJones
May 27th, 2013, 15:20
It's pretty much the same. Does anyone care if you got a 3.9 or a 2.5 in college after a few years out of college, nope. And most of my under performing kids have high aspirations like conbini clerk or construction worker, so i don't see them really going anywhere beyond that

word
May 27th, 2013, 18:02
I would say that things are somewhat different in Japan due primarily to a much smaller level of income inequality. Also, they've done a better job of teaching folks to treat productive members of society with some semblance of respect, no matter how pathetically loserish their job might be. The only really worthless people, in the opinion of many Japanese, it seems, are unemployed bums or hikikomori. So, as long as you're a working Japanese dude, you'll get more respect than the average gaijin, and that's saying something.

Japan is an odd country; there are a lot of things that make life for their citizens completely different than the life of US citizens. I mean, you're talking about a place where people can go out into the inaka, pop out a few kids, and make a nice life for themselves from the government subsidies provided to young parents. In Japan, you can live with your parents for your entire life and people won't really look down on you for it; it's just something that people sometimes do.

So, I dunno; I think that the average underachiever in Japan is probably going to do significantly better than the average underachiever in the US, if for no other reason than s/he has a significantly stronger social support structure. That's a lot of "s"s.

Cytrix
May 27th, 2013, 22:14
Japan is an odd country; there are a lot of things that make life for their citizens completely different than the life of US citizens. I mean, you're talking about a place where people can go out into the inaka, pop out a few kids, and make a nice life for themselves from the government subsidies provided to young parents. In Japan, you can live with your parents for your entire life and people won't really look down on you for it; it's just something that people sometimes do.


To echo Word a little, you have to remember that to different cultures and people, what constitutes as "success" is going to be vastly different. To some people here it's being married before 25 and having kids. What you may see as a successful life in the US may be completely different to someone the same age here.

therealwindycity
May 28th, 2013, 08:19
Often, as I observe how underperformance is becoming the new normal in Japanese public schools

I don't really think Japanese students are any lazier than they've ever been ... A lot of us ALTs just had a much more studious image of them before we get here, and we're constantly barraged with "kids these days"-type complaints from the adults around us after arriving.

coop52
May 28th, 2013, 08:47
I don't know if this is true everywhere, or if it's just me, but I've definitely noticed the kids coming up now have more issues following directions and coming up with their own ideas than the ones I taught my first year. Even if you give them a worksheet with directions in Japanese and an explanation, a lot of them still can't figure out what to do by themselves.


I think there's this idea that all Japanese kids care about getting into elite schools, but I've found it's not really true in my inaka. As long as they get into a high school/college/specialty school of some sort, no one really cares. And it doesn't seem to matter how well they actually perform once they get there, so long as they can pass the entrance exam for the next school level or company.

Gizmotech
May 28th, 2013, 08:50
Ya, I'm gonna say I think Cytrix is on to something. The N.A. view of success has always been Money Money Money. All that Money equals the expensive house, car, two kids, vacations etc.... but those things are sort of after thoughts, it's mostly "get a good education, get a good job, win". I don't think there is THAT much of an emphasis in Japan for that, at least no where near as strong as it is in N.A. The emphasis for that in N.A. is amazingly strong, which i could always feel coming from a family of entrepreneurs who are successful but not because of any scholarly success which basically built the idea of "if you do it yourself, and you're awesome, you'll win" which to me seems much more accurate in life than not.

I have a few friends here in my very poor area who seem quite successful. Good job (middle class), nice house, seem to really enjoy their hobbies, and I'm sure if you asked them they would say they're successful. I know they weren't in school, but they are now.

Jiggit
May 28th, 2013, 10:04
Isn't it something like 50% of high school students attend college in Japan? Despite the lack of financial support/loans meaning parents have to shell out, often for expensive private universities? Seems like plenty of people consider college education pretty damn important if parents are willing to fork out so much money for their kids, plenty of whom have pretty mediocre grades. And the pressure to get a good job, i.e. a secure job, is also pretty high. Perhaps their standards are not so much "more money = better person" but I wouldn't argue that meant they don't have pressure to succeed - I would say just a different standard of what constitutes success. For a lot of people life success means studying hard from 11-18 to get into college then once they finish college attempting to go straight into a company and work there for the rest of their life.

byakko
May 28th, 2013, 14:21
Word, you`re on exactly the track I`ve been wondering about. If poor study habits to not necessarily lead to struggle later in life, it`s a good indication that the Japanese work-economy and middle class are strong: Plenty of jobs (even for those who slacked off in school), and high enough wages that even people with low-level jobs can have a home and a family.

Cytrix and Gizmotech: For the purposes of this discussion, imagine that success = being able to have a comfortable home, family and retirement without struggling financially.

In the 1970s, the average American high school student could graduate and secure a job that would afford him to buy a house (same size as Americans enjoy today), a car (newer than Americans enjoy today), support 2.5 kids, and retire comfortably. Nowadays, the reality is vastly different: A middle-class American couple is probably 2 college-educated adults facing financial difficulty balancing student loan debt, skyrocketing mortgage costs (or foreclosure), sky-high medical insurance and/or costs, credit card debt and NO savings. (The Coming Collapse of the Middle Class with Elizabeth Warren - YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=akVL7QY0S8A)) Yeah, American TV may boast of the concept that success = money = expensive house, cars, vacations and toys... But the reality on the ground is completely different. Most Americans, when it really comes down to it, consider success as I described it: having family, staying afloat. In my observations, my American friends and colleagues risk financial disaster if they take even one misstep, including bad grades leading to an unattractive (or no) college degree. Between concern for their futures and systematic repercussions for underachievement (detention; summer school; repeating grades), American students as a whole are more motivated than their Japanese counterparts.

Windy: Yep, Japanese students - on average - are getting lazier, learning less, and passing anyway. See newspaper articles concerning it below, from earlier years. And the trend continues... I`ve worked with over 1,000 jr. high school students in a securely middle-class, semi-inaka city for nearly two years, and I am consistently SHOCKED at how much quality instruction in quality schools simply does NOT translate into quality learning for these kids. Their dismal test scores, continually absent homework and lack of functional knowledge would have been inconceivable in similar circumstances in the USA. (Like Princess Bride: ``INCONCEIVABLE!!!``)

From 2005:
Japanese high school students are less willing to study than their U.S. and Chinese counterparts, according to a recent March 2005 poll (http://www.japantimes.com/cgi-bin/getarticle.pl5?nn20050317f2.htm) of U.S., Japanese, and Chinese students. and other periodicals. Among about 1,300 Japanese high school students polled in 11 prefectures, 73 percent said they often sleep or are unfocused during class, compared with 49 percent of U.S. and 29 percent of Chinese students. Results also indicated that more than 80 percent of students polled in the U.S. and China said they do homework, compared with 53 percent of Japanese students; and that 45 percent of Japanese students said they rarely study outside school, compared with 15 percent in the U.S. and 8 percent of students polled in China. A Japan Times report that Japanese students are starting to slack off. - Japan Times

From 2010:
http://www.japantoday.com/category/kuchikomi/view/the-dumbing-down-of-japanese-students

coop52
May 28th, 2013, 14:49
I'd say that outdated teaching methods are more to blame for that than laziness. Any kid, no matter what country, would get bored with the lecture and drill method most used here. They fall asleep both from boredom and the fact that they're exhausted from doing hours of club activities and busy work at juku and home. I think a lot of them are catching on to the fact that success=16 hour days 7 days a week as a salaryman and thus aspiring to jobs that are less prestigious but have more free time, like shop staff or combini clerk. Those kids are the future NEETs and freeters. Japanese politicians too will blame that on laziness, but I think that a horrible work environment is more to blame. Make it easier on workers, and more kids will want to work.

Ini
May 28th, 2013, 14:56
Lost the fear. No incentive to work hard. This is what happens when you ban corporal punishment and replace it with nothing.

coop52
May 28th, 2013, 14:59
They did replace it, with screaming at the kids for half an hour then making them write an essay.

Ini
May 28th, 2013, 15:05
Doesn't work at the bad schools. The kids know that the teachers can't touch them and until they reach their 14th birthday neither can the cops. I've seen groups of of 2nd grade jhs kids beating the shit out of teachers and there's nothing that can be done about it.

Jiggit
May 28th, 2013, 15:13
Japan tries to be like Korea and China with the work ethic but doesn't actually care about the results. Instead of "get f*king As and go to Todai or we'll kick you out on your ass" they get "as long as we all sat in the building for 5 hours after we were supposed to go home we have worked hard, good job".

Probably prepares them for future life more than our unis do.

therealwindycity
May 28th, 2013, 15:35
Doesn't work at the bad schools. The kids know that the teachers can't touch them and until they reach their 14th birthday neither can the cops. I've seen groups of of 2nd grade jhs kids beating the shit out of teachers and there's nothing that can be done about it.

How ghastly

byakko
May 28th, 2013, 16:07
I hear ya, and I could blather on all day about what factors are contributing to underperformance in Japanese schools.

BUT, what I really want to know is: Is that underperformance undermining students` futures? At all? A little? A lot?

Tell me what you know.

Does the Japanese work-economy really have such a built-in safety net that doing poorly in grade school and/or copipe-ing one`s way through college has virtually no repercussions?

And if that`s the case, does that affect your perspective over whether students should be coerced into studying, performing and passing (a la the American system), when they could just kick back and enjoy childhood instead?

coop52
May 28th, 2013, 16:09
Underperformance doesn't seem to have an effect, provided you met the right people who can hook you up with jobs. Same in the US.

Ini
May 28th, 2013, 16:11
How ghastly

thats saitama for you

coop52
May 28th, 2013, 16:16
One of the kids in my English club actually wants to visit Saitama. Bless her heart.

mothy
May 28th, 2013, 16:17
It depends what you mean by underperformance. There is a strong correlation between income levels and education levels in Japan. There's just less of a correlation between education levels and actually knowing anything.

Ini
May 28th, 2013, 16:18
to join a biker gang or to work in a factory with a bunch of immigrants? from my experience those are the only 2 things going on in saitama

word
May 28th, 2013, 16:26
Underperformance, imho, is indicative of a failure of the educational system, not a failure of the student. Are some students lazy sacks of crap, worthless little sh*ts who desperately need the real world to give them a severe ass-whipping? Of course. I'm a lazy sack of crap, too, and when I was in JHS, I was most definitely a worthless little sh*t who desperately needed the real world to give me a severe ass-whipping. I was just lucky and had decent teachers who got me through it all. Here I am today, with a relatively worthless degree and dubious long-term career prospects, a bit of student loan debt and quickly transforming into slightly-overweight manchild... but I'm happy as f*ck, and when my income is compared to that of the world, I'm in the top 1% of the human population. F*ckin' A.

I dunno where I was going with that; I guess the idea was that being born in the right place has a hell of a lot more influence on one's future "success" than pretty much anything else. A driven, motivated, capable, intelligent student in Liberia is almost certainly never going to be as successful (by Western standards) as a lazy, listless, angry little ADHD poster child in a Japanese JHS school. The Liberian student will probably just be lucky to make it to adulthood without being shot or raped to death, to say nothing of "success" in financial terms.

"Virtually no repercussions?" I wouldn't go that far. They'll be poorer than a doctor or a dentist or maybe even a teacher or something... but they might manage to live a reasonably comfortable life, depending on how hard they're willing to work at some crappy unskilled/minimally-skilled job. I think that the Japanese culture tends to mute some of the obvious indicators of financial success--people don't "brag" here the way they do in the West (they do still brag, but it takes on different forms, and the social norm here is to project humility, rather than arrogance--even if it's very obviously being faked).

I don't think students should be "coerced." Learning doesn't occur without motivation (see: my efforts to study Japanese). Properly motivated kids, presented with well-thought-out lessons and effective, meaningful classes that they can relate to their lives, will learn--AND they can kick back and enjoy childhood. The idea that the two (acquiring useful knowledge and skills and enjoying childhood) are mutually exclusive is, obviously, ridiculous...

...except, it seems, in Japan.

mothy
May 28th, 2013, 18:48
to join a biker gang or to work in a factory with a bunch of immigrants? from my experience those are the only 2 things going on in saitama

I think you left out Filipino prostitution.

therealwindycity
May 28th, 2013, 23:15
thats saitama for you

I knew it

lilyanphino
May 28th, 2013, 23:19
to join a biker gang or to work in a factory with a bunch of immigrants? from my experience those are the only 2 things going on in saitama

For a moment there, I thought you were talking about parts of Gunma. Those areas border Saitama, so close enough I guess.

BeckyJones
May 29th, 2013, 12:30
I hear ya, and I could blather on all day about what factors are contributing to underperformance in Japanese schools.

BUT, what I really want to know is: Is that underperformance undermining students` futures? At all? A little? A lot?

I would say that it is. Back in the day, to quote your example, unskilled labor could get people a decent life, but in today's constant evolving world it is more difficult for people to accomplish much without some technical proficiency. I feel that the burden put on NA students to go to college and to "achieve white collar" success is a little over inflated, but there is a big point to it however. Think of it this way, just 10 years ago if you wanted a job you would go to a place and fill out an application by hand and turn it into someone in HR, now almost all of it is done on the internet. Without computer skills, you can't even apply for most jobs in NA.

Japan, as in many things, is behind the times in that regard and the Galapagos syndrome is in full effect. But, even with the very closed ecosystem Japan is a country that has to compete in the world economy, and I think a lot of people are realizing that they are losing a competitive edge because of under performing students/college grads when compared to foreign students.

So my answer is kind of split, I think that under performing students as a whole may not damage their individual futures when compared to other under performing students (there will always be a need for a conbini clerk) but when compared on an international scale the Japanese will suffer greatly in the international arena if radical changes are not made.




Does the Japanese work-economy really have such a built-in safety net that doing poorly in grade school and/or copipe-ing one`s way through college has virtually no repercussions?

I would say they have a better standard of living than say a NA loser, but not by much. the working poor in this country actually live in really shitty and shocking conditions.

hunterofpeace
May 29th, 2013, 12:58
Bucky, you are sound like such an ignorant troll sometimes that I forget you also make reasoned and intelligent posts that actually make sense. You must just have a severely authistic person living in your house who every now and then breaks out of his holding pen and posts on ITIL and you just can't be arsed to edit them out.

BeckyJones
May 29th, 2013, 13:21
Bucky, you are sound like such an ignorant troll sometimes that I forget you also make reasoned and intelligent posts that actually make sense. You must just have a severely authistic person living in your house who every now and then breaks out of his holding pen and posts on ITIL and you just can't be arsed to edit them out.
most of the time, I'm responding to inane things others have posted that do not warrant an educated well thought out response. This however, is interesting and there is knowledge to be learned here. The "OMG my school made me eat natto" posts on the other hand.

Ini
May 29th, 2013, 13:23
Have you seen the salaries some people work for? You pampered jets moan about 30man a month, try raising kids when you are taking home 18 and your partner is on 14. Jappers just complain less.

Tyr
June 5th, 2013, 15:35
It seems a lot worse in Japan to me. You have to have made it by the time you're 25 or your life is as good as over.

word
June 5th, 2013, 16:06
What do you mean by "over", exactly? For that matter, what do you mean by "made it"? There are people who say the same thing about life in the US, but I generally think of them as idiots.

Edit: I would have said, initially, that Japan is worse about "locking" people into a set track for life, that whatever you'll be doing when you're 25 is probably what you'll be doing for the rest of your life, but the reality is that they've just managed to convince 99% of the population that this is the case. In fact, people in Japan can and do change careers, do different sh*t, and have as much--if not more--freedom to do so than we do in the West. It's just that most of them don't, and for a disturbingly large percentage of the population, suicide is apparently preferable to any other major life change.

mothy
June 5th, 2013, 17:07
, and have as much--if not more--freedom to do so than we do in the West.


How do you justify this statement?

word
June 5th, 2013, 18:24
The only thing that keeps Japanese people from being able to change stuff in their life is the oppression of their society, which, while strong, is basically toothless. Most folks here don't have much debt, many folks don't have mortgages, and unemployment is pretty low. More than that, the average Japanese citizen has a lot of potential options, given a worldwide view; they could travel almost anywhere and do almost anything, if they had the will.

I dunno; sometimes I'm kinda baffled by Japan; it's a land full of decent people who have buttloads of opportunities, but they almost never take advantage of them.

mothy
June 5th, 2013, 18:45
How about the fact that after a certain age many companies won't even give you an interview? Yes, any one can quit their job and become a construction worker or an unemployed artist. But you act like because there's no law against it, it's just they need to get some balls and career change. But no not really, because for the vast majority it would actually be a stupid move that would lead them to poverty. But yes, it's possible. But how could you say it's the same as the West or possibly better? That's just flat out wrong.

word
June 5th, 2013, 20:18
How about the fact that after a certain age many companies won't even give you an interview? Yes, any one can quit their job and become a construction worker or an unemployed artist. But you act like because there's no law against it, it's just they need to get some balls and career change. But no not really, because for the vast majority it would actually be a stupid move that would lead them to poverty. But yes, it's possible. But how could you say it's the same as the West or possibly better? That's just flat out wrong.

People regularly rail about ageism in the West, too; there are plenty of fields into which one can't really establish oneself beyond a certain age. I would say that it's probably even worse in the West, because it's "unspoken" there; hell, unlike in Japan, you might actually get that interview... but you almost certainly won't be hired for the position for the exact same reason.

One of my JTEs didn't become a teacher until he was in his 40s, though, and a teacher who left my home school last year quit teaching and went to work for some media company in Tokyo. Come to think about it, one of my friends here in town quit the civil position he'd worked in for the past 10+ years to start farming (I'm not sure how successful he is, but he did just buy a house). These are just anecdotes and certainly don't prove anything, but they do let me know that it can be done successfully, and that people here do occasionally do it. I was discussing this subject a few months ago with that JTE I mentioned; he told me that people here do sometimes go back to school in order to change careers, though they tend to be viewed with some skepticism by the rest of society. I can tell you that both the teacher who left last year and my farmer friend were considered foolish by some of their peers (some of the other teachers at school had a conversation in which they agreed that leaving-sensei was making a bad choice, and several of my eikaiwa members told me that they thought farmer-san was making a mistake by quitting his job and taking up farming).

Would it really be a stupid move that would lead them to poverty? A lot of people would say that in the US, too, but a decent percentage of the time, they're completely wrong (lots of anecdotes there, too, including my own experiences). I'm kinda suspicious that it's more the perception of the foolishness of such changes that prevents more of them from taking place, rather than any really horrifying financial dangers.

I dunno; it depends on your field, I'm sure, and I am absolutely talking out my arse/basing my opinion on anecdotal evidence and conversations with a relatively small number of Japanese people. I'd really like to see some empirical data on the subject. There are a lot of aspects of Japan on which I'd like to see a bit of hard data...

mothy
June 5th, 2013, 21:11
Everyone I know in Japan who had a later in life career change moved into a lower position. For example I know a teacher who used to be a high ranking diplomat. Although I suppose it depends what you mean by a career change. I know some teachers who started their own school or some food service people who started their own bar. But I'm not really arguing that it's impossible. I just have never seen any evidence it's as easy here as it is in the US, while I have seen evidence to the contrary.

Tyr
June 7th, 2013, 14:52
What do you mean by "over", exactly? For that matter, what do you mean by "made it"? There are people who say the same thing about life in the US, but I generally think of them as idiots.

Edit: I would have said, initially, that Japan is worse about "locking" people into a set track for life, that whatever you'll be doing when you're 25 is probably what you'll be doing for the rest of your life, but the reality is that they've just managed to convince 99% of the population that this is the case. In fact, people in Japan can and do change careers, do different sh*t, and have as much--if not more--freedom to do so than we do in the West. It's just that most of them don't, and for a disturbingly large percentage of the population, suicide is apparently preferable to any other major life change.

Companies tend to be rather traditional with seniority based just as much on time at the company as actual ability.
Companies also like to hire only recent graduates. They actively exclude people who graduated some time ago, its a known trend that often people will delay their graduation for a year if their graduation time is approaching and they haven't secured a job yet. You often read in the papers about the government worrying about how few Japanese are studying abroad these days since it screws them over for getting a career (they can't do the usual jump through hoops final year massed recruitment thing).
The usual reported trajectory is fail to get a job within a year or maybe two of graduation and you're forever stuck working in family mart and such crap.

In the west things are very similar, that much is true. It has me shitting my pants about after Jet since I've missed the "Must have less than x years experience/graduated in year y" entry level job boat. But we don't have quite the same emphasis on only young graduates, older graduates are acceptable too. Age isn't such a big deal in western organizations.