About Me :) （日本と海外の教育の違いについて）
Although I’ve graduated from YIS 2 years ago, I’ve decided to still keep on using this YIS blog since I have a lot of my school work posted here and it makes it easier for me to organize things as I have everything in one place. So I think I will keep on using this blog even when I go on to higher education, until the admin deletes this blog…in which case, I will have my whole blog exported to CSV file and then I will get my own domain, start up a new blog, and import everything all onto there. \n (Oh, and note, I like to use the ‘\n’ because if you do programming, I’m sure you will understand what it means, but I just think that it looks a bit classy to use this in my blog posts, even though it will have no function haha)
I’m not sure who is reading/who will be reading this post. My high school teachers may still have me on their subscriptions list, or my friendly teachers from my cram school, or my future professors at university could be reading this. Anyone could be reading this post and I do not really mind who the audience is, but I just felt like I had the need to create a series of blog posts on my life so far, as I have been living a life quite different from the others. And also keep in mind that I am currently really busy and have barely no free time so I am really writing all of this from the top of my head, if I had any grammatical errors, typos, anything that doesn’t make sense because I have not planned out an outline, I really apologize. \n
So far, I’ve had a lot of setbacks in my life. Not that I could discuss everything here, but definitely education has so far been a big challenge for me.
To give an introduction about myself, I was born in Japan as a full Japanese, raised in Japan for my whole entire life, but I have been going to an International School ever since pre-school. I skipped a grade when I was young (this is the most annoying part because every time I have to explain to the others why I graduated a year younger than everyone else), and so at school, I was in the same grade with my classes who were one year older than me. This, wasn’t really much of an issue as I has skipped a grade when I was really young (meaning I was already used to being with the same people) but I did feel a strong sense of isolation, and not to mention, discrimination from others (I never really discussed this to an adult, and this is the first time I am mentioning this to the public, but yes). My parents thought that it was also important for me to receive proper Japanese education as I was a Japanese, so I was forced to go to a Japanese cram school from grade 4. There, I also felt another sense of isolation because everyone else went to a Japanese school whilst I went to an international school. The main focus of a Japanese cram school for elementary students is to prepare for the entrance examinations for Japanese private middle schools (commonly known as “中学受験” chuugakujyuken). This way, I was also forced by my parents and the teachers at my cram school to undergo the entrance examinations for Japanese middle schools. I did get accepted to a competitive middle school, however, I decided to stay at my original school. The main reason was because I knew straight away that the way the Japanese education system works, was not for me. The cram school that I went (called SAPIX), basically has lessons after school from 4:30-9:00 PM, three times on weekdays, and then a whole sunday, every week. That means an accumulation of approximately 20 hours per week of studying for a 4th grader. With that continued until grade 6 (Japanese middle school starts from grade 7), I could not bare the amount of studying. In fact, I hated studying so much and also because I ask my parents for help with my homework from cram school due to other reasons, one day I stopped studying. I did attend cram school, but I stopped doing the necessary homework. At the time, I was really into computers, and I loved everything that had to do with technology. So while I was pretending to do my cram school homework in my room, I started to learn how to do programming, making websites, started to do open source codes, etc, and plus I got a reasonable amount of money (hmmmm….;))for a 4th grader so computers became quite an addiction for me. At the time, iPhones were going viral and fortunately I got an iPhone 3GS, and I also started to do some iPhone app making as well, which accelerated me into my passion for technology. Of course, my grades at cram school was becoming worse. I know that I did say I eventually did get accepted to a competitive school, but that was because for the last 2 or 3 months before the exam, I realized I had to work harder, so I did some intense studying. From this experience, I realized that the type of education I received through a Japanese system was not really for me. They crammed everything, made you memorize a lot, as where compared to the international school system, they actually made you study less, but the type of education you receive is different. I think what they call it in the education industry is, ‘Active Learning’. I’m not sure but this term has been becoming a very popular one in Japan. Anyways, at an international school students are required to more participate towards the class while in the Japanese one you are more required to receive a class. There is a big difference between these two. When you are required to participate in a class, it means that the teacher wants you to have a discussion, stating your opinions with strong evidence, and have a communication with others. I think this is the most important part/aspect of education that the Japanese system lacks. Going a bit offtrack, I hear that when you are employed at a Japanese company, Japanese employees often tend to not state their own opinion, but otherwise, they tend to show that they agree with whatever their boss says. I think the reason for this is because that a lot of, maybe not, some Japanese people consider it ‘rude’ to state arguments/opposing perspectives and opinions. However, I think that this is crazy; I think that to make a better outcome, it is important that participants give in their own, different viewpoints and perspectives. In this way, I think that the Japanese education system, which is more based towards the students ‘receiving’ education from teachers, should be changed, and that they should take the stance that the international education system takes. Also, if it was all about cramming things we have to remember into our own heads, why is it necessary to cram knowledge of what we learn at elementary school level? I think it’s more important to cram information at university level since then we will all be majoring in a specific major and that some things we learn at our elementary school is not really necessary for our own future…(I know, the history teachers would get mad at me for saying this, but as an example for me, what would it mean for me to remember all the key dates and names of all the historical events that took place in Japan when I am going to be majoring in science? Wouldn’t it be just enough if I had a brief knowledge on Japanese history? Not really seeing the reason why I should remember all of the dates.) Anyways, I went WAY offtrack, but this was the reason why I had thought that the international school education system was a better fit for me. \n
Then I moved on to middle school, and then to high school. My thoughts have changed. \n
At high school, we were all required to take the IGCSE course for freshmen and sophomore, IB course for junior and senior. As I entered grade 9, I started to become aware of the classes that I take, my GPA scores, and my ECs (extracurricular activities). At the time, I was still really into computer science and programming. But then at the same time, I was also really interested into physics. In grade 7, I read a book about theory of relativity and the speed of light. I became interested in if it was possible stop light, in that case, go with the same speed as light. I also read on a magazine, NewScientist, and I’m not sure if my interpretations were correct, I am guessing not and I have made a mistake, but, exceeding the speed of light would allow energy to convert to matter. From then I was passionate with physics. (One of the books that inspired me-in Japanese). I had two different majors I was passionate for so I decided to just take as much science courses that I can just so that I don’t face any troubles if I switch majors. For IB, I took 4HL subjects-normally you would only take 3- which was, HL Japanese, HL Math, HL Chemistry, and HL Physics. Of course, no one else in my grade ever took 4HL in the sciences (it is indeed, a suicidal act). However, not only did I take the IBs and 4 Higher Levels, I decided to take Japanese education system once again. Why? Why when you are already so close to attempting such a ‘suicidal act’, are you even pressuring yourself to undergo the Japanese system as well? Are you crazy? That’s the reactions (or the face expressions) that I get when I talk about myself to everyone. Yes, I am a typical Asian nerd that loves to study. No, not really but at the same time, yes. I have this weird kind of conflict inside me. I love to study but I hate to study. I guess the correct way of putting this is, I love to study the subjects that I have interest in, and I really hate studying the subjects that I don’t really have an interest in. At the same time, I also love to study because of that sense of accomplishment that you feel when you achieve a difficult task, but I hate to study because of all the efforts that it takes. I think this is true to a lot of people. Anyways, I did do both the IB and the Japanese studying. When I was in grade 11 (高校２年生), I passed a Japaneseexam（高校卒業程度認定試験）hosted by the government (ministry of education) , which gives me an equivalence of graduating a Japanese school. Then when I graduated in 2015, I spent an year of studying by myself, and another year of studying at a Japanese school (駿台予備学校）, just so that I was assure that I was all good with the Japanese education, and here I am now, ready to move onto university. The reason why I hated the Japanese education system so much in elementary school but I started it in high school was, yes, I do admit that it was because I wanted to have a good academic profile and to prove that I was capable of anything. However, the main reason was not just that. I wanted to have a wider view of perspective. I noticed that a lot of Japanese students from international schools tend to criticize the Japanese education for it being all about memorization, and I realized that Japanese students or adults tend to criticize the international school education for it not giving a lot of work to do for the students. I found this very interesting as a matter of fact. By undergoing both education systems, I thought that I could see both the positive and negative aspects of them both. In conclusion, I would like to say, Japanese education is NOT just about memorization, and it is NO WHERE NEAR TRUE that international schools have a lax environment and do less amount of studying. I don’t want to be judgmental or anything, but I feel as though if anyone is criticizing about one or the other, they probably may actually think that the other has a defect, but I think that they also have a small portion of jealousy towards the other. As for doing both systems, and because I was already one grade above what I really should be in, I had a lot of enemies at school haha. One Japanese girl at school looked at my Japanese notes on Physics based on calculus, whispered to another girl right next to her, ‘Oh you know, Japanese is all about memorization.(Smirks at me)’. I really won’t forget what she said to me, word by word. She always said mean things to me, but I knew her grades weren’t as strong as mine because she confessed so. I guess in this situation she was jealous of the things I was studying because at school, physics was all based on easy math, no calculus involved. She always had this ‘rivalry’ consciousness towards me, but I tried not to care, not to care at all, because I knew that that wasn’t going to make me a smart student. She did other mean things to me for example, spread false rumors, kicked me out of the ‘lunch groups’, invited every girl in the grade to her birthday party except for me. This didn’t really matter to me anymore because all of the other students at school in my grade were also really mean to me and it was an everyday thing for me to be bullied. Again, I did go off topic, but what I wanted to say was that, before anyone criticizes anything, they should have the experience. So what I felt was that, it isn’t true that Japanese education could be achieved all through the process of memorization, in fact, for most science subjects, I found that it was more of a critical thinking kind of thing. Also, the international education, I thought it was just as difficult as the Japanese. This probably though, would depend on each international school. As for mine, we did the IB course so I would say that it is as hard as the Japanese system, but I think if it came to schools that use the AP system, the APs are just examinations, so they are no where near the IB in terms of the difficulties and the rigorousness. So overall, in both Japanese and International education systems, they are both challenging but as I have mentioned, IB requires you to write a LOT of essays/assessments. Compared to the Japanese system, they only require you to succeed in their entrance exams (if you were to look at the way of getting into a university via the entrance examinations, which is the most major way of getting into an university). So in terms of that, the style of ‘outputting’ and ‘receiving’ education still remains as it does in elementary school. However, I think that for high school students, the Japanese system is fine to the extent that a student is just ‘receiving’ education. I’ve once read somewhere on how children develop their intelligence. Children first imitate the behaviors and acts of their teachers/adults. Then after imitating the acts, they use their creativity to develop the act. Without the process of imitation, there is no way that a child can develop creativity. I think that this essay, which I have no idea where I read, is true. For example, ask yourself- if you don’t know how to hold a paintbrush, how are you supposed to be creative about your drawing? If you don’t know how to write codes, then how are you supposed to make your own creative software? The creative process could only be done if the person has all the basics covered to eventually be able to be creative. Therefore, I think that it is correct if high school students are required to just learn and output what they’ve learned on their final entrance examinations. The creative part, could be achieved in their higher educations, such as when they are studying at their upper division level at university. It is more of a problem if they can’t even do the basic things, which in some cases in the international education system, it couldn’t be covered. And also, it isn’t true that you never have the chance to participate in education. In the university entrance exams, although some universities have mark-styled questions, a lot of universities tend to have written-styled answer questions. In those cases, you are given an opportunity to show that you understand the topic and what your own opinions around it. So overall, I think that both systems are both good.
A bit of a long introduction here, but the main reason that I did the Japanese education was because I was actually thinking of going to a Japanese university. My dream school was somewhere in the US not mentioning where but since it was a top-class university and that it was a public university, the university required, especially for international students, way expensive education fees and it was way too expensive for myself to attend. So in the middle of my high school years, I decided to take the Japanese entrance exams and get into a second class university- University of Tokyo (AKA Todai)- and to go to my dream school from graduate school since I knew the Todai and my dream school had like a connection. Todai is very cheap for Japanese students to go because it is a national university. However, should i have failed the exams twice, (現役時：理科二類不合格. 浪人時：理科一類不合格．）I didn’t know what to do. My friends at Todai say, that if you have an year, its really doable to get into Todai no matter what your starting line is. However, I don’t believe that what they say is true. The people who say that tend to be students who got accepted to a competitive middle school that are like feeder schools to Todai, and have been doing crazy amounts of studying for the six years of middle and high school. In my opinion, I think that it is very difficult, especially for an international school Japanese student to get accepted into Todai because we are on a totally different curriculum and there is now way we can catch up to what people have done in 6 years, in 2 years. But now i’ve found a better route where I could now actually attend what had been my dream school, and although it does feel like it was a waste for me that I’ve spent almost two years in the Japanese education system and now going on to the US education system, I am very proud and confident for the amount of work I had done, the amount of motivation that I had kept up in these two years, and definitely, this had gained be a great experience that will support me in the future. If I had really gone straight to a university from high school, I may have not learned in terms of education, and also in terms of keeping up my attitude to always study, so I am very happy with who I am now, and what I’ve done in these two years although my entrance examinations really did not work out so well. (I did get accepted to other top universities in Japan though.)
So overall as you can see, I went through 2, indeed 3 different education systems because IGCSE is a UK kind of thing. I am not really sure why I couldn’t have just stuck to 1, but I did learn a lot, and I think that while other students may spend their years at university having fun, I spent my 2 years very wisely, enabling myself to receive more education, which is what i think is more important to do while you are young because as you grow older, it becomes hard to learn new things. Next post, I would like to write in more detail about the content of education in both systems, if I had the time.