Saturday, 4 February 2012

Is the (Japanese) education system fit for purpose?

I came across this wonderfully articulate opinion piece (by Ken Robinson) as animated by RSA Animate. I liked the animation so much I immediately got the app for my phone (RSA Vision) and subscribed to their YouTube channel. Plenty to keep me awake this evening while I wait for the rugby to start at 2am!

education (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)
I have been thinking quite a lot lately at how poorly education here (Japan) does by the children. For example, the most respected JHS in my town is actually rather rubbish (I should know, I picked up a part-time wage there from time to time over five years) and that when asked, teachers don't really have a clue where the children are at, educationally. This stark admission is criminal, in my opinion.

I think school here is geared to do several things, such as round off square pegs so they'll fit in the salaryman round hole & produce obedient fembots...but education is not very high on the agenda. I recently saw a friend raging on Facebook about dross homework & woeful assignments being submitted at his university. I recognised his purple-faced indignation immediately, from my own experiences at a university not far away. Long story short, would that level of work be rewarded anywhere else? No, of course not - so why is it the norm here? Because that's the way the system is set up. It is a self-reinforcing banality, and I believe a busted flush.

I see no signs of innovation at the schools I teach at. Quite the opposite - ostrich phenomenon. When my daughter was smaller, she would stand hiding facing a wall - hilarious, yes, but that is what the Japanese education system is still doing. "If we don't look around, no-one can see us"...and we'll still get our nice salaries and bumper bonuses. I don't see any evidence of innovation, invention, investment at the schools I visit - and I do not see the end result - drongo high school kids/1st year uni students - being any more ready for the real world than they were in the late 90s.

A case in point , which supports one example highlighted by Ken Robinson = the production line that is school intake. I must teach nearly a dozen 'returnees' at Luna, whose English skills are off the chart (relative to their non-immersed classmates). They are obliged to sit through English classes at school regardless. My idea? Round them up and engage a unique resource before it withers. As they are, they are picked on by the teacher to provide inane answers or model reading/pronunciation, which hardly ingratiates them with their peers. That English classes still feature predominantly L1 delivery (certainly in my experience) only adds to the futility.

Anyway. I saw this presentation and was nodding throughout. The speaker is obviously English, and America is an example, but his basic tent holds true for Japan too without much tweaking. The final issue he makes wrt collaborating rings especially true for me, as it is something we are trying to achieve with our learners at Luna - witness all the marvellous work our students are producing, together, and sharing here.

Got an opinion? Would love to hear it!