At first sight, Japanese education system seems to be truly meritocratic. Indeed, in Japanese consciousness, all are born equal. It is only thanks to their work and efforts, that they achieve their goals. As the education system is grounded on those principles, we may think that only the most studious and brilliant pupils will enter the top universities. Yet this statement should be qualified. Even if, from now on almost every student can get into a university, since the number of young people has decreased, the Japanese education system remains highly competitive, for entering the most prestigious tracks. In other words, it is as difficult as before to get in the top universities (Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Tokyo Institute of technology, Tohoku, Keio, Kyushu, Nagoya ), but as there is about 700 universities in Japan, the students who decided not to be competitive, can still graduate from High School to work in small local companies. As worldwide Japanese companies hire students only from top universities, we could hence first observe that upward mobility is directly related to academic merit. Is it to say that education system in Japan is truly meritocratic?
[...] This is a very famous proverb in Japan about how hard you have to study to successfully manage the exam hell. To this extent, even if your parents have always pushed you and registered you in the best juku and high school, you are still far from passing the entrance exam. It is still up to you to study your best, make the greatest efforts and show an iron will. Therefore it is not because you are coming from a high social class that you do not deserve your sit in Todai. [...]
[...] Moreover the issue of the predominance of juku in education is worrying. In reality, the day of a child is divided into two radically different parts: the public school and the juku. In public schools, all Japanese pupils are strictly learning the same things, in perfect accordance to the program developed by the Ministry of Education. But during the evening, generally from 6:00 pm to 10:00 pm, most of pupils attend juku. Juku consists in intensive courses in small groups sometimes with renowned teachers, which exclusively prepare children to the entrance exams of the best universities. [...]
[...] Except being a genius, entering Todai, the best university of Japan is truly an assault course, which requires to have attended the best schools of Japan. Then let us debate the meritocracy issue. Thanks to this first observation, the issue of meritocracy is patent. The selection process is not only grounded on pupils' will and motivation but also on the ability of parents of registering them in the right schools. As the competition begins at the entrance exams of elementary school, privileged households send their children to private institutions between 3 and 6 years to ensure getting them in the best elementary schools. [...]
[...] Upward mobility is important for the society's stability and recruiting the "best talent" is important for achieving economic prosperity and social justice. Without school reforms that address the incentive, curriculum and meritocratic issues applicable to students from disadvantaged social backgrounds, social stratification will become an even more serious problem, as will those of motivation, dropouts and hikikomori. As a conclusion, education in Japan is far from being purely meritocratic, especially because of the importance of parents' revenues and relations. The Japanese system is even a kind [...]
[...] At the other end of the spectrum, Japan has a higher percentage of students in the top level of mathematics ( 8.2 than any other OECD member, twice the OECD average ( 4.0 This is the heart of the growing inequality in Japanese education. While widening educational inequality is not uniquely Japanese, the recent PISA results reveal that the pace of change is unusual. It is also important to note that a high level of equality in achievement was once considered a characteristic of Japanese education. [...]
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