8 Tips About Cram School Culture in Japan!

8 Tips About Cram School Culture in Japan!

A cram school aims to provide additional training to students outside of normal school hours. There are cram school equivalents in most countries, but nowhere do they play such a fundamental role in education as in Japan. But why should that be the case?



 

8 Tips About Cram School Culture in Japan!

 

1. Competition

Most Japanese people accept that the education system is very competitive, and many believe it to be unduly or unfairly so. Far from the egalitarian principles that underpinned the establishment of Japan’s modern education system, schools and colleges are actually extremely hierarchical and competition for places at the better, or more exclusive ones, is fierce. This fact is greatly responsible for the widespread reliance on privately run “juku” (cram schools) to prepare students for entrance exams.

 

2. The Rise of the Juku

Back in the 1950s, there were far fewer university places available and too many perceived failings within public schools to adequately prepare students to try for them. Into this atmosphere of mistrust, especially from parents, came the first of the modern juku cram schools. Throughout the 70s and 80s, attendance at juku mushroomed at every grade. Today, it’s estimated that nearly 1 in 5 children in the first year of primary school attend some kind of after-school tuition; for high schoolers it is closer to 90%!

 

3. Parental Perceptions

Parents everywhere want the best for their kids, but few in Japan have the time or capacity to tutor their offspring themselves. In addition, concerns over the appropriacy of the national curriculum, or the way it’s applied in public schools, and even widely held suspicions that public school teachers are ‘inferior’ in some way, has led most parents to view juku as essential. Most are quite prepared to spend as much, if not more, on supplemental education than they do on regular school fees.

 

4. Profits

Of course, being an affluent country with almost full employment has, in the past at least, meant that additional education expenses were taken for granted. This has meant massive profits for juku operators and greater incentives to encourage parents to ‘invest’ even more in their children through often highly persuasive advertising campaigns. Critics of the system say that it encourages profit over education. More importantly, in a post slump economy, fewer and fewer people are able to afford to send their children to juku, adding to the inequalities in the education system overall. Indeed, the national teachers union has never supported the juku institution for that very reason.

 

5. Content

Juku apply the overall scheme of the national curriculum, with an emphasis on the 5 required subjects: maths, Japanese, science, English, and social studies. However, the kind of rote learning juku employ is believed by some to stifle ingenuity and could be ultimately detrimental to Japan’s global position. Yet Japan does excel in modern technologies, medical and scientific research, and manufacturing, so it’s hard to point the finger at juku or the education system and claim they aren’t delivering results.

 

6. Popularity

Whatever educators and parents may believe, juku are remarkably popular with the students themselves. Public school classes are generally large and impersonal, and teachers have little time to attend to the individual needs of their students. Juku teachers, on the other hand, are more accessible and students can benefit from closer, more personal relationships with them. For this reason, juku offer a welcome reprieve from the strictures of the formal classroom setting, as well as any disruptive influences within it.

 

7. Like Minds

Because a juku class may contain students from several different schools, the friendships they discover there are often more meaningful, in that they are not tainted by the everyday issues of regular school life. Those who feel isolated within the system, or who are struggling with their regular lessons will often be inspired to ‘catch up’ and develop sociability amongst students with similar daily life experiences.

 

8. A Dull Boy?

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy – or so the proverb says. But there is a school of thought that points to the education system, and the juku institution as being harmful to developing minds. Certainly, Japanese youngsters enjoy very little free time to play without it impacting on their studies. But after school classes are not only academic; many youngsters are also attending piano lessons, dance classes or other vocational studies which may enrich their lives in a more personal way. Even academic juku offer students the chance to feel motivated towards enjoying the learning process and thus gain a sense of personal achievement outside of mainstream schooling.

 



Conclusion

As you can see, the role of the cram school in Japanese society is a subject of much debate and there are valid points to be made on all sides of the argument. However, the future is upon us and Japan’s ageing population and dwindling numbers of youngsters is already beginning to have a profound effect with Juku branches being closed down and some of those that remain now offering smaller, more personalised classes or 1 to 1 lessons.

In any event, if you’re considering having your children educated in Japan, you should carefully weigh the options available, both in the public and private sectors.

 

8 Tips About Cram School Culture in Japan!

1. Competition
2. The Rise of the Juku
3. Parental Perceptions
4. Profits
5. Content
6. Popularity
7. Like Minds
8. A Dull Boy?

 


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