Quote Japan

Interesting, odd, outrageous or informative quotes about Japan

Education- quotes about Japanese schools, universities and kindergartens

Education- Quotes about Japanese education and academia (juku cram schools etc)

“The awe with which the Akamon (gate of Tokyo University) is regarded is illustrated in tales of ambitious and kimono-clad mothers taking their five-year-olds to visit the gate before packing them off to their first day of school, seeking to impress upon the youngster the goal for the next 15 years of life” Insight Guides Japan

“everyone [in a group] is not only supposed to think and act alike, they are also supposed to be equal in ability” from “Kata” by Lafayette De Mente (2003)

“Contrary to myth, Japan is not a single, monolithic culture persistently characterized by harmony and consensus…Rather, Japan is a nation of complex subcultures and has a plurality of traditions that have undergone considerable change over time… nowhere is this past better seen than in the repeated controversies about schooling over the past 150 years.” Learning to be Modern, Byron K Marshall

“Pass with four, fail with five” Merry White quoting a traditional Japanese proverb in The Japanese Educational Challenge. The ideas is that five hours sleep is too much if you want to really achieve something, or more generally that you should always think whether you can add more effort to whatever you are doing

“In the 1990’s, respected university researchers claimed that the Japanese were genetically unique in their ability to appreciate to the fullest the sounds of nature like crickets and waterfalls” Insight Guides Japan

“It was called a “university” but its proper name was a school of languages. The Japanese had very primitive ideas concerning the fitness of men to teach… Anyone who could speak English could evidently teach it. The idea of a trained professional foreign teacher was never entertained by them… The “Professors” at first obtained were often ex-bartenders, soldiers, sailors, clerks, etc. When teaching, with pipe in mouth, and punctuating their instructions with oaths, or appearing in the classroom top-heavy, the Japanese concluded that such eccentricities were merely national peculiarities.”

 William Elliot Griffis, visiting the first Meiji era university in January 1871. Not much has changed!

Quoted in “Learning to be Modern” by Byron K Marshall

“The awe with which the Akamon (gate of Tokyo University) is regarded is illustrated in tales of ambitious and kimono-clad mothers taking their five-year-olds to visit the gate before packing them off to their first day of school, seeking to impress upon the youngster the goal for the next 15 years of life” Insight Guides Japan

“Education in Japan is not intended to create people accomplished in the techniques of the arts and sciences, but rather to manufacture the persons required by the State” Arinori Mori, Japan’s first education minister, quoted by Patrick Smith

“Rote learning is the child’s next lesson in dependence. To think is an act of autonomy: to memorize the given is to rely on authority” Patrick Smith

“Education madness first appeared in the 1890s” Patrick Smith

“In the average family, education consumes a quarter of income” Patrick Smith

“Order, discipline, self-control; it is the school rather than the family which is largely responsible for building these elements into the masculine Japanese character.” Ronald P Dore

“Each class teacher makes it his business to visit the homes of each of his children at least once a year” Ronald P Dore

“School remains, for most teachers, not just the place where they earn their bread and butter; it is a place where they belong…” Ronald P Dore

“The devastating thing about… the high school entrance (exams) and the university entrance (exams) is that everybody perceives the process not as a matter of individuals choosing their future careers but of individuals being differentially chosen or rejected for opportunities everyone would like to have” Ronald P Dore

“… the Tokyo University label has a gilt-edged value in the market- at least in terms of how bright you were at the age of eighteen even if there is not much guarantee offered (or indeed sought) concerning what you might subsequently have learnt there” Ronald P Dore, explaining how Todai is the Louis Vuitton of Japanese universities

“There are no people who are completely illiterate; but there are no people who are fully literate either” George Mikes gets to the bottom of the enigma of learning kanji

“The process of work is emphasized as much as the end result, and the details of the method are stressed. Diligence means seeing the job through to the end, sticking attentively to a a valued procedure, not cutting corners.” Merry White

“The reason why Japanese industry works and why Japanese schools teach, why workers don’t quit and why children don’t drop out of school, is that what is most wanted out of life- stability, security and support- are acquired through effort and commitment.” Merry White. This seems to be one good reason why almost nothing can be borrowed from Japan and transplanted to another country where those 3 things are not the most important, and indeed the not quitting thing has started to crack in Japan just as some people have gained other priorities.

“Study, like any activity in Japan worth pursuing, is an opportunity to commit great amounts of effort to a task.” Merry White

“When engaged effort is valued over ability, the environment of study or work is more truly egalitarian than it would be if the ceiling on a person’s efficacy were set by ability alone” The Japanese Educational Challenge by Merry White, pg. 52.

“Thomas Edison’s dictum that genius is ‘ninety-nine percent perspiration and one percent insporation’ is a precept, like strict quality control, that seems to work better in Japan though it was coined in the United States. If value is placed on effort, that may be enough to inspire someone to work harder.” The Japanese Educational Challenge by Merry White, pg. 52

“The teacher’s main concern is that the child be engaged in their work, and not that they be disciplined or docile. Thus, an American teacher might be distressed by the decibel level tolerated.” The Japanese Educational Challenge pg. 68. This is something I was very surprised at as I pictured perfectly silent Japanese classrooms, and it turned out to be just the opposite.

“In mathematics, creative problem solving is emphasized among elementary and lower secondary pupils…” The Japanese Educational Challenge pg. 68. That was another surprise for me and the opposite of my expectations, and is perhaps an explanation for the historical success of Japanese students in maths and science that even Japanese parents might be surprised at. 

“Order, discipline, self-control; it is the school rather than the family which is largely responsible for building these elements into the masculine Japanese character.” Ronald P Dore

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