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Thanks for taking the time to watch the videos. I’m glad you enjoyed them. Education is like so many other things – everyone knows it doesn’t work, but we just keep doing it the same way because that’s the way it has always been done.

As I have said before, my impression of Japanese junior high and high schools is that they attempt to produce mindless drones who will become obedient and hard-working salary men and office ladies. Thankfully, of course, they do not always succeed, but I think it is a shame that so much talent is wasted because of bad education. Let’s hope someone from the Japanese Ministry of Education has watched Ken Robinson’s videos!

Actually, there is a reason why I feel so strongly about this topic. When I was in high school, I was at the bottom of the top group in almost every subject. I was never an “A” student. In fact, I didn’t get an “A” in any of my final exams, even though I passed them all. I left school thinking that I was not stupid, but not particularly bright, either.

University was pretty much the same, although I did develop an interest in writing, and there was more emphasis on debating and arguing. I was still nowhere near the top of the class, though, and my final degree grade was a “C.”

After university, I applied to join the police. I applied to join on what was called an “accelerated promotion” scheme. The idea was that only the top graduates would be taken, and they would be guaranteed promotion up to a certain level within a specified period of time. I didn’t think I had any chance of getting on the scheme, but I wanted to join the police anyway, and I had a degree, so I decided to give it a go.

The British police force is made up of a number of regional forces, and you have to choose which one you want to apply to. The idea with the accelerated promotion scheme was that each force would choose their best candidates, and those people would be interviewed by very high level people to choose the final “winners.”

I applied to the Merseyside Police, and I was very surprised when they recommended me for the extended interview. Of course, I was very happy, but I didn’t think I had any chance of passing, so I wasn’t nervous about it at all. I was already guaranteed a job, and I was happy enough with that.

The interview was somewhere in the south of England. Of the original 1,200 candidates, only about 150 were selected for final interview, and only around 35 of those would be chosen. The interview was held over two days, and we had to do all kinds of tests and tasks.

The first thing we did was a group discussion. Actually, I still remember the topic. There were six people in each group, and when our group walked into the room, there were two senior officers and a government representative sitting behind a desk. They told us to sit down, and then one of them said, “Clothes matter. Discuss.” There was no explanation of what we were supposed to do or how we were supposed to do it, but the day before, I had turned up at the interview centre wearing a Mickey Mouse T-shirt (I thought I would have time to change, but I didn’t). When they heard the topic, all the other candidates just looked at me, so I started talking. I think the observers were looking to see how well we could express our opinions, and how good we were at listening to other people.

Another exercise I remember was like a project that we had to do individually. They told us that a new power station was going to be built, and there were three possible locations. We had to read a huge pile of reports, newspaper articles, and letters from local residents before deciding which of the locations we would choose. None of them was perfect, so they were just testing our ability to absorb a large amount of information quickly and reach a reasoned decision.

There was also a general knowledge test, which was so difficult that it made me laugh. I couldn’t answer any of the questions! As I said before, I wasn’t really nervous about the tests because I didn’t think I had any chance of passing, so I just guessed the answers and kept turning the pages. After a while, I realised that the questions were getting easier. I thought about it later, and I decided that they were probably testing our ability to work under pressure and not give up.

The two days ended with what is called a “high pressure” interview. Each of us was interviewed individually for about 40 minutes by three interviewers. On the first day, they had made us write three sentences beginning with “I believe that…,” and they used these for the final interview. I had written “I believe that the government should reconsider its approach to reforming the prison system” because I had been studying that at university, and I thought I knew a lot about it. I got a bit of a shock when I read the profiles of my interviewers, though. One of them was described as a “senior government adviser on prison reform”! As you can imagine, he gave me a hard time in the interview.

A few weeks after the interview, I found out that I had passed, and the recruitment officer from Merseyside Police told me that I had actually been one of the top five. That was the first time I had been top of anything since primary school, and I was quite shocked. It made me realise that the skills you need to be successful in adult life are quite different from the skills you need to be successful at school. (That is especially true in Japan.) If my school lessons had been more like my interview, I think I would have done a lot better. I’m sure there are plenty of other people who had skills and talents that they simply never got a chance to develop at school, and that is why I feel so strongly about education reform.

Anyway, here is some feedback on your comments.

Because I can’t understand his talk so much. And hard part is how to translate the jokes.
Because I couldn’t understand his talk very well, and translating the jokes would be especially hard.

but they always met with a strong resistance from vested interest groups like 日教組(nikkyouso) and others and failed to reform the old systems.
Is this the dominant culture of education in Japan?
I’m afraid that “vested interest groups” is the culture of everything in Japan, from schools to construction, and from hospitals to power stations.

I don’t really know if my sons’ teachers join(?) “Nikkyoso” or not
I don’t really know if my sons’ teachers are in Nikkyoso or not. (A-Z: join)

It’s been so long since I posted my opinion here last time.
Nice to have you back!

I totally agree with the idea that school should be the place to develop individuality, curiosity and creativity
Nice sentence, but “a place” would be more natural than “the place.”

Recently situation has been changed.
The situation has changed recently / in recent years.

For example, they let the newly-graduates to build a plastic model for a whole three hours for a dental technician test to see if they were well-skilled with the hands and also had a character of perseverance.
For example, they asked new graduates to build a plastic model for a whole three hours for a dental technician test to see if they were good with their hands and to test their perseverance.

This is what I’m concerned.
This is what I’m concerned about. / This is what concerns me.

As Biwa said, we might be lucky, because studying hard promise our brilliant future
As Biwa said, we might have been lucky, because studying hard guaranteed us a bright future.

The problem is that Japanese teachers aren’t diverse or creative enough to define the course of education because they also received standarlized education.
This is one of the biggest problems in Japan. You can’t introduce interesting and original classes unless you have teachers who can teach them!

Actually, I got so interested in “choosing” that I have started reading another book called “The Art of Choosing”. Have you read it?
I haven’t, but now that you have recommended it, I’m going to!

Should I say “I have been reading another book called…” or add “already” like “I have already started reading another book…”? (Again, present perfect tense!)
Either sentence would be fine.

That’s it for today. Have a great weekend, and let me know if you have any questions.

9 Comments

  1. YU on Friday May 24th, 2013 at 08:58 PM

    Hi David,

    Thank you always for your feedback!

    > Education is like so many other things – everyone knows it doesn’t work, but we just keep doing it the same way because that’s the way it has always been done.

    I know exactly what you mean.
    I don’t want my son to receive standarlized education or experience the jyuken like I did, but I just can’t go against the current education system because it has always be done and it will likely be done at least for another decade no matter how hard I tried alone. I feel myself so helpless.

    I read your story about the interviews for police officers with interest.
    It is really a shame that you’ve quit the job so soon even though you were chosen one of the 35 out of 1,200!!

    By the way, I wonder if an “accelerated promotion” scheme in the UK is the same as what is called “キャリア組” in Japan.
    Anyway, this is just my impression of Japanese high ranking police officers after watching a number of police dramas in my life, but I have a feeling that almost all of them are from top universities in Japan, and they all look same to me, hahaha… I imagine, however, they are selected more carefully and reasonably in the UK according to your story!

    Have a nice weekend, all!!



  2. Fumie on Friday May 24th, 2013 at 11:34 PM

    Hi David,

    Thank you so much for your feedback.
    I enjoyed reading your story from your experience. You are really smart! Being chosen as 1 of top 5 out of 1200 candidates.

    >It made me realise that the skills you need to be successful in adult life are quite different from the skills you need to be successful at school. (That is especially true in Japan.)
    I’m sure there are plenty of other people who had skills and talents that they simply never got a chance to develop at school, and that is why I feel so strongly about education reform.
    That’s so true. At school, students who have more knowledge would succeed, but in real world, creativity, persistence, the ability to foresee the future are more important to succeed. I wonder how schools and teachers can help students to develop their skills and talents fully. Also, as a mother, I want to know what is the good way to develop their potential.
    Have a lovely weekend, everyone!

    Have a lovely weekend!



  3. Kattie on Saturday May 25th, 2013 at 02:59 AM

    Hi everyone,

    I’ve only just listened to the presentations so I’m sorry I’m commenting so late.

    I really agree that it’s very important to give equal value to arts, humanities and the science subjects and if we don’t, we will obviously be wasting and/or not even discovering some people’s talents. Schools should have broad based curricula which includes all these areas so that we can find out where people’s abilities lie. I’m not saying Emily and Rosie’s schooling was perfect but their secondary school did have very good music, drama and art departments, the subjects were highly valued and many people studied them for GSCE (GSCEs are the exams taken at the age of 16). It will be interesting to see the affect this has on all their futures and how many kids will go on to make a career in these areas.

    I think one of the many reasons why parents are often afraid to encourage their children in music, art, sport or drama is not because they don’t see a great value in these areas but because making a career as an artist/sportsperson etc involves talent, time, sometimes money and a lot of luck, so it’s seen as a very risky business. As children get older they need to devote a lot of time to their talent and this means that normal studies are often neglected so parents think there is little ‘to fall back on’, if they don’t make a great success. I suppose what we are forgetting though is that there are a whole raft of jobs that are connected to these areas which we don’t tend to think about, and often don’t even know about, because they didn’t even exist when we were kids. Careers advice in normal schools in the UK is shockingly bad, the students are given advice which is often poorly informed, out-of-date and in some cases actually wrong and they are presented with very limited career options! According to government figures, the creative industries in the UK (I don’t know about Japan) generate £36 billion and employ 1.5 million people, they are also responsible for £1 in every £10 of our exports – but most schools don’t seem to have any idea about the range of careers on offer.

    As I think I mentioned in the past, at 16 Rosie went to the BRIT School which is the only free performing arts and technology school in the UK – here is a link http://www.brit.croydon.sch.uk/page/?pid=2. It’s a real shame there aren’t more schools like this because they seek to bring out students’ talents and they also recognise that their students need to make a living so they will tell them about lots of jobs in the arts and give them advice on things like signing contracts with record companies etc.

    I think David’s own example also shows that we shouldn’t write people off at a young age just because they are not getting the top grades at the expected age.



  4. YU on Saturday May 25th, 2013 at 08:23 AM

    Hi Kattie,

    > this means that normal studies are often neglected so parents think there is little ‘to fall back on’, if they don’t make a great success

    I agree.
    I think that is why most Japanese parents stop having children take music lessons at some point during their primary schools.

    > I suppose what we are forgetting though is that there are a whole raft of jobs that are connected to these areas which we don’t tend to think about, and often don’t even know about, because they didn’t even exist when we were kids.

    As I think I mentioned in the past, I got to know a lot of Japanese music students in Germany. Most of them went to music colleges or conservatory to study classical vocal music or piano. They really devoted a lot of time to their study, but none of them “succeeded” finally. They seemed to believe that “success” in their fields was to be a celebrated proffesional vocalist or pianist, and the rest were “losers” who eneded up being a piano teacher of a piano school in a town.

    If it were true, that’s too poor options for them. I never mean that a piano teacher is a bad job, but as you say, they should be advised that there are actually lots of other jobs in the music and arts industries and supported to get those jobs.

    It is said that artistic jobs like musicians or painters won’t teach you anything you can use in other fields, and sadly, in fact, Japanese companies tend to avoid employing them because people who can manage to do various work are preferred in Japan.

    I find the BRIT school Rosie went perfect for children who are gifted in music. I don’t think it is very realistic for all those children to become famous musicians, but they have to make a living.
    The British music recording industry financially supports the school and they want graduates who are talented in music. That’s a perfect win-win system.



  5. Kattie on Saturday May 25th, 2013 at 05:09 PM

    Hi Yu,

    I don’t know about the options for classical musicians but I imagine there are quite a few connected with classical music. However I don’t really understand why employers would not want to employ creative people – I would think they are more likely ‘to think outside the box’, be inventive and they have shown that that they have excelled in a particular field. People who have excelled in one field are often more likely to excel in others; they know the demands. If I receive a CV from someone who has this type of background but is now looking to go into law and has since qualified as a lawyer, I highlight these achievements to the employer. In law, there are jobs in media law, sports law, fine art law etc and a lot of people who work in specialist areas have background knowledge.

    Re: the BRTT School – it covers several different areas; music (this is popular music, not classical), musical theatre, broadcast digital communications, dance, technical theatre arts etc. Students have normally been to regular schools beforehand and shown an aptitude in one of these areas and they audition to get in. They still study core subjects (maths etc) until the age of 16 but the focus of the school is to bring out their talents and tell them about all the career options in their specialism. The youngest students are 14 but I think most people actually join the school at 16.



  6. Fumie on Saturday May 25th, 2013 at 10:48 PM

    Hi Kattie,

    >I think one of the many reasons why parents are often afraid to encourage their children in music, art, sport or drama is not because they don’t see a great value in these areas but because making a career as an artist/sportsperson etc involves talent, time, sometimes money and a lot of luck, so it’s seen as a very risky business.
    -Unfortunately, that is true. In reality, only few people be successful in these fields.

    >Careers advice in normal schools in the UK is shockingly bad, the students are given advice which is often poorly informed, out-of-date and in some cases actually wrong and they are presented with very limited career options!
    -That’s too bad. I’m not sure if schools in Japan provide good career advice or not. I think it’s very important for students to be given enough/ good career advice to choose their future carees.
    Also, one of parents’ roles is to give their children good education. You are wonderful parents because you send your daughters to a wonderful school. Also your daughters are lucky to get into such a school which provides students lots of information on the fields.



  7. Kattie on Sunday May 26th, 2013 at 07:25 AM

    Hi Fumie,

    >Unfortunately, that is true. In reality only few people be successful in these fields
    Yes I agree there are only a few people who will a make it as a sportsperson, or a very successful musician in the pop industry etc but there are loads of jobs connected to these areas e.g. in the music world there are sound engineers, A&R people, music journalists, songwriters, vocal coaches, arrangers, admin people, managers etc. As Ken Robinson said in his presentation, the way we think about education is behind the times and geared towards what was needed in the past, not the future – we need to encourage people’s creativity so that they can adapt to a changing world. I also think that there’s more to life than making a lot of money and if you can make a living doing something you enjoy, you will never be bored, even in retirement – if you should ever actually want to retire!

    >You are wonderful parents because you send your daughters to a wonderful school.
    You are very kind but we really can’t take the credit, it was completely Rosie’s idea. She heard about the school and said she wanted to apply, the school’s in London and we live 200 miles away – we didn’t even know it existed!

    Hi everyone,
    I hope you are all enjoying your weekend – in the UK we have a bank holiday on Monday so it’s lovely to have a long weekend especially because it’s nice and sunny too.



  8. Fumie on Sunday May 26th, 2013 at 10:43 PM

    Hi Kattie,

    Thanks for the comment.
    As technology developed, there will be new type of jobs which wasn’t existed before, so it’s crucial for young people to know about these new job options.
    Peoples who do what they enjoy doing as a career look happy and they can spend a fulfilling life. On the contrary, peoples who work not in their particular areas for the money look miserable and they spend unhappy life.
    I hope you enjoy nice weekend!



  9. Biwa on Monday May 27th, 2013 at 11:04 AM

    Hi David,

    Thank you for your feedback and the interesting story about your interviews. It seems like in the UK, both job-seekers and recruiters are much more serious than in Japan. Actually, in Japan, I have never met a police officer who was good at expressing their opinions or listening to what other people say!

    Hi Kattie,

    Thanks for your comments. I really enjoyed reading them. I particularly agree that there are so many jobs that most people hardly ever know, and it’s even harder for Japanese people to figure out what kind of things they do because the names and ideas are often imported from English speaking countries!

    However, I think schools are starting to realize that they need to change. In fact, my sons’ school (actually, a recruitment company called “Recruit”) does a kind of survey called “careers assessment program” in their third year(15 years old). The students fill out various questionnaires, then later, they receive a binder full of advices about their personality, aptitude and a list of 20 suitable occupations. Some of the advices made us laugh, but not so bad as a whole. They didn’t try to pigeonhole the children, actually it gave us a good dinner-time topic. We learned new jobs like “actuary” from the list, and also, the computer analyzed the data in a different way from my husband and me (maybe more fairly?), so it was quite interesting for all of us. I wonder if you have these in the UK.