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.