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Modern and Traditional Japanese Culture: The Psychology of Buddhism, Power Rangers, Masked Rider, Manga, Anime and Shinto. 在日イギリス人男性による日本文化論.

Thursday, February 16, 2012


Hours Studied Per Week at US and Japanese Universities

Hours Studied Per Week at US and Japanese Universities by timtak
Hours Studied Per Week at US and Japanese Universities, a photo by timtak on Flickr.

The labels indicate the percentage of first year university students that study (out side of class) in each of the time bands. For example nearly ten percent of Japanese students do not study at all, whereas in the US only 0.3% of students avoid study entirely. More than two thirds (66.8%) of Japanese university students study only 1-5 hours per week --at most an hour per weekday-- whereas this percentage is only about 15% in the US. The above graph is based on data collected by the Central Council for Education of the Japanese Department for Education and Science, as reported on the front page of today's (2012/2/16) Asahi Newspaper.

The newspaper reports that, alarmed at these statistics, the Ministry of Sports Science and Technology intends to implement entrance and exit tests to ensure that university students are studying more, with a view to creating graduates that can be major players on the global stage (グローバルに活躍する人材, Asahi, 2012).

There is nothing new in the these type of comparisons. Brian J. McVeigh's comprehensive, though damning and as yet untranslated, "Japanese Higher Education As Myth," as well as many domestic commentators, have been pointing out that academically, Japanese universities are allow students to concentrate on their part time jobs, their club and social activities rather than ensuring they study academically. As Mc.Veigh points out, Japanese academic has no academic ethos, little awareness of the value of study, so as soon as escalator of entrance exams end, so does the motivation to study.

The Japanese education department indends to extend the escalator, adding stricter assessments at the end of university life, forcing students to study while they are university if they are to go on to graduate and get a job.

They are going to require that Japanese university teachers become stricter in their evaluations and refused to allow students to graduate even though they have a job lined up. And even though the company ready to employ that student is not nearly so concerned, when compared with US companies, with the academic achievement of the students it intends to employ.

Japanese companies do not care so much about whether students have studied academically during their time at university. If a student has invested time and energy into their club or part time job, achieved a position of responsibility, or shown intelligent, practical, creative endeavour in any aspect of their lives (including academically) then they are happy to hire them. Some companies shy away from students who are particularly academic, perhaps with the belief that having too many scholarly types in the office does not make for successful business. Japanese companies stress 'on the job training', and learning by experience so that university graduates start at the bottom and do not come into work situations where they are expected to apply the theories that they have learnt at college.

The education that Japanese universities have provided, therefore, may be argued to be in line with the demands of Japanese society. Theories - which is after all what universities teach - are not as useful, or as lauded in Japan. Providing interesting lectres, opportunities to interact with each other, be stimulated, experience academe and the lifestyle of academics in "seminars," and to gain life experience in part time jobs and clubs, has provided Japanese students with the social skills training required of them in (non-theory based, non-logocentric) Japanese society.

I set a large amount of homework in my English classes especially. I use online testing to force my students to study outside of class. I believe for students to be competative in a declining economy, academic study is important. But at the same time I fear that Japanese universities are by their attempt to mimic Western universities are going to present fewer opportunities for students to obtain the flexibility and social skills that Japanese society still requires.

One of the reasons why Japanese students do part time jobs is because there are few immigrants, or a 'working class' doing them instead. University students are the working class of Japan. The man the pumps, wash the dishes, serve at tables, and work in the fast food restaurants. The same lack of an underclass obviates the need for a university educated elite. Japanese fulfill all roles at different ages of their lives.

The University evolved out of seminaries, training schools for priests. Their original specialisations were theological studies of the Bible and the Koran. Westerners, and those of the "book religions" believe that one can live ones life based upon the advice gained from the pages of a book, by applying theories.

It seems to me that Japanese companies and their employees have been major players on the international stage. So major were their plays that British industry was wiped out by competition from Japan. As Japan mimics the West more and more, and as Japanese university graduates wonder become more and more out of phase with the living tradition of their employers, will the Japanese economic miracle continue to function so well?

I try to encourage my students and colleagues to integrate theoretical learning with practical experience. I have argued that we should be teaching "part-time job theory," and "club theory," and encourage students to research and analyse these areas of their lives. I hope there is a middle path.

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This blog represents the opinions of the author, Timothy Takemoto, and not the opinions of his employer.