The Wall Street Journal recently reported that Japan is overhauling its elementary-secondary education system. According to the Education Ministry, explains Craig Coley, "in place of 'overemphasizing intellectual education' schools will teach more 'zest for living.' The curriculum will stress creativity and independent thinking."
This is great news for America and bad news for Japan. Just as the U.S. shows signs of recovering from the excesses of progressivism, Japan plunges in. Perhaps its children can now look forward to an overdose of "relevance," encouragement to learn whatever they like, teachers who see their roles as "guides on the side," and nobody held responsible for meeting external academic standards.
When that day dawns, we'll no longer feel that Japan has superior schools. U.S. children will surpass their Japanese age mates on international assessments of math and science. And Japan will ooze deeper into the fever swamps of goofy education ideas.
Perhaps I exaggerate. It's difficult to imagine a land as top-down, buttoned-down, homogenized and precise as Japan ever turning its kids loose to learn whatever tickles their fancies. Not, in any case, until Japanese trains stop arriving at the precise moment and place that the timetable dictates.
Still, the Education Ministry's Rainbow Plan, aka Education Reform Plan for the 21st Century, indicates that Japan is headed in the direction we are emerging from. (You can see an English language summary at http://www.mext.go.jp/english/topics/21plan/010301.htm.)
Based on a commission's recommendations, the seven-part plan includes such gems as "foster youth into becoming open and warm-hearted Japanese" and "improve...