Approach to education and Japan’s miracles

Turki Aldakhil
Turki Aldakhil
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“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, said in 1885.

This statement expresses the principle, which many Asian countries with western components, like South Korea, Japan and Singapore, based their education on. All these countries have historic ties with western culture.

Japanese writer (1935 - ) Kenzaburo Oe has an interesting take on Japan’s evolution: “We are drowned to the neck in western culture but we planted a small seed and just like a seed’s roots takes hold in the ground and grows, we’ve set to recreate ourselves.”

Japan’s civilizational achievements may have western dimensions but have Japanese roots and this has been due to the country’s approach. The civilization continues to inspire since the end of World War II. Education and its development has played the most significant role in carrying out the tasks of cultural renaissance.

It has been around a century since formal education was established in Arab countries. However, education in general does not resemble the experiences of some other nations, which have succeed in refining their educational institutions.

In Arab countries, universities and schools continue to adhere to a bookish approach. They remain captive to rote learning and planting information rather than teaching students to discover themselves

Turki Aldakhil

Rote learning

In Arab countries, universities and schools continue to adhere to a bookish approach. They remain captive to rote learning and planting information rather than teaching students to discover themselves.

Prompt questions and prepared answers dominate education curricula in Arab countries. Intellectual tools and philosophical formulas have not been part of educational foundations. Although Japan’s educational experience came after the Arab world’s, it outperformed us beyond measure.

In his book “Japan: A reinterpretation,” American author Patrick Smith (1927 – 2014), narrated his observations and experiences in Japanese schools. He wrote: “The principal in each of the schools I visited spoke earnestly of the ideals of liberal learning. ‘Truth is not just scientific facts,’ said Toshio Iijima, who ran Minami middle school. ‘It’s also how to arrive at the truth by oneself in daily life. We want students to find problems in nature and solve them.’ ‘My duty is to make students grow into adults who can support the nation,’ Yu Hosono, an orderly but relaxed man in his fifties, told me at Sakai elementary. ‘My basic principle is: Everyone can play any role.’”

Strict education, based on the foundations of character building, developed societies in Asia. In the forefront, there is Japan as it managed to overcome its setbacks after WWII. It rose after it had stumbled and interacted with its surroundings and with nations which defeated it like the US. It harmonized with its legacy and the end result was providing the Japanese with high income.

Human development index

In Japan, human development index is high and there is economic renaissance, social welfare and political order because the basis on which the society was formed is not racial – despite the multiple ethnicities within the community as there are Chinese, Korean and others. The ground rule can be summed up in one word which is “education.”

The most prominent secret for the success of education in Japan depends on three points as the aim of education is to build character, create productive disciplines on ground and maintain education through partnership where students are learners and also teach one another. The distance between students and teachers is very short.

In kindergartens – where 90 percent of the Japanese go to before elementary education – children are taught to serve the great nation. The slogan is we can overcome crises through education. Japan actually did overcome economic crises. It has even contained the threats of earthquakes, which it is continuously subjected to due to geological reasons. Science and education have been the most significant weapon against these challenges.

In 1955, French anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss (1908 – 2009) wrote about relations between cultures. He said: “The less the communication between a culture and another, the less the chances they will corrupt one another. On another hand, the possibility of discovering the riches and diversities of other cultures will decrease. This is a paradox to which there is no solution.”

Japan is a nation which has learnt and taught. This is how it rose.

The article was first published in Al Sharq al-Awsat on March 14, 2016.
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Turki Aldakhil is the General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. He began his career as a print journalist, covering politics and culture for the Saudi newspapers Okaz, Al-Riyadh and Al-Watan. He then moved to pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat and pan-Arab news magazine Al-Majalla. Turki later became a radio correspondent for the French-owned pan-Arab Radio Monte Carlo and MBC FM. He proceeded to Elaph, an online news magazine and Alarabiya.net, the news channel’s online platform. Over a ten-year period, Dakhil’s weekly Al Arabiya talk show “Edaat” (Spotlights) provided an opportunity for proponents of Arab and Islamic social reform to make their case to a mass audience. Turki also owns Al Mesbar Studies and Research Centre and Madarek Publishing House in Dubai. He has received several awards and honors, including the America Abroad Media annual award for his role in supporting civil society, human rights and advancing women’s roles in Gulf societies. He tweets @TurkiAldakhil.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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