For years, people have always felt that the Japanese school system was superior or more effective than that of the United States. Although some feel this way, others feel that the Japanese system is too strict and not flexible enough for those who may need extra help along the way. Through researching two different case studies, and also reading other materials, I have found many similarities along with many differences between the two, including teaching methods, overall emphases, and student involvement. Both countries have developed very effective and intricate systems of teaching, which compliment, and clash against one another. The Japanese system is not in all ways superior to that of the United States; however, there are a few different reasons why people may feel that the Japanese are in fact "smarter" than us. To begin with though, one must have an understanding of both systems and a basic knowledge of how they work.
The United States federal government virtually has no control over our education system. As result, neither a national curriculum, nor a national education system, has ever been enforced. Instead, according to (Hume. "International students ) each state has its own Department of Education. This department sets guidelines for all Stephens2
the schools in that particular state, decides from where the school's will get their money, regulates the licensing of teachers, and also decides on a minimum required amount of days that children need to be in school. Each school district also has a school board, who helps with all the major decisions within the school district. The members of these boards are elected in, and usually serve for a few years.
Most of American school's funding comes from local property taxes, and state taxes. Due to this set up, many people complain that equal educational opportunities are not introduced to all children. They argue that the level of education a child will receive is directly reflective of the type of economic area they come from. For example, a child that comes from a rural, less wealthy part of the state will not receive the same opportunities, or the same value of education as a child who grows up in a rich suburban town. These people feel that all children should be given the same opportunities regardless of the social or economic environment that they live in.
Often times, American education systems are compared to those of others around the world, especially to Japan. As a result of this, the system is constantly receiving criticism concerning the quality of the American system. (U.S.D.E. The Educational System in the U.S ) In fact, a recent study done by the National Institute on Student Achievement, Curriculum, and Assessment, states that in fourth grade math, Japan ranks third out of twenty-six countries while the U.S. ranks only twelfth, and that in eighth grade math, Japan keeps the ranking of third out of forty-one, while the U.S. drops to twenty-eighth. As result of these criticisms, sets of voluntary guidelines and standard achievement tests have recently been introduced as an effort to "catch up" to the other Stephens3
countries of the world. National standards in math, science, and history have all been published, and have influenced many different states, and their schools, to change and somewhat conform curriculum. These standards are designed to promote the improvement of school standards, make school districts more equal, and make it easier to see where we are as a country in regards to education of young people. Some, however, feel that these national standards, though voluntary, may bring schools which are already thriving down to the minimum level suggested. They also fear that these standards will allow local governments to become lazy in funding and in concern for the schools. Regardless to the arguments, simply the idea of enforced nation standards has raised more discussion and communication...