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In Praise of American Teachers

SPOILER ALERT: This post is going to be part rant, part commentary and part revelation, so be prepared for a lot of text and some opinions (which may be rather harsh).

Since I've had about a week of school I think I'm just about qualified to make comments about the type of education in Japan, and a bit of confusion I have about world education rankings. Let me be rather blunt at first: a dull teacher at an American school is already more intersting than a teacher at a Japanese school. The best examples I have for this is comparing American math and science classes to Japanese math and science classes. Science and math classes that I've always had have been very teacher-student and student-student interactive, with discussions, questioning, and interactions with the material. Japanese math and science classes are completely lecture based, where the teacher either reads directly from the textbook or instructs the students to. Even when the teacher wrote on the chalkboard (yes, chalkboard: they have no technology in regular classes. This puzzles me since Japan is usually known for advanced robotics/technology etc. ) there was no questioning from the students just injestion. Either they have the best information I've ever seen or they do a lot of studying on their own. Either way, there's not a lot of interactive thinking going on. And while that may be great for test scores, it doesn't make for a very engaging class and certainly not motivational!

And while the American schooling system is far, far from perfect, it definitely one-ups the Japanese system for innovation. This may just be my personal opinion, but I feel like an American student could get a lot more out of the same material than a Japanese student simply based on how the class was taught. And this is where the world rankings that the US keeps dropping in puzzles me, because it seems like we should be doing much better. Then I question if it's motivation to learn that American students are lacking, or if the tests that the rest of the world goes through are sufficient motivation for studying.

So American teachers, keep doing what you're doing! Trust me, if you keep classes interactive and questioning you are definitely on the right track!


  1. That's a really fascinating point. I suppose that it could be cultural. The question, then, is whether the difference is motivation, or if American style really is superior. While it may be more engaging, especially to a student who is accustomed to the interactive type of teaching, perhaps more and better information is conveyed by the Japanese. If they have grown up with that style, perhaps it is more interesting to them (and they can understand it a bit better than you can, considering varying levels of fluency in Japanese). Also, they have higher expectations to uphold, whereas Americans are already considered to be the idiots of the world, so they cannot sink much farther.

    I enjoyed your giant block of text. Please forgive mine! :-D

  2. jajaja i do agree with math and science, except for chemistry because my teacher makes in interacting and interesting, but physics the teacher is boring, and math the teachers voice makes you want to fall asleep =.=

  3. I realized, while reading this, that my experience at MIT has been that most classes use blackboards, which may surprise you, since we're also known for advanced robotics/technology etc. And I like that. So do my friends! I conducted an informal poll of the 6 or 7 people sitting in my living room, and my classmates agree that they prefer professors using blackboards to whiteboards or powerpoints or other forms of technology. Very interesting!

    On your second point, I was thinking back to my year in China, and I think the tests they have there are definitely motivation for studying there. I don't know similar it is to Japan, but at the end of high school, everyone takes a few days of testing (it's dependent on which areas you're testing in, if I remember correctly, but it's 3 or 4 days, I think), and the scores you receive on those tests are the only thing that determine what university you go to. That's a lot of motivation to learn everything well! I think that translates into cultural expectations for high school and university students which are different than in America.

  4.'s one thing, I think. As long as "tests" are the standard assessment, American education may not come out on top. The thing is, though, that it is hard to assess the creativity and the ability to assess/adapt/originate that our system (at its best) engenders. I think you can see it, though, in so many American youth. There...that's my 2 cents...what can you buy in Japan for 2 cents?! Many x's & o's Clare

  5. hmmm I agree with Lauren there because it's true that we are influenced by our surrounding and because in America we've are use to getting everything we want -coughs- technology then the overusing of technology maybe one reason why America or specifically the US is falling behind most countries in education because we give our student "toys" to abuse... but that's just my opinion. But I also agree with you point in interaction, a teacher that does not challenge both our IQs or EQs or just doesn't plain teach at all is not a very helpful teacher. ehhh now it sounds like I'm ranting :P well have fun in you boring classes they are any better here, trust me...

  6. actually its all like that in asian countries... you dont expect us to have that kind of technology :D


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