Comparison between American and Japanese Education System

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Education Systems in the United States and Japan
Education in Japan is not meant to produce people skilled in the arts and sciences, but rather to produce the people needed by the state. Japan’s first Education Minister, Arinori Mori
Mori (2001) asserts in his introspective and thought-provoking essay that a lecturer in the English department at George Mason University talks about her background as a student in Japan’s harsh educational system. Her fiction contrasts the structural and inherent differences in the American and Japanese regimes, straddling critical prose and autobiography. Adducing both historical and social justifications, while providing a distinct juxtaposition, a critical tone, and a metacognitive analysis that highlights both sides of the argument. Mori uses anecdotes to weave between an academic voice and a personal one. This is to build a sense of a reliable narrator and ultimately weigh the preponderance of evidence and make a final decision between the two approaches to education. Mori addresses an ostensibly general audience with her essay, but spends extra time convincing the reader that the American system is the best way, revealing that she has a deeper and more important argument to make than just a comparison.

At the beginning of the essay, Mori uses the first person indicating and initiating her heavy use of anecdotal evidence rather than hard evidence. She highlights that in an American system, there is a “distinction made between school and ‘the real world’.” This difference is brought out by a sentiment held that school is “insubstantial or insignificant” (204). Mori hyperbolizes the sentiment that Americans students feel toward the American system. This feeling is caused and also exacerbated, by the readiness of colleges to accept Americans who are returning to school after a long break. She compares this to the Japanese system, in which students only have one chance at getting into college- right after high school. There is no second chance, like that in America. Instead, college is not, by contrast, insignificant. She gives a reader a quick lesson in history and showcases her reliability by explaining ronin in Japan describes a student who did not get into college after high school. The etymology of the word finds roots in feudal Japan, which is the first distinct difference between the American and Japanese system. The Japanese’s education system, as Mori views, is antiquated and obsolete. Although a greater stress on attending college in Japan gives higher education a more serious tone, she argues that a more relaxed system, like that in America, allows students to mature more before setting foot on a college campus.

Mori delves into a deep analysis- albeit an anecdote- on her own experience in Japan after giving an overview of the two systems. She explains that her “teachers never gave [her] very clear advice about how to do better” (206). Instead, she was told to “do better,” a testament to the system’s “harsh judgment combined with vague exhortation” (207). Mori uses negative diction to reveal her argument against the perceived virtues of Japanese education. Although she examines both types of education, her caustic tone revealed by emotionally-loaded descriptions connect with her central argument. This same judgment can be found in family life in Japan. Thus, the reasons for unique Japanese breed of education are ingrained into the very fabric of society and tradition.

Rather than suffering through a curriculum wanting of creative writing, Mori was forced to attend an American college. She continues to strengthen the juxtaposition between the two countries by showcasing the direct and specific feedback that American teachers give to their students. Instead of simply saying to “work harder,” they say such thing as “You have a couple of awkward sentences and punctuation mistakes here, but your paper is excellent overall” (209). In her comparison between the two types of feedback, she uses a staccato sentence to describe one, but an eloquent and compound sentence to showcase the other. Mori strongly favors the American way. In fact, she views the Japanese’s little feedback as comically paradoxical. Although the Japanese favor the “zen” style of teaching, which focuses on correct form, the teachers do little to correct the mistakes of their students, even though it is necessary to improve. By contrast, Mori contends that “[i]n America, where teachers actually value the overall spirit of the work, they spend most of their time talking about details” (209). This paradox is central to her essay: One would think that in a culture that obsesses over tiny details, Japanese teachers would point out the minute details. Instead, it is the Americans, who value the big picture, who focus on detailed feedback. Through Mori’s critical tone, she extends the argument she makes at the beginning of her essay: Although the Japanese education system has some attributes, the American system is far superior.

Mori concedes at the end of the essay that there are some aspects of the Japanese system that are work highlighting. She explains that “the system works well for people who feel no desire to rebel” (213). Also, students have the opportunity to display their talent in a public setting. Yet, even with these positive attributes, Mori offers a counterargument by providing an analogy that likens the Japanese system to that of “the harshest interpretation of religious faith” (214). Through this analogy, Mori hits the nail on the coffin as to what, she views, is the best form of education. Including personal anecdotes that build a sense of trustworthiness, compare and contrast strategies and an equal preponderance of the evidence that draws a stark juxtaposition, Mori finally announces that after experiencing both, the American system gives students a second chance that Japan would simply not consider.


“The Educational Policy of Education Minister Mori Arinori.” Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Sept. 2015.

Mori, Kyoko. “School.” Rereading America Cultural Contexts for Critical Thinking and Writing. 5th ed. Boston: Bedford, 2001. 253-64. Print.

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