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Sunday, November 27, 2005

Japan Today - News - New York Times column stirs debate: 'Are Japan's schools really better?' - Japan's Leading International News Network

Japan Today - News - New York Times column stirs debate: 'Are Japan's schools really better?' - Japan's Leading International News NetworkNew York Times column stirs debate: 'Are Japan's schools really better?'

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Monday, November 28, 2005 at 06:57 JST
NEW YORK — A New York Times' column titled "Why the United States Should Look to Japan for Better Schools," published Monday, stirred a heated debate among readers, prompting the newspaper to run seven letters to the editor about the piece on Friday.

In an Editorial Observer column Monday, Brent Staples wrote, "The United States will become a second-rate economic power unless it can match the educational performance of its rivals abroad and get more of its students to achieve at the highest levels in math, science and literacy."


In Japan, Staples said, there is "the teacher-development strategy in which teachers work cooperatively and intensively to improve their methods.

"This method, known as 'lesson study,' allows teachers to revise and refine lessons that are then shared with others, sometimes through video and sometimes at conventions, he said.

The Japanese schools are "typically overseen by the ministries of education that spend a great deal of time on what might be called educational quality control."

On Friday, the paper published the readers' responses to the column, including one by Peter Kahn, a mathematics professor at Cornell University, who agreed with Staples's view, saying "American teachers, particularly in science and mathematics, are, on average, deficient in their understanding of the disciplines they teach."

Meanwhile, Ellen Rubinstein, an English-language teacher in Okayama Prefecture, western Japan, took issue with the column, "I was shocked to read Brent Staples's glowing review of Japan's educational system."

Japanese students' "understanding is relevant only insofar as it increases their chances of passing university entrance exams," Rubinstein said.

"Japanese students may perform better than American students on standardized tests, but they lack critical thinking skills," she said.

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