By Takashi Yabuta (UWCAC 2016-2018)
What do you want to study at school at the expense of your money and time? It may be math, history, or sciences, which are taught in most schools. But what if you want to learn computer science, design or anthropology? Not all schools teach them. In some education systems, every student is required to study predetermined subjects regardless of their preference. Under this system, you have to study the subjects, even though you may consider them useless, in order to enter a school.
In Japan, there are many entrance exams. Japanese students have to take at least two exams to enter junior high school, senior high school or university. All of the schools are ranked based on the difficulty of passing their entrance exams, and students compete for each other to get into better schools. The better school you get in, the more likely you are to get a good job in the future.
I took two entrance exams when entering junior high school and senior high school. Before taking these exams, I went to cram schools and studied an abundance of things, which I later found out were completely useless in real life. But, for the sake of entering a good school, I stressed myself to be perfect. I regret this experience so much in retrospect because I could have devoted myself to something I was actually interested in and improved myself in that area.
What we learn should not be defined by the education system, but by our interests. Unfortunately, the Japanese system that I was in demanded me to study specific things without exception. That system is too conservative. Why does such an education system exist?
The main reason is that Japan is a reputation-based society. Top companies in Japan hire graduates of renowned universities. Because entrance exams are so hard, only a few people from the best high schools can enter the top universities. Here is a question: are those who are good at taking tests have skills that are useful in real life? No. They are not necessarily good at dealing with actual practical tasks or being creative. Japan has an efficient filtering mechanism using test results, which was originally made to determine people’s potential ability, however, ironically, it created a class society, which is not based on one’s ability but their social class and ability to cram.
This phenomenon is prevailing not only in Japan but also among some other Asian countries, such as China, Singapore, and Korea. The education structure is narrowing students’ sight. On the other hand, in the IB system, students have much more freedom of choosing subjects. Students can study what they are passionate about. They can improve their ability in the area, which creates ability-based society. I am not necessarily saying that IB is the best but often I wonder what kind of education system should exist in this world.