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Culture of Competition in Japanese Education

The culture of competition at certain levels of Japanese education is all-consuming. Once the Japanese student completes compulsory education, he or she is confronted with formidable entrance examinations for high school and college. Ironically, the student's school experiences prior to and after the onset of this "examination hell" are characterized by a marked lack of competition. The Japanese grade school student enjoys considerable support both from teachers and peers in the classroom. The Japanese college student encounters minimal academic demands. Only students fighting for the few available slots in the elite high schools and colleges participate in Japan's relentless culture of competition.

The intense competition in Japanese education appears a contradiction for a society that values egalitarianism, group harmony, and cooperation. Emphasis is placed on maintaining social relations. An example is salaries. Although a differential in salaries of teachers based on the teacher's degree and certificate level determines the initial level of pay, this differential decreases dramatically by the end of the professional career. By basing teacher pay on seniority, the Japanese minimize competition. Competition is minimized in other work areas as well: "Many successful Japanese companies also work to cushion failure, and it is important to note that the salary gap between the lowest-paid shop worker and the highest-paid executives in Japanese firms remains among the smallest of all industrialized countries" (Feinberg, 1993, p. 116). Because Japanese moral education, which is required at all educational levels, teaches the value of working toward common goals, poor performance is viewed as a breakdown in human relationships; repair focuses on re-establishing harmony.

The cultural priority that Japanese society places on harmonious relationships is evident in the classroom. Competition among students is minimized: "C...

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Culture of Competition in Japanese Education. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 22:10, November 30, 2021, from