Thursday, January 03, 2008

Japanese want Indian style schooling

Is this a one-off instance being published or a sign of things to come? In any case, this is an outcome of growing understanding about India in Japan mainly due to the efforts on both sides during India-Japan friendship year in 2007. We hope many more such positives will contribute to a strengthening bilateral relationship. Editor

Thursday January 3 2008

MITAKA (Japan): Japan is suffering a crisis of confidence these days about its ability to compete with emerging Asian rivals China and India. But even in this fad-obsessed nation, one result was never expected: a growing craze for Indian education.

Despite an improved economy, many Japanese have a sense of insecurity about the nation's schools, which once turned out students who consistently ranked at the top of international tests.

That is no longer true, which is why many people here are looking for lessons from India, the country the Japanese see as the world's ascendant education superpower. Bookstores are filled with titles like "Extreme Indian Arithmetic Drills"and "The Unknown Secrets of the Indians"

Newspapers carry reports of Indian children memorising multiplication tables far beyond nine times nine, the standard for young elementary students in Japan. And Japan's few Indian international schools are reporting a surge in applications from Japanese families.

Viewing another Asian country as a model in education, or in almost anything, would have been unheard of just a few years ago, say education experts and historians. Much of Japan has long looked down on the rest of Asia, priding itself on being the region's most advanced nation. But in the last few years, Japan has grown increasingly insecure, gripped by fear that it is being overshadowed by India and China, which are rapidly gaining in economic weight and sophistication. Grudgingly, Japan is starting to respect its neighbours.

Until now, Japanese saw China and India as backward and poor,?said Yoshinori Murai, a professor of Asian cultures at Sophia University in Tokyo. As Japan loses confidence in itself, its attitudes toward Asia are changing. It has started seeing India and China as nations with something to offer.While China has stirred more concern here as a political and economic challenger, India has emerged as the country to beat in a more benign rivalry over education. India's success in software development, Internet businesses and knowledge intensive industries in which Japan has failed to make inroads has set off more than a tinge of envy.

Most annoying for many Japanese is that the aspects of Indian education they now praise are similar to those that once made Japan famous for its work ethic and discipline: learning more at an earlier age, an emphasis on memorisation and cramming, and a focus on the basics, particularly in math and science.

The founder of the Little Angels school, Jeevarani Angelina a former oil company executive from Chennai, India, who accompanied her husband, Saraph Chandar Rao Sanku, to Japan in 1990 said she initially had difficulty persuading landlords to rent space to an Indian woman to start a school. But now, the fact that she and three of her four full-time teachers are non-Japanese Asians is a selling point.

Copyright: New York Times

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