Tomorrow I’m meeting with my son’s teacher for our parent-teacher conference. Although this has not yet happened, I always imagine that the teacher is going to ask me to send my son to juku. I’ve heard of this happening at other competitive and/or private schools, and I know that many of the kids at my son’s school go to cram schools after they finish regular school at 4PM (which is at least an hour longer more than public school). When my son was in first grade, his teacher wanted to keep him after school to work on arithmetic. It’s not that he couldn’t do it; it’s just that the other kids were faster, having gone to cram schools probably since they were about three years old. Kumon is raking in the bucks, let me tell you. I wasn’t particularly bothered by the fact that my son was a little slow to compute. I’m more concerned about him developing his imagination and getting enough fresh air. But there is always pressure. The schools want their students to score high ’cause it makes them look good, even though these kids are getting drilled outside of school and the teachers really have no right to take the credit.
So why do these parents send their kids to cram school? Well, I guess it’s because they want their kids to get into a decent high school, then into a decent college, and then they can be well-employed. The thing is, with the declining birth rates, these days many colleges are in danger of being closed down for lack of students. It’s pretty difficult to get turned down at some of them. Some of my college professor friends are having to spend lots of time trying to recruit high school students. If things continue as they are – and they probably will since Japan is so xenophobic that it won’t even admit refugees (who tend to work hard) and women are getting married later and later and having fewer and fewer children – my son will have his pick of jobs by the time he is ready to enter society. Maybe by then, companies will be so desperate, they’ll even be willing to hire disabled people.