My Argument Against Juku

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.


5 thoughts on “My Argument Against Juku

  1. Hope the visit was a good one. The juku thing is a real conundrum, isn’t it. Keeping the focus on imagination and fresh air sounds like a good road to follow. Another thing I keep in mind is that “The Golden Egg” awaiting those who have had their childhood and youth swallowed up by fill-in-the-blank exercises at juku is not so golden after all — it’s basically servitude to the needs of their Fortune 500-esque Japanese company, a life where they arrive home at 10 p.m. every night and family needs come second. It is, in fact, not much of a life at all, and the salary perks not that perky. My brother-in-law jumped through all the hoops and ended up at Tokyo University; thirty years later he has a “prestige” job but lives in a shoebox-style condominium with his family in suburban Saitama commuting to Tokyo. Thanks but no thanks.

  2. Hi, Suzanne. I found you again. I think most parents send kids to juku and kumon to get them out of the house and away from those gameboys!! We have gotten through the years without them until last year. It’s a real boy thing socially. I have always asked at teacher-parent meetings if we needed to do anything extra for our children and the teachers have always said no. I have a high school girl who got into the best school in Tokyo without juku or kumon and without gameboy exposure (a real triumph). Actually she did do Benesse. Our 6th grade boy decided on his own recently to go to kumon, not juku, because everyone else was going to either one and there was no one left to play with. He placed out of their system in all skill areas but has to work through the 4th grade books. It’s only two afternoons a week. I’m just glad he’s taken the initiative and that he’s out and getting more school work even though it’s review–homework is quite scant around here.

  3. Hi, Annie. Glad you found me. I really can’t imagine wanting my kids to have more homework. It’s too bad that my kids can’t share theirs with your kids!

  4. The whole juku things drives me nuts too. Another aspect that I find disturbing is when my kids comapre themselves to kids that go to juku and call them ‘atama ii’, I try to explain that the kid who studies 10-15 hours more a week is not necessarily ‘atama ii’ it’s just that they have studied more.
    My DD’s JHS actually told me that they don’t have time to teach everything they need to know to take the juken, because bukatsu is the main focus of JHS.
    I think ( or maybe I just hope) that it all has to change, I see people who can grow things, make things, see outside the box are going to be needed for the future of this society.

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