If you want to improve education, just do it
"Education is what remains after one has forgotten everything he learned in school," Albert Einstein (1879-1955) famously once said.
The "dependability" of school education has always been questioned. While teachers may not be happy about it, one of the responses for this discontent is the rise of the education industry.
Recently, a public junior high school run by Tokyo's Suginami Ward scheduled night classes to be taught by lecturers from a major cram school. The plan called for using a school classroom at night to hold cram school lessons at about half the regular fees.
The principal, a former businessman, came up with the idea. Nineteen second-year students had applied, and the first lesson was supposed to be held Wednesday.
It was postponed after the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Board of Education pointed out three strikes against the classes: a) not all students can attend, b) the school is offering a classroom to a for-profit company, and c) teachers are helping with the teaching materials.
The school separately offers remedial classes for students who need help in keeping up with their regular lessons. But the proposed night classes could be interpreted as an attempt at "encouraging bright students to do even better." Not all families can afford the extra 18,000 yen a month for three lessons a week.
Cram schools are facing a decline in students and are looking for new ways to make money. Naturally, some people object to using public school classrooms to conduct private business.
Meanwhile, regular teachers are overworked. It is clear that education officials cannot dispel guardians' worries about the quality of public education these days by insisting on principles of public education.
Given the expense involved in attending private schools and juku cram schools, night classes are a good way to help students who otherwise could not afford juku education. To quote another eminent scientist, Eizaburo Nishibori (1903-1989): "First, do it."
The Suginami Ward board of education and the school hope to start the night classes after sorting out objections. When it comes to developing the human resources on which the nation's future rests, it is futile to draw a line between public and private.At long last, after much trial and error, a way to join private and public efforts has sprouted in Japanese classrooms. The entire nation is closely watching what will happen next. --The Asahi Shimbun, Jan. 9(IHT/Asahi: January 10,2008)