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Efficiency and education

2016.01.07





Tomohide Nakamori
Japanese History Instructor, Chuo University High School at Bunkyo

What is an educator?

As people create society, stabilize and run it, education is necessary in passing the cycle on to the next generation. For example, listening and speaking skills can be learned from within the family. However, when you begin to communicate with others, we become immediately aware that certain rules are necessary, and we need to learn these rules from suitable individuals.

Reading and writing are skills that become required as you grow, and this is when you enter a world where you suddenly learn a complex pattern of thinking. In such a world, it is indispensable to learn under the right person. This brings to my point that adults should not demand for young children to desire education out of necessity, but adults, who are shaping society, should have a desire to educate them. I have used the word “desire”, but this is different from the desire in individualism. This is for contributing to a group, that is, voluntary desire. There is no direct financial gain or comforting enjoyment out of it, however it is the idea of “the good you do for others is good you do to yourself”. This desire will pay forward and eventually return to you.

In other words, I want to clarify that education is unrelated to profit. From elementary to secondary and higher education, in principle, those who conduct education cannot practice it with monetary rewards in mind. People teach because they want to teach, and because there are people who want to be taught. I believe there are no educators who would object to this premise.

Dissatisfaction towards the current educational environment

I believe that if we begin to think this way, recent issues with education pop up one after another. For example, there are problems with English education under the slogan “globalization.” To me, this brings up the idea that “English education up until now has not been working (and therefore we cannot speak English), so we need to change it. We need to be able to speak English.” Although this is not written anywhere, it would be correct to make this observation. The current trend says that having more people speak English, Japan would prosper from more incoming foreigners. I cannot help but think that we are focused on setting up infrastructure first to draw in people rather than introducing Japanese culture outwards.

From another perspective, part of education is about acquiring knowledge and skills as much as you can, however that is not the point here. The Japanese society is built with the Japanese language as its foundation, and our everyday lives are affected by it. In this logic, the fundamental meaning of education is a voluntary will to pass on to this society and lifestyle to the next generation, and this action becomes completely unrelated to profit-making. I will state this unequivocally to ensure there is no misconception: I believe we should continue to study English and sincerely agree to have more people from overseas countries visiting Japan. But in order for that to happen, we need to enrich our own country’s language and become aware of our own culture first. I am a history teacher who feels that society nowadays have been treating not only Japanese history, but other humanities subjects as unnecessary. In terms of courses in the Japanese language, although Contemporary Japanese Language is still acceptable, it seems that students do not see the point in learning Classic Japanese and Chinese Classics. However, I cannot put the blame on the students alone. Even when I was in high school, I questioned, “Why should I learn Japanese History? And why Classic Japanese and Chinese Classics?” But I did not believe it was as useless as it has become today. I surmise one of the reasons that 30 years ago, when the bubble was at its peak and just before it burst, society as a whole had faith in our education system.

The Value of “Efficiency” in Education

Let me explain by using the word “efficiency”. When I bring up the topic of English education, Japanese History, Classic Japanese and Chinese Classics, we start to think about “efficiency” and we lose sight of its original meaning. Once again, I would like to make it clear that I am not saying that inefficiency is better nor am I rejecting our current society. In our world today, we cannot escape from the progress of optimization and the pursuit of rationality. Everyone wants to have a wealthy lifestyle, and make money to achieve that. In order to make money, we cannot be satisfied with being inefficient. My concern is that if we do not keep checking and reminding ourselves that the true nature of education is incompatible with “efficiency”, our society will end up paying a great price.

However, the problem is not as simple as that. To have many students acquire a certain standard of academic skills, we need to test the students and grade them based on the results. Even if we were to evaluate using an absolute scale instead of comparative assessments, in reality, there would be inequality and dissatisfaction among those who were tested unless we use comparative assessments. In order to educate a collective group, we will need to divide their academic skills using their test grades to make them learn “efficiently”. Since we cannot split the classes according to their test results, since that will lead to other issues, we want to teach them techniques to “efficiently” receive good scores. I can go all the way back to discuss the nation’s modern state theory, which our efficient education system was built upon, focused on producing a uniform labor force. However, my objective here is not about tackling such a big story.

There is no need for a large debate or a bold reform of the system. To the members of society I would like to raise the question, “shouldn’t education (from elementary to university level) be more than producing fast results and being efficient?” and raise awareness about the topic. As simple as this may sound, I believe that it is important for each independent individual to continue and practice their interest at their own level, unaffected by the common trend, and have the willingness and ability to develop their own opinions through a historical and broad perspective.

Even with drill-type learning methods which appear to be pursuing efficiency on the surface, once upon a time it was not a bad method as we believed that learning in that way would lead us to the next step. Also, dividing students according to their academic ability through examinations was also a method of ensuring students to have a stable learning environment, and they would be relieved by the fact that there was not a major gap in their academic level. In short, it is easy to criticize the current education methods and change them, but it is difficult to bring forth education that matches human beings. Again I am not saying we should not change the current system. Changing it would be a serious matter, and in my opinion, education should not be affected by the interests of the changing economy.

As an Instructor at Chuo University High School at Bunkyo

Lastly, I would like to talk about Chuo University. The founding spirit of Chuo University is “Fostering the Ability to Apply Knowledge to Practice.” The mission is to bring up individuals who will contribute to society without falling into impractical theories and conceptual learning. If we were to rephrase this, we are clearly distinguishing between the “practical learning” used in the world that runs on the economy and the “practical learning” in seats of learning. Chuo University is an establishment of common sense that coincides with the trends of the current era. Following the principle of fluidity and immutability, and the “globalization” of universities that it preaches is based on its wisdom attained through 130 years of history, the university understands that its goal is to become a communication hub for the world in Japan.

I often hear people say that the impression of Chuo University is solid, but plain. It is certainly true that if you were to compare it with other universities in terms of extravagancy, I cannot deny it would not make much of an impact. As a graduate of Chuo University I am not fond of such remarks. I believe that the recent announcement of CHUO VISION 2025, Chuo University’s ten-year development plan, would become a big game changer. Even still, I feel the university is being underrepresented.

Returning to the main topic, however, becoming a solid place of learning is the most basic of basics. From the beginning, Chuo University was not founded by a prominent figure, rather it was established by several lawyers, and from this background alone, I believe not being a charismatic institute is part of its identity. Because of this, its school spirit does not wane at simply “simple and solid”, and has developed a unique image of a “family-like atmosphere” across the nation. Thus in this manner, Chuo University is an educational institute with learning at the heart of its foundation and is at the furthest point from optimization with the intent of attaining utility. It strives to become the ideal seat of learning.

Four schools affiliated with Chuo University, including Chuo University High School at Bunkyo, share the university’s image of “simple and solid” and “family-like atmosphere” and exhibit their own unique characteristics while administering secondary education.

At Chuo University High School at Bunkyo where I teach, I strive to have students learn what they should be learning at a high school. At elementary school, junior high and senior high schools, I believe that students should acquire knowledge and experience at the appropriate level because that is what leads them to flourish at a higher education facility. From now on as well, like the phrase “fluidity and immutability”, without truckling to the trends of time, I would like to change what should be changed and embody our school’s motto in my teaching, “teach yourself and pave the way to the world” and initiate education that would lead to the development of global individuals. I believe that is connected to the training of individuals in accordance with Chuo University’s founding spirit who can contribute to society.

For that sake as well, as a step towards developing such a society, I would like to make a suggestion to everyone to try and create an environment at home so your family does not focus too much on efficiency, and try to distance yourself from the social trend of prioritizing optimization. By doing so, I believe that the society will gradually become more comfortable for children in the future.

Tomohide Nakamori
Japanese History Instructor, Chuo University High School at Bunkyo
Tomohide Nakamori was born in Kure, Hiroshima in 1969. He graduated from the Department of Japanese History at the Faculty of Letters, Chuo University in 1992. He completed the master’s program at the Graduate School of Letters, Chuo University in 1996. His professor in the undergraduate studies was Professor Masatoshi Ishii, and in the graduate studies was Professor Kanichi Minagawa, majoring in ancient Japanese history. 
Currently Nakamori is a Japanese History tutor in the Geography and History Department at Chuo University High School in Bunkyo.