An alternative look at life in the Land of the Rising Sun, coming from its southernmost prefecture, the island of Okinawa.
Posted By Dave on July 8th, 2014


Those who have known me a while will know that I just about kept my body shape in control (mainly in Okinawa through sweating generally due to the heat and humidity) or because of walking so much with my car dying.  It definitely wasn’t due to exercise though!  But after a couple of months of being back in England […]


Archive for November, 2012

Japan 4th in Global Education Rankings: Shurely Shome Mishtake?

Posted By Dave on November 27th, 2012

To say my jaw dropped when I read this story was something of an understatement.  Education firm, Pearson, have just released global rankings for the quality of education, which have placed the top 5 countries as:

  1. Finland
  2. South Korea
  3. Hong Kong
  4. Japan
  5. Singapore

With the UK coming in at 6th and the US in 17th.  The test measures test results globally, as well as the proportion of students who go on to university.

Now I’ve racked my brains since reading this and I really have no idea how Japan can rank so highly in education rankings.  And I’m not just talking about it from being a cynical English teacher living and working here for the past 8 years.  Education standards on the whole seem to be slipping, and especially when viewing comparisons to countries like Hong Kong with it’s tutoring “kings and queens”, and seeing the levels of students in South Korea.  The fact that Japan is even above the UK is very surprising to me to be honest.  The report talks about the top countries having an understanding of education’s “underlying moral purpose” which, after seeing a number of students coming out of schools recently, appears to be completely absent.  All I can think is that since the data was collected 3-4 years ago, much has changed in Japan for the worse.  Or my memory of education in the UK is through very strong rose-tinted glasses.

It then mentions about how in the best countries, that teachers are respected and efforts are made to recruit the best people for teaching through salaries and status.  The former definitely isn’t the case for the normal teacher in Japan, and gets even worse as the students get lower.  A friend of mine was talking about their job at a kindergarten.  She had just started working there, and took a test to be classified as a fully qualified teacher which comes with increased benefits.  Six teachers at the school were told to take the test, which they all worked hard for and passed.  The school then turned around and told them they were only going to give two of the six the benefits that come with being classed as a fully qualified teacher.  The others would continue to be classed and paid as juniors, regardless of their performance.  And paying someone a salary of around USD$1300 (£840) a month is not really the way to make someone want to remain in the education profession.

The only possible reasoning I can find is that the rankings are formed in part from test scores achieved by students.  I would hope that these are the same type of test conducted all over the world to provide a benchmark for results.  But it’s possible that these tests may be done individually on a country, board of education, or even school level.  And that is where the distortions start to occur.

I have seen numerous times where a student is going to fail an English exam (usually through lack of effort, as the tests are made simple so any student who works can get a passing grade).  In addition, the student has not written anything in their books all year and failed to hand in a single homework.  But the teacher needs to make the student pass because the rule is that the student has to pass.  So they are given letters or words to copy on paper.  This paper is only given to the students who are definitely not going to pass, and then a huge emphasis is placed on this paper, instead of the test (which is the case for the majority of students).  What this means is that the student will sleep through the English exam, get maybe 5%, and then get final grades which are not so much lower than the students who worked harder but were graded more harshly as the goalposts were moved.  It’s this type of distortion which can easily affect figures like this.

But maybe I’m being far too critical.  I have been wrong on a couple of rare occasions, and maybe the Japanese education system is one that the rest of the world should be looking up at.  I just have this niggling feeling that if I’d have never handed in any homework and school and then slept in class, I’d have had a blackboard eraser thrown at me by the teacher, and given adequate reward/punishment to motivate me to try and improve my scores.

What do you think?

UFC Returns to Japan in March 2013

Posted By Dave on November 15th, 2012


What the rumours were suggesting was confirmed yesterday by the UFC.  After their successful return to Japan for UFC 144 in February of this year, followed by UFC on Fuel TV from Macau this past week, it has been announced that the UFC will be back in Japan early in 2013.

Saitama Super ArenaThe Saitama Super Arena (see right), venue for so many Pride FC fights in its prime, and where Benson Henderson defeated Fankie Edgar at UFC 144, will once again host the event, scheduled for March 3rd.  it will take place on Sunday morning in Japan, which will correspond to Saturday night for US TV audiences.  The only other information currently available about this 2013 event is that it’s not going to be a full PPV event, but instead will be UFC on Fuel TV 8.

Not over the moon with this, and it comes at the end of a huge run of 6 events in 7 weeks for the UFC, starting and ending with PPV shows.  There’s a good chance the Japan event might not get the cream of the crop in terms of fighters, but it will give the Japanese fighters a chance to star on a home card.  After Takanori Gomi’s (see below) win in Macau, he could possibly get top billing for the fight card.  If he does and they can push some Japanese fighters, it will hopefully continue to breathe life into Japanese MMA.  And to be honest, I’m happy with any UFC event, PPV or not, coming back to Japan.


No other details have been announced just yet, but as soon as they are I’ll be posting them up here.

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