Monday, October 18, 2010

The Value of an 'A' in Japan

Considering I have spent the past six months within the education system in Japan, I have made a lot of observations. If I was asked by the school board, "what would you change?" I would have an answer. The first would be the grading system.

If you have been outside of school in America for a long time or are unfamiliar with it, let me give you a quick refresher.

100-90 = A Outstanding
89-80 = B Above Average
79-70 = C Average
69-60 = D Below average
59 below = F Failed

Some school systems have 65 and below as an F but generally, this fits the system for most American school systems.

In Japan it's different, and I don't understand it. I have graded countless papers since being here. There have many, that I would consider in either the 'D' or 'F' range. However, the teacher tells me to grade these students as either a C or a B. The grading system here is different. It's either A, B, or C, there is no D or F.

It would sound ok but this system allows a lot more weight on an A. I saw a student who had 100/200 on a paper. In the US, this is 50% and is an obvious F. Surprisingly over here, it's an A. I have seriously wanted to question the grading system in Japan. It doesn't offer progress or track an honest benchmark. It also sets kids up for dealing with failure at a catastrophic level. What happens when they can't pass their high school entrance exams? Do they throw themselves off an overpass and onto a passing train? Sadly, some do.

For now, there isn't much I can do about it. Questioning or offering constructive criticism on the matter is bad here. Trust me, there is a lot I would change. For now, all I can do is observe and participate.

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