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Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Name the teacher's cat!


A high school in Yanagawa City, Fukuoka Prefecture, has made the news with the kindergarten-type questions posed in exam questions for last school year.

In both the first- and second-term exams for the third-year botany class and and first-year general science class of Sugimori Municipal High School, questions included those about the model and color of the car the teacher drove, its license plate number, and the name of the teacher's cat.

The answers were all provided, albeit jumbled, for the students to select the correct one from. The teacher also provided verbal clues during the exam.

The overall scores for students taught by the teacher in the courses involved were between 84 and 94%, over 20% higher than the average for other classes.

The principal received complaints from outside the school (supposedly parents) and there was criticism from other teachers, too. The teacher - a male in his 40s - defended the baby-style questions as a way of ascertaining if the kids had listened to him in class. (Hey, why not ask them to remember the punch lines of jokes he'd told them, too?)

The principal admitted that the the exam questions were inappropriate, that there had been insufficient checks in place, and that improvements would be made in the third term.

As anyone teaching at universities in Japan knows, the quality of students is declining in Japan, due mainly to falling demand at educational facilities. While the population is declining, the capacity of educational facilities remains much the same. Universities are therefore easing the entrance criteria in order to keep lecture halls full. However, on the other hand, with the declining numbers of students, the pressure is no doubt on teachers to perform in a profession where personnel cuts are now likely.

A teacher pampering students with questions about his cat's name is symptomatic of an education system facing redundancy that must be fed more students, and of teachers, also facing redundancy, who must produce "results."

Read more about education in Japan.

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