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新视野大学英语 读写教程第三册 unit3-c

2011-07-29    来源:网络    【      美国外教 在线口语培训

The Pressure to Succeed from an Earlier Age

Like many Japanese, Naoto Eguchi feels tremendous pressure to get ahead. Rising at dawn, he worksa full day with his regular colleagues and another three hours each evening in special study sessions. Hethen does a couple of hours of work at home before going to bed at midnight.

It is a heavy load for an 11-year-old.

Naoto's immediate goal is to pass the entrance examinations for a private junior high school, a vitalstep for eventual admission to a prestigious (有名望的) university. But he is already thinking about thefuture. "My goal is to get a good job with a good company," he said.

The struggle to succeed in one of the world's most competitive societies is starting earlier and earlier,and is most evident in the growing popularity of special schools that train students during evenings andweekends to pass the examinations required to enter private schools and colleges. Once on the edge ofthe educational system, such schools, or jukus, are now so common in Japan that, especially for thosepeople at the top level of society, they have begun to function as a kind of shadow educational system,replacing regular schools in importance for parents and students and even reaching down to 2 and 3-year-old children.

The rise of jukus is praised by some as one of the secrets of Japanese success, a healthy sign of asystem where people advance on the basis of merit. It is also criticized as a movement forcing a newgeneration of Japanese to sacrifice their childhood out of an extreme desire for status and gettingahead. "Jukus are harmful to Japanese education and to children," said a professor at the University ofTokyo. "It's not healthy for kids to have so little free time. It is not healthy to become completelycaught up in competition and status at such a young age."Recently, one research institute found that nearly 4.4 million students were enrolled in some 50,000to 60,000 jukus. That represents 18.6 percent of elementary school children and 52.2 percent ofstudents in seventh through ninth grades. The Japanese spent $10.9 billion for teaching outside ofregular classes last year, according to the institute, including $9 billion on jukus for students in the ninthgrade or below — almost double the figure spent seven years ago.

The people who run and teach at jukus say the schools are popular only because they work, creatinga lively and interesting environment in which students learn because they are enjoying themselves.

One of the most prestigious jukus for 2 and 3-year-olds sends most of its pre-kindergarten graduatesto prestigious elementary schools. If these students get good grades in a prestigious school, they canadvance all the way to a university without having to take examinations.

"We don't push knowledge on them," said the head of a branch of this juku in northwest Tokyo. "Weare interested in teaching them how to play and enjoy learning." In a nearby class, eight children, eachabout 3, sat politely in little chairs in a row as a teacher held up pictures of a kite and other objects,calling on the students to identify them. "What is this shape?" she then said, holding up first a square, atriangle, and then a circle.

Several mothers who were waiting to pick up their children expressed anxiety about subjecting theiryoungsters to such pressure. But they reasoned that it would be worth it if their children got intoprivate schools early and did not have to worry about passing examinations later on. "It's not an idealthing to send your kids to such a place," said one mother, asking not to be identified for fear of criticismfrom other parents. She said she thought that her daughter was having a good time in this school, butcontinued, "If I told you I wasn't thinking about entrance examinations, I would be lying."Juku teachers and managers say that because their schools are profit-making enterprises, they haveto promise results to succeed. The results are easy to measure, because they depend on how manygraduates pass the examinations for private schools.

The "examination hell (地狱)" imposed on children is widely criticized in Japan. In a recentsurvey, two-thirds of parents said competitive examinations were their worst problem in raisingchildren. But parents are also eager to give their children every advantage. "Jukus are playing on thestatus anxieties of these parents," said Makoto Oda, an author who taught in jukus in Tokyo for morethan 20 years. "All parents are terribly frightened that their children will fall behind."Juku defenders say that students are only gaining the discipline and the ability to endure pressurethat they will need in life. But the very success of jukus in training youngsters to pass exams has madethe competition worse: Jukus help more students pass exams, so the exams have to be made moredifficult.

"Jukus are raising a generation of kids who only know how to pass entrance examinations," said anofficial of the Japan Teachers Union. "But the most important educational purpose is giving children theability to live in society. That's being left out." The Education Ministry has tried to combat the jukusystem by improving public schools, reducing class sizes, improving teacher training, and making thecurriculum more flexible. But ministry officials concede that those steps have not worked.



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