Japan Goes Gaga over Indian Education

Who’d have thought that the Indian education system would become the envy of a highly developed country!

Today’s New York Times has an interesting front page piece on how the Japanese are now increasingly fascinated with the Indian education system.

As the NYT piece puts it:

Bookstores are filled with titles like “Extreme Indian Arithmetic Drills” and “The Unknown Secrets of the Indians.” Newspapers carry reports of Indian children memorizing multiplication tables far beyond nine times nine, the standard for young elementary students in Japan.

And Japan’s few Indian international schools are reporting a surge in applications from Japanese families. 

The Global Indian International School in Tokyo is now reportedly planning to build a school in Yokohama because of the increasing demand.

In a distant era when we were young, the Indian education system was criticized for its reliance on cramming and rote learning.

But it seems things are changing now going by the NYT story:

Indian education is a frequent topic in forums like talk shows. Popular books claim to reveal the Indian secrets for multiplying and dividing multiple-digit numbers. Even Japan’s conservative education ministry has begun discussing Indian methods, said Jun Takai of the ministry’s international affairs division.

Eager parents try to send their children to Japan’s roughly half dozen Indian schools, hoping for an edge on the competitive college entrance exams.

Some experts see Japan’s interest in Indian education as a fallout of its loss of self-confidence. 

“Until now, Japanese saw China and India as backwards and poor,” said Yoshinori Murai, a professor of Asian cultures at Sophia University in Tokyo. “As Japan loses confidence in itself, its attitudes toward Asia are changing. It has started seeing India and China as nations with something to offer.”

…. Most annoying for many Japanese is that the aspects of Indian education they now praise are similar to those that once made Japan famous for its work ethic and discipline: learning more at an earlier age, an emphasis on memorization and cramming, and a focus on the basics, particularly in math and science. 

Wonder, what’s next for Indian education.

Perhaps, folks from MIT and Harvard Business School will soon visit the IITs and IIMs respectively on a learning trip.

By the way did anyone mention that India also has the highest number of illiterates of any country – roughly 394 million when we last checked.

We are still haunted by our memory of a visit to a village deep in the backward hinterlands of South India 21 years ago and meeting people who had no concept of a nation or a state.

Most likely, rural India still languishes as it has for centuries.

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