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How a teacher in Japan rates his job: robot

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Hideaki Nakajima (an assumed name) wants to quit teaching. He is disgusted at the ''intolerable pressures'' members of his profession are facing.

''There is no longer any joy, any sense of a sacred vocation,'' the social studies teacher laments.

''Too much is being demanded of schools,'' he continues. ''The government expects us to turn out model citizens who will solve all the nation's problems. Parents expect their children to be educated to become one of the intellectual elite, able to get a good job with a famous company that will impress the neighbors.

''If miracles don't occur, it is we individual teachers who get the blame.''

A teacher's life in Japan these days, he says, can be summed up: If you are not being beaten up by your students, you are being blamed by parents for their bad marks or even bribed to fiddle a few changes.

Around this time every year, Japanese newspapers carry articles about defects in the current education system. They concentrate on ''examination hell'' --the bitter struggle from kindergarten to high school to gain entry into the handful of prestigious universities from which the government and big-name companies do most of their recruiting.

The gate is narrow. Many try, but only a few get through.

For the average parent, the educational emphasis is on ''pressure cooker'' rote methods that will result in high marks in exams.

Nakajima says this obsession with good marks means he and his fellow teachers are little more than robots ''standing up in front of a class of bored youngsters parroting the words of government-approved textbooks, with no time for explanations for slower children.''

Attempts at creativity quickly lead to parental complaints and a rebuke from school authorities, a number of his colleagues claim.

The teachers' union, Nikkyoso, says there is widespread parental mistrust of the formal education system.

As a result, in the past decade, the majority of parents have resorted to the extra boost offered by privately run ''prep schools'' that operate in the evenings and weekends.


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