LinkLog: Japanese Envy India’s Schools

I was surprised to see this article in today’s New York Times.

Newspapers carry reports of Indian children memorizing multiplication tables far beyond nine times nine, the standard for young elementary students in Japan.

I do recall even about 40 years ago, we were encouraged to memorize multiplication tables up to 20 times 20 (though I never got beyond 12 by 12 and learned to mentally multiply to cope up with the rest).

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.

It is strange that many Indians still think that the emphasis on memorization and cramming is not all that great.

India’s more demanding education standards are apparent at the Little Angels Kindergarten, and are its main selling point. Its 2-year-old pupils are taught to count to 20, 3-year-olds are introduced to computers, and 5-year-olds learn to multiply, solve math word problems and write one-page essays in English, tasks most Japanese schools do not teach until at least second grade.

In Tokyo, the two largest Indian schools, which teach kindergarten through junior high, mainly to Indian expatriates, received a sudden increase in inquiries from Japanese parents starting last year.

I do think that Indian children do a lot more earlier than American counterparts. I recall about 18 years ago when we moved to NY from Chennai, our kids having an easy time with English, Math and Science for the first couple of years.

It is a bit funny. I was enamored by the more practical approach of American schools vs the approach in Indian schools (my entire formal education took place in India). Now it looks as if Americans are trying to emulate Japanese style education and Japan is looking at the Indian style education model.