Enormous Pressure to do well in Japan

Many Japanese students go to Jyuku (special program a.k.a “cram school”) after school and even over the weekend to keep up with their school work. I started going to Jyuku when I was in 6th grade and actually it was a very tough program so I begged my mom to let me quit before 8th grade. In cram school, Japanese kids basically get extra tutoring and take practice tests to get ahead of everyone. So they can better prepare for college entrance exams. It was common for my high school classmates to attend a three hours study program at cram schools after school on weekdays.

and unfortunately lots of much younger kids are feeling much pressure to get ahead so parents often push their kids really hard by enrolling them in competitive cram schools. Even kids in grade schools attend cram schools (jyuku) in Japan so they can enter into competitive private middle schools with the highest high school acceptance rates. Upper-secondary school is not mandatory in Japan but everyone goes to high schools in Japan. Unless you are attending academically competitive high school, you are most likely not going to get into highly ranked university in Japan..so you can imagine the pressure Japanese kids feel at such a young age! I thought it was just Japan but I heard that the system is very similar in S. Korea and I see crazy helicopter parents in Southern California so I guess this isn’t just a modern trend in Japan. But I’ve lived in the US for a long time but the pressure Japanese kids feel in school is a lot more pervasive and it is almost dangerous in some cases. My cram school and high school nearly deprived me of sleep and I don’t do well under such pressure so the system just didn’t work out for me. In order to get into good college, you need to pass competitive entrance exams and your acceptance usually depends on the score.

I am very grateful that I still managed to graduate from a well-known university in Los Angeles but looking back, it was important for me and other Japanese students because of the pressure we felt in Japanese school system.

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