Despite an improved economy, many Japanese are feeling a sense of insecurity about the nation’s schools, which once turned out students who consistently ranked at the top of international tests. That is no longer true, which is why many people here are looking for lessons fromIndia, the country the Japanese see as the world’s ascendant education superpower.
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.
At the Little Angels English Academy & International Kindergarten, the textbooks are from India, most of the teachers are South Asian, and classroom posters depict animals out of Indian tales. The kindergarten students even color maps of India in the green and saffron of its flag.
Little Angels is located in this Tokyo suburb, where only one of its 45 students is Indian. Most are Japanese.
....Much of Japan has long looked down on the rest of Asia, priding itself on being the region’s most advanced nation. Indeed, Japan has dominated the continent for more than a century, first as an imperial power and more recently as the first Asian economy to achieve Western levels of economic development.
....Grudgingly, Japan is starting to respect its neighbors.
“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.”