The Gap: Education & Business

The spring warmth has finally come for the past week here in Tokyo area. Trees are coming to life with soft greens and blossoms in various shades of pink, yellow, white, and blue. While I was cycling, as usual, thoughts begun to take shape as words.

It was about the vast differences between what the children are trained to think and act especially in jr. high and high school, and how the knowledge workers are asked to think and act in busines scene in Japan. That is, young Japanese adults receive formal education with training stressed upon obedience and placidness, yet once out in the world of work, they are to express themselves freely, clearly, supporting their own ideas.

Although my oldest son’s jr. high school was great in the way it valued individuality, basically treated kids with dignity and trusted their creativity, not too may schools have such attitude.

Unfortunately, in the high school my son will start to attend in April 2003, the style is militaristic.

You are to obey the rules, period. No self-expression is permitted in appearance. Shirt must be white, no stripes or colors. If you come to school with a shirt in any other color than white, you will be sent home to change your shirt.

On special occasions, if your hair color is anything other than your natural color, you must dye your hair back to the natural color (which is black for Japanese).

On and on….. The school and teachers constantly recite the rules, how many days you must attend school in order to graduate, that you must not ride your bicycle or motor bike to school.

On the day of school orientation, there was not once a word about creativity, expression of self. There were some talk of gaining knowledge and wisdom, but how could one maximize in those without freedome of expression?

It is a wonder that despite of being bounded by so many rules and regulations, that some of Japanese still are able to function as what workplace demands, that is to express their ideas, to communicate effectively with their bosses and customers.

Although I lived in US between the age of 12 and 30, it is in just last few years that I have learned to express myself effectively in group sessions. Until then, I could only listen in formal meetings, not able to make comments. Even now, I need courage to break the ice and say what I need to say.

I noticed young Sakakida-san and Ohno-san hesitate when there are senior members in meetings, even when meeting is informal. And they are considered as very outspoken among Japanese.

When will the education in Japan change? What do I do to make that change happen, changes in positive way? If the education in Japan is not changing fast enough, I had better come up with super methods in my work with Japanese companies promoting innovation through communication and expression!

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