JUKEN; an Intense Middle School entrance examination preparation method accepted in Japan. It might truly be a form of child abuse.
My daughter turned twelve today. It’s a Sunday, but there will be no watching weekend morning animated television programs, bicycle riding, playing in the park with friends or any of the usual down time activities associated with a family on the last day of a weekend. Her alarm went off at 6:00 a.m. and she went thru her morning rituals and ate a quick breakfast. She put her books and completed homework in a blue knap sack. After fastening the top flap that is well embellished with large N of the “Nichinoken” cram school logo, she ran out the door. She will study Math, Science, Japanese and Social Studies with 15 other children and instructors specialized in teaching methods specific to passing Middle School Entrance Examinations. Today classes start at 9:00 and finish at 17:00.
If my parents had put me thru the Juken program I would have run away from home. Amnesty International would have received a letter with documented evidence that I had been subjected to cruel and unusual punishment. At the age of 12 it would have been impossible to conceive rhyme or reason for the efforts demanded by my parents and the instructors at the Juku. The cram school studies are additional to regular school work and can require equal time if not more hourly commitment to class attendance and homework per week. My daughter spent every day of her summer vacation at the Juku and the program ran from 9:00 to 21:00. (They ate lunch and dinner at the Juku.) While elementary school is in session, she attends Juku immediately after school until 21:00 , weekends and school holidays.
Yet, there is a justification for the excessive study program Everyone in Japan must qualify for a High School and even Public High Schools require tuition payments. Acceptance at a good middle school eliminates the stress and pressure of passing a High School Entrance Examination. Some schools are affiliated with Universities and the elevator can continue thru to post-secondary education. The pay forward theory makes sense as does the option to enter a better school. (I run by the nearest public middle school every morning and the noises and activity at the Government Facility never fail to remind me of feeding time at the zoo.)
There are several good middle school options within a 30 minute commute by train from our home. Our daughter’s councilors at the Juku identified three schools that meet our criteria and our daughter’s aptitude. (We’d like our daughter to attend an all-girls school nearby with a good academic reputation and a positive atmosphere.) Competition is serious for the top schools but we’ve been encouraged by results of weekly and monthly examinations. These are normally conducted on Saturday mornings and once a month a major “off campus” examination is conducted. These are open not only to the thirty seven thousand clients of the Nichinoken Juku Franchise but welcome other 12 year olds for a fee. The venues selected for these monthly trial examinations are often universities or high schools. A parade of thousands of children, most with blue back packs, march to the auditoriums and write four hours of examinations. (It’s really quite an impressive sight.) The results allow for a realistic evaluation of where you place on the bell curve. The experience is Excellent preparation and a confidence booster for the actual exams that will take place next February.