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The Varsavsky Foundation
Avenida Bruselas 7, Planta 3
28100 Alcobendas
Madrid, Spain

The political blog of a social entrepreneur

How do the Japanese do it?

I wrote a post in which I commented that we had taken out my kids from Spanish schools in Spain because the Spaniards are unnecessarily tough on children. As an example I mentioned that in many Spanish schools kids don´t have a choice of food and they are forced to eat whatever food there is. I also commented that the “colleja”, an unusual Spanish spanking that involves hitting a kid on the back of his head, is still considered acceptable by most Spanish parents as a way to “teach kids a lesson”. But at the same time in my post I recognized that Spaniards, as adults, are by far the most organized and ethical people in the Latin world. This includes not only all Latin America but also Portugal, Italy and France. I am not saying that Spaniards are a global model but they are more likely to treat you well, less likely to rip you off, than other Latins. They may not be the brightest, something that I attribute to an education that focuses more on memorization than on reasoning, but they are the best behaved and ethical. So the question here is: does being tough with kids pays off in terms of ending up with better behaved adults? My hope is that the answer is no because I don´t endorse some of the practices of the Spaniards vis a vis children. I would like to believe that a system like the American, that relies more in self discipline and rewards, is better.

Now enter Japan in this equation. I include Japan for a personal reason, as I frequently go for work there. And Japan is the most educated society in the world. People there are incredibly polite, incredibly efficient, incredibly professional, almost devoted to doing the right thing. So the question is: How do the Japanese do it? Or in other words, how do they turn their children into adults who are patient, polite, hard working, honest, highly ethical and even quite creative? Are they tough on their kids? Are they extremely demanding? Do they use physical punishment? Do they force kids to eat the food they don´t like as the Spaniards do? If European education is more about treating kids as little grown ups gone astray and American education more about self discipline and rewards, where do the Japanese stand?

Frankly I don´t know the answers, but I have been observing young Japanese children and they seem to be as well educated as their parents…already. So whatever they do must this great education must start at a very young age.

Posted on February 18, 2011