One interesting aspect of education in Japan is how students face competition in many forms which helps make them better students. Starting with junior high school, many students are ranked according to their test scores, with a board hung outside the class that lists each student's rank is in relation to everyone else. If you're the #1 student in your class, you can bet your classmates will be gunning for your slot, so you'd better study hard. The system of having to take an entrance exam to get into high school also provides a reason for students to be more serious about their own education, since you have to hit the books if you want to get into one of the best high schools. (My 13-year-old son is already preparing for a high school that's known for its engineering and robotics courses.) Although I often wonder if it's really a good idea to put pressure on kids to study at such a young age, I can see benefits from creating a more vigorous study environment for teenagers. Growing up in the public school system in Maryland and California, I can honestly say I don't have a single memory of studying hard or being challenged until I got to college, and getting kids to apply themselves at a younger age can't be a bad thing.
So what do you think? There is the obvious question of sad outcomes that can happen when young people have more pressure than they can handle, but on the other hand, there is no gang violence or drug problems or other terrors that prey on kids in the U.S. I wonder which approach is better.