Why do Japanese students long for getting into Toudai? – Dragon Zakura

9 Aug

“Dragon Zakura” was a popular Japanese school TV drama in 2005.  This is a story all about  how a high school teacher called Sakuragi Kenji  guides his failing high school students into Japan’s most prestigious university, Toudai (The University of Tokyo).

“If you want to change your life, get into Toudai!”

Dragon Zakura – Speech

(Please watch it from 5:20 to 8:27)

In this scene, Sakuragi Kenji is presenting a very ‘inspiring’ speech to students. He believes that getting into Toudai  is the only key to success. Those who are not capable of passing the entrance examination of Toudai will definitely become losers in the future. To excel in exams, students should exert their effort to the fullest and spend all their time on studies.

Examination-centered schooling & Juku in Japan

Examination-centered schooling is a prevailing notion of education in Japan. According to “A piece of Japan ”, Bruce W. Davidson, a professor at Hokusei Gakuen University, states that

“Everyone knows that the only important thing for advancement in society is to pass those tests, so time spent on other things is basically time wasted”.

This deeply influences the learning style of Japanese student: they study merely for examination. In order to improve their academic performance, many Japanese students attend Juku (Japanese cram school) after school. Scareylarry presents a brief interpretation of Juku: a study place for students to attend outside of school so as to catch up with school works and prepare for entrance examination. This Juku phenomenon has widely spread throughout Japan. In “Diversity and Unity in Education” published in 2010, Sugimoto notes that over one-third of primary school student and approximately two-third of middle school students go to Juku after school.

Influence on Japanese students

However, the notion of examination-centered schooling and the ubiquity of Juku put immense adverse influence on Japanese students. As the mere purpose of studying in school is to prepare for entrance examination of top schools or leading universities, learning becomes monotonous and tedious. Students lose interest in studies and behave negatively in class. In “Schooling for Silence”, Brian J. McVeigh, who focuses his research on Japan’s education system, indicates that the national phenomenon of “collapse of the classroom” is rapidly increasing. Students become undisciplined and unenthusiastic about studies. Also, the prevalent Juku phenomenon implies that Japanese students are lacking in leisure time to participate in different out-of-school activities. As a result, they lose opportunities for personal development such as enhancement of social capability, sense of group cohesion and sense of leadership.

Thanks to the belief that getting into prestigious university is the only key to a ‘promising’ future, Japanese students start loathing studies, become undisciplined, and even lack ability to socialize with others. At the end of “Drogan Zakura”, some of Sakuragi Kenji‘s students do successfully pass the entrance examination of Toudai because of their great effort. No one knows whether they will achieve in the future. However, no matter how their futures are, one thing can be sure of: both of them are pitiful victims under the rotten education system in Japan.


One Response to “Why do Japanese students long for getting into Toudai? – Dragon Zakura”


  1. Assessment « Understanding Japan through movies, TV dramas and Animes - October 25, 2012

    […] Why do Japanese students long for getting into Toudai? […]

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