As part of the “Enduring Contexts” discussions, Tomoaki Nomi, Southeast Missouri State Univ, presented some of his work on the link between socio-economic background and students’ academic achievement. He is drawing on data from Tokyo prefecture and focuses on elementary and middle school.
In his paper, Nomi referred to the general decline of academic standards in Japan as a “widely recognized trend”. I strongly object to this view, as I also expressed in my comments on Hyunjoon Park‘s contribution. In short, what is important about Japan’s PISA scores is that they have been interpreted (along with other data) to suggest a general trend of decline and this perception is pervasive, not whether this trend is actually empirically substantiated (which I doubt). Keita Takayama has written decisively about this issue and has recently been awarded the CIES’ George Bereday Award for the most outstanding article published in the Comparative Education Review. In the end, this was more of a semantic disagreement with Nomi.
For further reading, I would recommend Nomi’s Japan Focus article: “Inequality and Japanese Education: Urgent Choices“. For a different view articulated most prominently by Takehiko Kariya, see “Misinterpreting Globalization in the Context of Japanese Education Policy” in Asia Pacific Memo.