Creativity in Japanese schools

“It seems to me that juku are sending a message to kids that they really don’t have to pay attention at regular school because they’re going to learn the same thing at juku later. That’s one problem. Another is that Japanese children aren’t rewarded for independent thinking. I remember going to class one time and the teacher was saying, ” Okay, everyone, let’s be more creative. What are the things you need to do to be creative? Write them on the blackboard.

Ezra Vogel, “What happened to number one?” in Reimagining Japan


Kumon means suffering btw. The face tells it all.

Juku is basically tuition centers, or cram schools for entrance examinations. These criticisms can be applied to the Singapore education system as well. It is hard to inculcate creativity though. There needs to be a deeper change in culture in order to encourage creativity.

More about how tuition centers are ridiculous some other time.


The creativity-autocracy trade-off

The problem for Lee was that his aim of keeping the elite ever-young and creative conflicted with his natural propensity towards autocratic behaviour and surrounding himself with yes men.

Michael Barr, Ruling elite of Singapore

For the record, the opinion expressed above is not my own, but that of an Australian academic. It postulates that there is a trade-off between having yes men and having creativity.

The inborn key to creativity

Research into creative thinkers has revealed that they have personalities full of contradictions. Eminent psychologist Mihaly Csikzentmihalyi has discovered that creative people ‘contain contradictory extremes; instead of being an individual, each of them is a multitude.”

Rolf Dobelli, The art of thinking clearly

From a Rafflesian point of view, maybe there is some merit to having a two-headed bird. More people, more ideas.

The elite losing its creativity

Toynbee explained civilisational change through a theory of challenge and response, which posited that an established elite eventually loses its ‘creativity’ and then its end comes sooner or later because it begins meeting challenges to which it cannot adapt and with which it cannot cope.

Michael D. Barr, Ruling elite of Singapore


I think this book is not available in Singapore?

For the record, I disagree with the statement above — as long as we maintain a scholarship channel that develops young talent by exposing them to an overseas education.