SGRA Kawaraban (Essay) in English
XIE Zhihai “How to end the chain of disparity?”
Disparities are spreading in the world. There are a varieties of disparities such as income gaps, disparity in education, regional disparities and “vaccine disparity” also. We like to avert our eyes from such disparities narrowing such gaps. What’s worse, disparities would chain.
We can see disparity chains especially in income and education. First, in case of income gaps, people will lose chances to receive education at cram schools. It leads to disadvantage in entrance exam and become difficult to enter high-level Universities. Consequently, it leads to difficulties to start at high salary and stable companies or find lifetime employment and start as normal working adults. When people cannot enjoy higher education means negative chain of disparity. If such negative chains would continue for generations, it will be terrible. It is regarded as a problem not only in Japan but in China and South Korea also. Points in common in those countries are flourish industries of entrance exam and it is unavoidable for Universities to have entrance exams.
When we talk about university entrance exam, pressure for candidates in Japan would not be so serious. In China, all the candidates must take the only one exam called “高考(GaoKao)” and its result decides new school. In South Korea, everybody like to enter prestigious Universities, but the number of such Universities is limited. It is because everybody knows that only the graduates of such Universities can find employments in prestigious Zaibatsu companies which can pay good salary. Yes, everybody does not like to be in position of low disparity level. However, competitions are becoming harder, and disparity are being bigger.
Consequently, you can easily imagine enervation of young generation who are living under such disparity of education. Theme of Korean drama “IKA Game” which was distributed by Netflix at early 2021 was just “disparity society” and it became very popular not only in Korea but Japan and United States also. Its theme was not educational disparity, but protagonists of this drama were the people who live at the bottom of Korean disparity society. They challenged themselves to children’s game at the risk of their lives. It means the death, if they drop-out. Background of popularity of this drama did not come from cutthroat scenes of drama. Challengers in this drama were depicted thoroughly about their darkness in their life and the process which they went down to the lower hierarchy of the society. I think such depiction grasped the heart of viewers.
South Korea is good at stories which ask a question of sympathy strongly to disparate society. Before “IKA game”, they have enjoyed a film “Parasite” (2019). In this film, there were only two families. One is rich and the other is poor, and there was no middle class. It shed light on the disparate society in South Korea clearly and completely. It might make you feel appalling. I think similar works would be made under the theme of disparate society changing a way of produce and would hit greatly.
Let’s go on to China. Recently, the words “Lying flat people” are becoming popular in China. The background of this popular words came from fierce disparate society. “Lying flat people” means that if the young do not work hard and lie flat, they cannot keep up with competition and cannot narrow the gap. In order to change such disparate society fundamentally, Chinese Government took drastic measures for overheated industries of entrance exam putting up a slogan “共同富裕” (common prosperity).
In July 2021, the Government announced, “Prohibition order of Cram Schools”. This order reduces burden of learning of elementary and middle school students and do not allow cram schools of their business for profit. Cram schools suppress households’ balance sheet and connect to aggravation of declining birthrate. For example, in big cities like Beijing and Shanghai, cram school fee cost about 100,000 yen a month mostly. It is not exaggeration. Students who cannot go to cram school have little chance to enter prestigious Universities. The number of students who come from agricultural areas and enter prestigious Universities like Peking University is decreasing year by year. In other words, it shows clearly that entrance exam industry is prosperous only in big cities. It is serious that not only regional disparity between urban and rural area but income gaps in urban area are becoming bigger. We cannot say the prohibition order of cram school will solve disparity of education.
The chain between income gap and disparity of education should be cut. In the proceeding of inflation, it is not easy to settle income gap. Then, educational disparity should be settled first. Besides education at schools, easing of examination ordeal which require a lot of money for cram schools will be necessary. And the young should be given chances so they can work at any prestigious companies regardless of their universities which they enter. Especially in South Korea and China, the system which their lives after universities are decided by entrance examination should be changed. In Japan, the number of universities is big, and they have rich individualities in their faculties and curriculums. China and South Korea should learn from Japan where they do not attach too much importance to ranking (deviation).
Then, how to adjust disparity in Japan? It is important to increase the number of choices of scholarship for high school students and information about scholarship should be made understandable clearly. When I was writing this essay, I found a poster at the store by chance. It was a scholarship system of a foundation of big company. Oh dear! They are supplying scholarship to junior high school students. This scholarship can afford monthly tuition of cram school. Don’t give up saying “it is impossible to get scholarship”. There may be a chance to get scholarship. It will become more important for not only private companies but Government or Municipalities also to thicken compensation of single parent families which show high poverty rate. I do not say the poor and needy family should be paid more. It is enough for municipalities which hire vacant space in towns and dispark at free as study rooms. Increasing of chances to get education and equalization of chances of entrance exam would raise disparities.
XIE Zhihai /Associate Professor, Kyoai Gakuen University
Translated by Kazuo Kawamura
English checked by Sabina Koirala