schools occurred sooner in the United States, Japan is currently making large investments. According to a recent annual survey conducted by Monbusho, as of March 1994, for example, 66 percent of Japanese elementary schools, 98 percent of junior high schools and 100 percent of high schools were equipped with computers.42 Monbusho reportedly planned to spend $2.6 billion on installing more computers in elementary and junior high schools over the 1994–2000 period.43 Although members of the U.S. working group observed computers being used in science class demonstrations during a visit to a Japanese high school in June 1994, it appears that the main goal of large Japanese investments in this area is to raise computer and keyboard literacy among young people by making computers available for use outside of class, rather than aggressive integration of advanced technologies into actual classroom instruction.
In the United States, there is growing interest in how new technologies can be utilized to full advantage in K-12 education.44 Although this issue is not a particular focus of the joint task force study, how new technologies are applied in the classroom will undoubtedly have an important impact on K-12 education for future engineers. 45 Information technology could also be utilized to improve U.S.-Japan interaction and learning among students and educators.
Technology as a subject of learning in K-12 education is more central to the concerns of the joint task force, even though a detailed examination of this fast-moving subject was not possible to undertake.46 In both countries technology is rarely mentioned in K-12 curricula, and when it does appear it is as an incidental part of science education. In both the United States and Japan, there is increasing interest in technology education. For example, U.S. science education standards feature technology content.47 As part of efforts to increase interest among Japanese young people in pursuing scientific and engineering careers, Japanese universities and research institutions are developing a number of new programs in collaboration with primary and secondary schools to increase student exposure to science and technology. This is an issue where continued U.S.-Japan dialogue and exchange can have a positive influence on the individual efforts of the two countries.
1 Harold W. Stevenson and James W. Stigler, The Learning Gap (New York: Touchstone, 1992) provides the basic background. The Third International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), which was recently completed, involved collection of data on half a million students from 41 countries, and is the largest, most comprehensive, and most rigorous international study of schools and students ever. The National Center for Education Statistics website is a useful starting point for finding out about TIMSS (http://nces.ed.gov/TIMSS/).
2 Roberta Nerison-Low, “The Educational Structure of the U.S. School System,” in U.S. Department of Education, The Educational System of the United States: Case Study Findings (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, forthcoming).
3 Japan requires attendance until age fifteen.
4 Nerison-Low, op. cit.
5 Monbusho, Development of Education in Japan. (Tokyo: Monbusho, 1992).
6 Efforts to develop national education standards in the United States are described below.
7 Japanese working group members believe that Japanese high school students have sufficient information, but their primary focus in using this information is on the university entrance examinations, covered in Chapter 3.
8 Nerison-Low, op. cit.
9 National Research Council, National Science Education Standards (Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 1996).