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In 2014, the Japanese government came out with statistics regarding its suicide rate in Japan. In the land of the rising sun, 250,000 people committed suicide in that one year. That is 70 suicides a day, on average. 874 of those deaths, according to the Japanese Police Department, were students. The age range of those students were 10-19 years old.
September 1st is usually the time after summer break when kids return to school. For a lot of Japanese students, it is their last day alive. Most of the student suicides occur on just this one day. The reasons range from not being able to complete their summer homework in time, to the pressing issue of bullying.
In addition, Japanese lives are being taken away at the cost of entrance exams. For the juniors and seniors of high school, if they want to get into university, they take an entrance exam. If junior high students want to get into high school, whether public or private, they take an entrance exam.
The entrance exam is viewed as a test that determines a student's entire future. The Japanese mindset since the 1960s and 1970s has been, if you attend a prestigious university, you improve your chances of winning a job at a top company, gaining the respect of others. However, whether a student is able to attend a school such as the University of Tokyo or not is often decided based on where that student went to high school, which, in turn, is also decided on where they attended junior high school.
The first critical step of choosing what junior high school to attend is arguably the most important decision a Japanese youth makes in their whole life, and they must make it at a very young age.
Having to deal with this huge pressure and anxiety students put on themselves, pressure from teachers, pressure from parents of passing or failing the entrance exams from a very young age is brutal. Some feel like there is no choice but to kill themselves to escape from this vicious life cycle.
An example of this vicious life cycle took place in the Hiroshima Prefecture in December of 2015. A 15-year-old boy killed himself after he was mistakenly told by the school he was attending that he didn't qualify for the entrance exam. He was hoping to take the entrance exam for a private high school. The parents of the boy issued a statement saying, “Our child would never have taken his life if the school’s data management had not been sloppy and the school had not made the mistake.”
Secondly, another male student used his phone as a method of cheating during the entrance exam. Cheating is a growing problem during entrance exams. When the student was told to explain his reasons as to why he cheated, he stated that he "just wanted to pass the exams." He also did not want to burden his mother with education expenses, which was another reason he stated as to why he cheated. Later, he posted on a social media account that he was having thoughts of suicide due to the consequences of his actions.
Now, I don't know how to solve these problems in Japan, but what I would like to see here in America, is for parents to focus on their child's happiness, their child's strengths, and their child's talents, rather than the grades they get or what university they get into. So American families don't have to go through what is so common in Japan on a daily basis.
“The Nations with Highest Rate of School Suicide”, March 25, 2018.
“Hiroshima Boy Kills Himself After Mistakenly Told He Didn't Qualify for Entrance Exam”, Kyodo, The Japan Times. March 8, 2016.
“7 Reasons Why the Suicide Rate in Japan is So High”, wasa-bi.com/topics/2199.
May 11, 2016.
“Steak is Becoming a Source of Hope for Victims of Exam Hell”, Yamamuraya. April 18, 2017.
“University Entrance Examinations”, nippon.com. April 11, 2015.