Many people think Japan is extremely high tech. Maybe this image is induced by Japanese toilets that seem to have a higher IQ than Albert Einstein. But the reality is that Japan is not all that high-tech and Japanese people are not all that technology savvy.
The lack of technology in Japan in comparison to countries like England and Finland can be evidenced, for instance, by the fact that surprisingly few university students have their own private computers or laptops. In fact, most students at the university where I work have never owned their own computer, or even shared a computer with other family members. The reason for not owning a computer is not necessarily because they would not be able to afford one, but maybe Japanese people just think it is not necessary to own a computer, because most of them own a mobile phone.
You are probably now assuming that Japanese university students have some futuristic mobile phones that multitask as mobile phones and computers, as well as have extra teaser, blender and hair straightener functions. But no. No straightener or teaser functions. They are just standard Android phones that you can get anywhere.
The fact that my students don’t own computers means that they hand in handwritten essays when submitting their coursework! I gather this is partly because
(a) word processing essays can be tricky on a mobile phone
(b) the students don’t actually know how to use Office Word
(c) in Japan, hand written documents can be seen as indicating more commitment, concentration and attention to detail than word processed documents. For example, some employers request hand written CVs so that whenever the applicant makes a single (spelling) mistake, they need to start writing their CV from scratch all over again. I’m not sure if Western job seekers could cope with this kind of procedure. We’ve got so used to being able to word process and thus are maybe becoming less able to plan ahead and see the finished product in our minds before we embark on the writing process, let alone being able to produce a 3 page CV wihtout a single typo. Jeez!
Given that university students haven’t got the skills to use software imperative for university study, like Office Word or Power Point, I assume that IT classes are not particularly common (or effective) in many Japanese schools.
In many other countries (e.g., in Finland) IT is a central part of schooling, so much so that in Finland they are dropping joined-up writing from the curriculum in favour of typing and scripting. All children will still learn to write by hand over there, but the Finnish education will nolonger emphasise the aesthetics of joined-up writing – something that more conservative countries, like England, still hold dear. I have to say I kind of agree with the Finns on this one – all those hours spent on practicing the perfect swirls of Bs or Ss seem silly when in 20 years time no-one (other than maybe the Japanese) will write anything by hand.
So, computers and an emphasis on technology may not be as common in Japanese schools as e.g. in Finnish schools, but then again, most Japanese primary (87%) and secondary (73%) schools have swimming pools and, during the summer months, PE lessons are predominantly swimming lessons.
As Japan is an island, maybe the Japanese education ministry see that learning to swim is more important for survival than learning to word process or write scripts.