Yesterday in class, we discussed so called "science for kids" programs, where children can do hands on experiments in order to better learn and get excited for science. Naturally, this led to a conversation about the different school systems in general and the different pressures students cope with.
I think the Japanese girl in the class may have felt a bit singled out. The teacher kept bringing up how much pressure Japanese students are put under to do well in school. Their classes usually go from 8 to 4, and afterwards they are expected to have some sort of extra curricular activity. If I understood the girl properly, private schools have extra classes in the evenings, which can go until 10.
Interestingly, the New Zealand-er said that Japan and New Zealand both have the highest suicide rates for students, but for opposite reasons. In his country, there are no grades, classes end at 1 in the afternoon, and the students have nothing to do. Many fall into depression or get hooked on drugs. They literally die of boredom.
Germany seems to fall fairly well into the middle of the road in terms of pressure levels. Students are expected to work hard, but imperfection is not tantamount to failure. Furthermore, as is the case in many European countries, break years between public schooling and higher education are common and respected, and trade schools seem to be a more viable option, meaning that not everyone is expected to go to a university. I approve of that. Not everyone really needs a college education.