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  • Author or Editor: Márta Fülöp x
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Abstract

The relationship between shadow education and competition has been discussed and studied widely by educational experts and policy makers in Japan. One major topic has been the role that shadow education plays in social inequality by creating winners and losers. Another is related to competition and students' psychological health; and a third concerns the cause-and-effect relationships between cram/preparatory schools and competition. The present paper focuses on students' perspectives and describes an empirical study carried out with 211 Japanese senior high school students and 145 university students. The students answered open-ended questions about their cram/preparatory school attendance, and were asked to describe how they perceived the relationship between cram/preparatory schools and competition. The free descriptive answers were content-analysed and categorized. The majority of the respondents not only saw a relationship between the two but also listed a number of functions that increased students' competitive advantage. Educational experts' and sociologists' common criticism that shadow education has detrimental effect on fairness or equal chances in education was hardly at all expressed. Relatively few students expressed doubts or emphasized the negative or harmful side of cram/preparatory school attendance and competition. The results call the attention to the importance of studying different aspects of shadow education more in-depth from the direct “users'” i.e, the students' perspective as well.

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