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April 25, 2014 / 25 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Japan’

Tokyo Police Arrest Man in Connection With Anne Frank Vandalism

Thursday, March 13th, 2014

Tokyo Metropolitan Police reportedly have arrested a man in connection with the vandalism of hundreds of copies of “The Diary of Anne Frank” in city libraries.

The Tokyo resident, identified as an “unemployed man in his 30s,” made a statement admitting to some involvement in the vandalism of the books in February, according to a website citing the Japanese-language MSN Sankei News.

Police arrested the man on March 7 for entering a bookstore in the Ikebukuro district to hang up a poster without permission. It is not known what the posters said.

Footage from the store’s security cameras reportedly show the same man wandering back and forth inside the same bookstore through sections dealing with the Holocaust in the Ikebukuro district in February, including the day that some of the damage occurred.

Pages were ripped from at least 265 copies of the diary and other related books in public libraries and book stores throughout Tokyo in February.

Police have confiscated the arrested man’s cell phone and computer and have looked at security footage from other locations where vandalism occurred and have spotted the man in the videos, according to Sankei.

About 30,000 Japanese tourists visit the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam every year, about 5,000 visitors more than the number of visitors from Israel.

Japan is also the only East Asian country with statues and a museum in memory of Anne Frank.

Israel Donates 300 Copies of Anne Frank’s Diary to Tokyo Libraries

Thursday, February 27th, 2014

Israel’s embassy in Japan is donating 300 copies of Anne Frank’s “Diary of a Young Girl” to Tokyo libraries following a vandalism spree.

More than 300 copies of the diary and other books about Anne Frank have been found damaged in libraries throughout the country’s capital. Police have established a task force to investigate the vandalism.

The new books were to be presented on Thursday.

Anne Frank’s diary was written during World War II, while the teenager hid from the Nazis in occupied Amsterdam before she was betrayed and transferred to a concentration camp, where she died. The book made her a symbol of the suffering of Jews during the war.

The embassy said in a statement that it hopes the donation will “make up for the copies damaged.”

“Her diary is useful to deepen understanding of humanitarian views concerning the Holocaust and related incidents,” the statement said, according to the French news service AFP. “We believe that the people who took this hideous action will be brought to justice.”

Meanwhile, two boxes of Anne Frank’s diary and books about the young diarist arrived Monday at the Tokyo Metropolitan Central Library Monday, sent by an anonymous donor using the name “Chiune Sugihara.” Sugihara was a Japanese diplomat who helped thousands of Jews to escape the Nazis.

We’re Turning Japanese Now

Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013

Originally published at Sultan Knish.

It’s an article of American faith that Japan is an incredibly strange place. The world has been mapped and GPS’ed to death ruining much of the thrill of discovery. There probably aren’t any hidden cities with remnants of lost civilizations lurking in the deserts of Africa or the jungles of South America. That just leaves the land of the rising sun as the X on the map, the strange place that suggests that the world that we know all too well, might still be odder than we can imagine.But Japan isn’t really all that strange. We are.

Depressed post-industrial economy, low birth rate, social disintegration and a society obsessed with pop culture and useless tech toys? A country that has embraced pacifism to the extent that it can hardly defend its own borders? A nation where materialism has strangled spirituality leaving no sense of purpose?We are Japan. And so is Europe. Or rather Japan is the place we all reach eventually.Japan is strange because it aggressively hurled itself into a postmodern void without knowing what was on the other side. It did this with the same dedication that its soldiers once marched into machine gun fire.

Japan had been in a race with the West, as it had been ever since Commodore Perry showed up with a fleet to open up a closed nation. It wasn’t unique in that regard. A lot of countries tried to do the same thing. Most found that they couldn’t keep up with either our technology or our decline. Japan shot past us in both areas. It beat us technologically. And then it outpaced our decline.

In the 80s, there were dire predictions that the future would belong to Japan. America would be broken up and run by a bunch of Japanese corporations. There were even predictions that after the fall of the USSR, the next war would be with Japan. Some of those predictions came from some surprisingly high profile analysts.

The future doesn’t belong to Japan. It may not, at this rate, belong to anyone. Japan hurled itself into the future, but didn’t find anything there.

Korea hurled itself into that same future and found only emptiness. Now China’s elites are rushing into that same void and are beginning to discover that technocracy and materialism are hollow. That is why China is struggling to reassert Communist values even while throwing everything into making Walmart’s next product shipment. Like Japanese and Korean leaders, Chinese leaders are realizing that their technological and material achievements have left their society with a spiritual void.

That isn’t a problem unique to Asia. Asian countries were just less prepared for a rapid transition to the modern age. Europe and America, which had more time to prepare, are still on the same track.

Japan isn’t really a technocratic wonderland. It has a few robot cafes, but not a lot of ATMs. Its tech companies got by on Western products that initially never caught on in the West, like the Walkman and the tax machine. There’s not much of a digital economy and the computer isn’t all that ubiquitous. Daily life for the Japanese these days is usually lower tech than it is for Americans or Europeans.

It’s not as bad as some Gulf Sheikdom where desert Bedouins fire off assault rifles in view of the glittering new skyscrapers whose waste products have to be manually removed from the building, but the strain of a feudal society rapidly transitioning to the modern world is still there, as it is in Russia.

Like Russia, Japan tried to beat us. Unlike Russia it did, only to stop halfway there and wonder what the whole point was.

And that’s the problem. There is no point.

American technocrats talk incessantly of beating China. But what is it that we’re supposed to beat China to? The largest pile of debt? The biggest collection of light rail and solar panel plans? The lowest birth rate and the most homeless farmers? The greatest disastrous government projects?

A country should move toward the future. But it should have a goal that it’s moving toward and a sense of connection with its past values.

The thing we have in common with Japan, China and Europe is that we have all moved into a post-modern future while leaving our values behind and our societies have suffered for it. It is a future in which stores have robots on display but couples are hardly getting married, where there are high speed trains and a sense of lingering depression as the people who ride them don’t know where they are going, and where the values of the past have been traded for a culture of uncertainty.Marriage and children are more extinct in Japan than they are here. They are more extinct in Europe than they are here. And China is still struggling with a bigger social fallout headed its way.Japanese modernism has made for a conservative society of the elderly. That is what Europe nearly had a few decades ago and it is what it would have had if it hadn’t overfilled its cities with a tide of immigrants. Japan survived the consequences of its social implosion only because of its dislike for immigration. If not for that, Japan really would have no future the way that the European countries which have taken in the most immigrants have traded their past and their future for the present.

That conservatism helped freeze Japan in time, that time being the cusp of the 90s when Japan was at its peak, and crippled its corporations and its culture, but also made the return of the right to power possible. It’s far from certain that a conservative revolution can save Japan, but so far it has a better shot at it than we do.

A society of the elderly may be slow to turn around, but it’s less likely to drive off a cliff without understanding the consequences than the youth-worshiping voting cultures of America and Europe. Japanese political culture may be lunatic, but even they wouldn’t have elected a Barack Obama. The prospect of an American Shinzō Abe backed by a right-wing coalition winning are poor. The last time Americans voted for a conservative message was 1980 and even Reagan’s message was leavened by liberal ideas. A genuinely conservative resurgence in which the type of politician who might have run for office in 1922 could become president on a similar platform is nearly inconceivable.

Japan is a long way from fixing itself. As a country and a society, it’s still peering into the abyss.

The cultural eccentricities that Americans fixate on come from a society of young men unmoored from normal human connections, a decline of national values and an obsession with trivial consumerism– all commonplace elements in postmodern American and European life. The difference is that Japan got there first.

The loonier elements of American pop subcultures were predated by Japan. Indeed the latter are often influenced by the former. The same holds true with petty plastic surgeries, a truly epic plague among Asia’s newly rich, and some of the more ridiculous accessories for living a life with no meaning or human companionship, but we’re all going to the same place. Just not at the exact same speed.

The common problem is that our journey has no meaning. The postmodern world of robots, fast trains and handheld computers is shiny, but not meaningful. It’s less meaningful than the earlier technological achievements that saved lives and made ordinary prosperity possible.

We can go fast, but no matter how fast we go, we seem to keep slowing down. That’s what Japan found out. Its decline was social. And social decline translates into a technological decline, because technological innovation is powered by a society, not some soulless force of modernism. Innovation must have goals. And those goals must be more than mere technology. They must emerge from some deeper purpose.

American innovation hasn’t halted entirely because its tech culture had enough purpose to make the latest set of digital revolutions possible. But each revolution has slowed down, becoming another shopping mall with microprocessors, replicating the Japanese problem. And at some point we’ll run out of revolutions and be left with the skeleton of a digital shopping mall that is no longer anything but a place to buy more things.

A healthy culture transmits values. When it stops doing that, it dies. When the values no longer seem to be applicable, than the culture hunts around for new values, it undergoes a period of confusion while its forward motion slows down. That is where Japan is now. It’s where America has arrived.

The values of the left, that are present in both Japan and America, are a cultural suicide pact.The left pretends to add a spiritual dimension to modernism. It has been peddling that lie for two centuries and it has yet to deliver. In countries where it wielded full control, there was neither modernism nor values. Russia destroyed the economic, technological and spiritual potential of generations of its people. China is trying to use Communist values to avoid turning into another Japan, not realizing that those are little better than the collective obligations with which Japan rushed into the future.

As America gazes at the ruins of Detroit and the insanity spewed forth by a digital frontier that increasingly looks every bit as eccentric and toxic as anything coming out of Japan, it is all too clear that we are Japan. There is no unique insanity in East, only a common disintegration of values in the East and the West.

Asia and Europe have both witnessed the rise and fall of civilizations. It isn’t technology that destroys civilizations, but a lack of values.To understand where Japan and Europe are, imagine an America decaying with no new ideas, losing its religion and values, losing its economy and finally its sanity, becoming coldly conformist and inhuman, while its families fall apart and its youth retreats into their own makeshift worlds. That reality is closer to home than we might like to think.America is destroying its values on an industrial scale. In a post-industrial nation, the destruction of values has become one of its chief industries. And while there is value in challenging values, in the conflict and clash of ideas, that requires that values go on existing, or there is no longer anything to challenge. And then there is nothing left but emptiness and madness.

Another stupid product from an infomercial. Another ridiculous politician. Another protest. Another indicator of economic decline. Another day, week, month, year of empty nothingness.

That is the modern abyss. And Japan is waiting for us there.

Obama on Syria: Low-Quality ‘Jaw-Jaw’

Monday, August 26th, 2013

It being the silly season in Washington, there had to be a rumor of war.  Well, a rumor of a cruise missile strike.  Well, OK, a rumor that U.S. Navy warships were ordered to “close their ranges” with Syria in case Obama gets permission from the UN to mount an attack, if there’s clear evidence that the Syrian regime gassed its people.

That last point is actually an exact characterization of Obama’s posture, which he expressed in the interview with CNN aired on Friday:

“There are rules of international law,” he told CNN’s Chris Cuomo. “If the U.S. goes in and attacks another country without a U.N. mandate and without clear evidence that can be presented, then there are questions in terms of whether international law supports it, do we have the coalition to make it work, and, you know, those are considerations that we have to take into account.”

So cool your jets, people.  All we’re doing right now is talking about naval force.  Suddenly we’re talking about it a lot, but it’s not clear there’s any big point to it.

A few discussion items.  One, the deepest point of Syria is about 380 statute miles (600km) from the coast, but almost everything we might want to attack, to affect the Assad regime’s prosecution of the war, is less than 100 miles (160km) from the coast.  The Tomahawk cruise missile, in the variant likely to be used (TLAM-C Block III), has a range of 1000 statute miles (1,600km).  The less-likely TLAM-D has a range of 800 statute miles (1,250km).  So U.S. Navy warships don’t have to get closer to Syria than the open waters of the central or east-central Mediterranean Sea.

This, in turn, means that no public explanations would ever be necessary – our warships are often in the central Mediterranean – and that the explanations are therefore being given, as verbosely as possible, for a reason.  Presumably, it is to highlight, with fanfare, the fact that Obama is contemplating using cruise missiles against Assad.  And that, presumably, is meant to warn and/or deter Assad.

Assuming Assad has the means to view clips from the CNN interview, or read transcripts like the bit from Politico excerpted above, he will of course be clear that action by Obama is contingent on permission from the UN.  (If his power blinks out, the Iranians or Russians can keep him updated on matters of this kind.)  Assad has good reason to assume Obama won’t get that permission.  Russia and China have blocked UN Security Council resolutions against Syria on multiple occasions, and continue to defang or veto them.

Of course, making transparently worthless threats to long-time despots has been a pattern with Team Obama.

I’m skeptical that we have any intention of taking action against Syria – even punitive action, with no view to an outcome or end-state.  Maybe Team Obama imagines itself to be in a “dialogue” with Assad; i.e., the ball is now in Assad’s court, to send some signal that he’d rather not be hit with cruise missiles, and maybe we can work something out here.

Or perhaps the verbal gambit is intended for Russia, which has way more warships sitting off Syria’s coast than we do.  (Note: from the count at the unofficial Turkish Navy website, Bosphorus Naval News, it appears that there are currently 5-6 Russian navy ships in or near Syria, with one of those being an intelligence collector.)   Hey, Russkiy dudes, we might just think even harder about hitting your boy, if you don’t take some order to him.  Don’t make us escalate this gradually.

That would be the 1960s-era, Robert S. McNamara/Brain Trust frame of reference.  All we need is some evidence-of-our-determination patrols off the coast by intelligence ships – if we still had any – to complete the retro picture.

But there is every possibility I’m overthinking this, and the only thing that’s going on is that the Obama administration is making tough-sounding noises to get the media off its back about Syria.

In other naval notes:

1.  USS Harry S Truman (CVN-75), which finally deployed from Norfolk in July, nearly six months after her originally scheduled departure date, has been in the Central Command area of responsibility since 18 August, when she went through the Suez Canal (video).  So there is no carrier or carrier air wing positioning itself off Syria.  Speculation about using Truman in a strike on Syria is invalid.

The Land without Muslims

Sunday, May 19th, 2013

There are countries in the world, mainly in Europe, that are presently undergoing significant cultural transformations as a result of Muslim immigration. France, Germany, Belgium and Holland are interesting examples of cases where immigration from Muslim countries, together with the Muslims’ high fertility rate, effects every area of life.

It is interesting to know that there is a country in the world whose official and public approach to the Muslim matter is totally different. This country is Japan. This country keeps a very low profile on all levels regarding the Muslim matter: On the diplomatic level, senior political figures from Islamic countries almost never visit Japan, and Japanese leaders rarely visit Muslim countries. The relations with Muslim countries are based on concerns such as oil and gas, which Japan imports from some Muslim countries. The official policy of Japan is not to give citizenship to Muslims who come to Japan, and even permits for permanent residency are given sparingly to Muslims.

Japan forbids exhorting people to adopt the religion of Islam (Dawah), and any Muslim who actively encourages conversion to Islam is seen as proselytizing to a foreign and undesirable culture. Few academic institutions teach the Arabic language. It is very difficult to import books of the Qur’an to Japan, and Muslims who come to Japan, are usually employees of foreign companies. In Japan there are very few mosques. The official policy of the Japanese authorities is to make every effort not to allow entry to Muslims, even if they are physicians, engineers and managers sent by foreign companies that are active in the region. Japanese society expects Muslim men to pray at home.

Japanese companies seeking foreign workers specifically note that they are not interested in Muslim workers. And any Muslim who does manage to enter Japan will find it very difficult  to rent an apartment. Anywhere a Muslim lives, the neighbors become uneasy. Japan forbids the establishment of Islamic organizations, so setting up Islamic institutions such as mosques and schools is almost impossible. In Tokyo there is only one imam.

In contrast with what is happening in Europe, very few Japanese are drawn to Islam. If a Japanese woman marries a Muslim, she will be considered an outcast by her social and familial environment. There is no application of Shari’a law in Japan. There is some food in Japan that is halal, kosher according to Islamic law, but it is not easy to find it in the supermarket.

The Japanese approach to Muslims is also evidenced by the numbers: in Japan there are 127 million residents, but only ten thousand Muslims, less than one hundredth of a percent. The number of Japanese who have converted is thought to be few. In Japan there are a few tens of thousands of foreign workers who are Muslim, mainly from Pakistan, who have managed to enter Japan as workers with construction companies. However, because of the negative attitude towards Islam they keep a low profile.

There are several reasons for this situation:

First, the Japanese tend to lump all Muslims together as fundamentalists who are unwilling to give up their traditional point of view and adopt modern ways of thinking and behavior. In Japan, Islam is perceived as a strange religion, that any intelligent person should avoid.

Second, most Japanese have no religion, but behaviors connected with the Shinto religion along with elements of Buddhism are integrated into national customs . In Japan, religion is connected to the nationalist concept, and prejudices exist towards foreigners whether they are Chinese, Korean, Malaysian or Indonesian, and Westerners don’t escape this phenomenon either. There are those who call this a “developed sense of nationalism” and there are those who call this “racism”. It seems that neither of these is wrong.

And Third, the Japanese dismiss the concept of monotheism and faith in an abstract god,  because their world concept is apparently connected to the material, not to faith and emotions. It seems that they group Judaism together with Islam. Christianity exists in Japan and is not regarded negatively, apparently because the image of Jesus perceived in Japan is like the images of Buddha and Shinto.

The most interesting thing in Japan’s approach to Islam is the fact that the Japanese do not feel the need to apologize to Muslims for the negative way in which they relate to Islam. They make a clear distinction between their economic interest in resources of oil and gas from Muslim countries, which behooves Japan to maintain good relations with these countries on the one hand, and on the other hand, the Japanese nationalist viewpoints, which see Islam as something that is suitable for others, not for Japan, and therefore the Muslims must remain outside.

G8 Issue Message of Hope to Palestinian Deadbeats and Firebombers

Friday, April 12th, 2013

We just received the G8 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting Statement, and here’s what they have to say about the Middle East Peace Process (MEPP).

Well, first of all, I love the name: MEPP. Sounds like the way Israelis pronounce “Map.” Is it a hint?

So, here’s the press release, by the foreign ministers of the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Canada and Russia:

G8 Foreign Ministers confirmed their commitment to a just, lasting, and comprehensive peace in the Middle East… The Ministers welcomed President Obama’s visit to the region and his statement that peace between Israelis and Palestinians is necessary, just and possible.. The Ministers stressed that a long term solution to this conflict can be achieved only through direct negotiations, taking note of the 23 September 2011 statement of the Middle East Quartet. Ministers called on parties to refrain from unilateral actions and to create an atmosphere conducive to peace. They strongly reaffirmed that unilateral actions by either party cannot prejudge the outcome of negotiations.

Wait a minute, wait a minute, we interrupt this press release to examine the information therein: they “called on parties to refrain from unilateral actions”? But one of the sides, the PLO, in a stunning unilateral act, breaking the very foundation of the Oslo Accords, applied to the UN general assembly last year, to receive an “upgrade” to statehood – and guess who supported the move? France, Italy, Japan and Russia. And two other G8 states, Britain and Germany, abstained. Only the U.S. and Canada out of this bunch voted against.

Do they really think our memories are that short? Is this a planet populated largely by goldfish?

OK, go ahead with the press release, but I must register my profound dumbfoundedness.

Ministers expressed grave concerns about the poor state of the Palestinian economy, and the impact this has on Palestinian state-building efforts. Ministers affirmed their support for the Palestinian Authority and encouraged Arab countries, as well as emerging economies, to extend the fullest assistance possible to revitalizing the Palestinian economy.

Do you know who revitalizes the Palestinian economy? I’ll tell you a story:

In late 2012, former Minister of Finance Yuval Steinitz halted the transfer of tax revenues collected by Israel on behalf of the Palestinian Authority, to pay the Palestinians’ debt to the Israel Electric Company. But following US President Barack Obama’s visit to Israel last month, Prime Minister Netanyahu decided to release the withheld funds as a goodwill gesture to the Palestinian Authority.

The debt is estimated at $125 million.

As my friend Tzvi Ben-Gedalyahu reported in this space in late March, the IEC spokesperson stated that “if there is no alternative, the utility will have to record the debt in its books as lost debt and ask the Public Utilities Authority to recognize it as an expense to be covered by electricity tariffs.”

Rates will have to be increased approximately 3 percent for one year to cover the debt, but that is only for electricity and does not cover other PA debts.

Tzvi commented: “Three percent would not be so bad by itself, but it would come on top of a 6.5 percent hike that was approved” earlier.

So now you understand who is revitalizing the Palestinian economy? The very people whose children they firebomb and stone on the highways.

Back to the G8 press release (in case you haven’t lost your breakfast yet):

The Ministers welcomed the Egyptian-brokered ceasefire of 21 November 2012 which ended hostilities in Gaza and southern Israel, condemned rocket attacks in contravention of this and urged all sides to uphold their commitments.

What commitments? The Hamas has no commitments, other than the vow to destroy Israel. I’m starting to suspect that this is what the G8 is expecting them to uphold.

Will the UN Peacekeeping Force on the Israel-Syrian Border be Removed?

Thursday, December 20th, 2012

Earlier we posted about first-hand testimony from Syria confirming the scale and purpose of that rogue state’s chemical weapons arsenal.

Turns out that already Monday, with scant attention from the news media, the UN was told much the same thing. From a Times of Israel report:

The United Nations peacekeeping force deployed on the Israeli-Syrian border has begun taking precautions against the possible use of chemical weapons, and may collapse in the face of a Syrian regime offensive, France’s ambassador to the UN said on Monday.

Gérard Araud told London-based daily Al-Hayat that clashes between Syrian government and opposition forces on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights have sparked fears in Western countries concerning the safety of their nationals serving at the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force.

Some of these countries, Araud said, may withdraw their men from the force, known as UNDOF, as a result. “Such a situation may bring about the collapse of UNDOF and the security arrangements between Israel and Syria which it represents,” Araud told Al-Hayat. [more]

The United Nations Disengagement Observer Force was created by a UN Security Council decision on May 31, 1974 after the agreed disengagement of Israeli and Syrian forces in the Golan Heights. UNDOF’s role is currently carried out by a deployment of 1,034 troops sent by Austria, Croatia, India, Japan and Philippines; plus 84 local (Syrian) civilians and 41 international civilian staff. (We had cause to write about them some months ago, when mortar fire crashed into Israel from the Syrian side of the border – see “25-Sep-12: Incoming fire on the northern border“.)

The 1974 Separation of Forces Agreement Between Israel And Syria, brokered by US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, created a security zone between the two countries and established UNDOF. Its contribution to preserving the often-tense peace between Syria and Israel is in their  inspections (“not less often that once every fifteen days“) of the buffer zone along the Israel-Syria border. But that value depends on UNDOF actually having men and equipment in place to do the job. The Security Council was told Monday by its head of peacekeeping services, Herve Ladsous, that

gas masks and additional armored vehicles were sent to UNDOF as a safety precaution against a possible chemical attack by the Assad regime.

But as the French are suggesting, it’s at least questionable whether measures like that will keep the UN forces there. Japan already announced a week ago [report] that because of the “deteriorating security situation in Syria“, the 47 Japanese soldiers serving in UNDOF are going to go home now instead of in March 2013 when their tour of duty is supposed to end.

Way back in 1956, soldiers of the UN Emergency Force were stationed in Sinai near Israel’s borders with Egypt and Egyptian-occupied Gaza. Their removal from the scene came very quickly, and in the end was a simple matter of the Egyptians demanding on May 16, 1967 that they go. Wikipedia notes that U Thant, the Secretary General of the UN,

“acted to effect the Egyptian order without consulting either the Security Council or the General Assembly. Most of the forces were evacuated by the end of May”

and full-scale war in the region broke out a week later.

Not that we’re making any comparisons.

Visit This Ongoing War.

Israeli 8th Graders’ Math Scores Ahead of All Western Democracies

Tuesday, December 11th, 2012

Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar on Tuesday morning presented data from international tests TIMSS (math and science) and PIRLS (literacy) of the The International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA).

The tests examine the abilities of eighth graders in science and mathematics as well as the capabilities of fourth graders in literacy.

According to current statistics, in mathematics, Israeli eighth graders have risen from 24th to seventh place in the world. Korea is in first place, followed by Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan, Russia and Israel. This makes Israeli eighth graders the best in math in the entire western world.

Science tests show Israeli eighth grade students rising from 25th to the 13th in the world. Israeli fourth graders reading tests came up from 31st to 18th in the world.

East Asian countries continue to lead the world in mathematics achievement. At the eighth grade, the Russian Federation, Israel, Finland, the United States, and England also were included in the top ten high-achieving countries. The U.S. states of Massachusetts, Minnesota, and North Carolina and the Canadian province of Québec also had high achievement, but lower than the East Asian countries.

Singapore, Korea, and Hong Kong SAR, followed by Chinese Taipei and Japan, were the top-performing countries at fourth grade literacy.

At the eighth grade, clearly the East Asian countries, particularly Chinese Taipei, Singapore, and Korea, are pulling away from the rest of the world by a considerable margin. Capitalizing on the head start demonstrated by their fourth grade students, these same five East Asian countries had by far the largest percentages of eighth grade students reaching the Advanced International Benchmark. Very impressively, Chinese Taipei, Singapore, and Korea had nearly half of their students (47–49%) reach the Advanced International Benchmark. Hong Kong SAR had about one-third (34%) reach this level, and Japan had over one-fourth (27%).

Next, the Russian Federation and Israel had 14 and 12 percent, respectively. At the High International Benchmark, Japan (61%) trailed the other four Asian high achievers ( 7 1–7 8%) , but the next highest were the Russian Federation and Israel with less than half (40–47%) achieving at the high level. At the Intermediate International Benchmark, the Russian Federation (78%) followed the five top-performers (87–93%), and at the Low International Benchmark Finland and the Russian Federation joined the five East Asian countries (with 95–99%), followed by Slovenia (93%).

Education Minister Sa’ar noted that the improvement in all three areas of learning included all of Israel’s socioeconomic groups. “A sharp improvement has been marked in the ratio of high scoring students. This rate is now higher than the world average in all three disciplines. There has been an absolute improvement of tens of percentage points in students’ achievements, as well as a dramatic improvement relative to teh comparable data.”

Sa’ar noted also that the improvement took place in both the Jewish and the Arab sectors, although the gap is still wide between Hebrew and Arab speaking students.

“This success was not achieved using magic but through hard work,” Sa’ar said.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/israeli-8th-graders-math-scores-ahead-of-all-western-democracies/2012/12/11/

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