And in Japan there is a widespread belief that all children are born with the same innate abilities—and should therefore be treated alike. All are taught together, covering the same syllabus at the same rate until they finish compulsory schooling. Those who learn quickest are expected then to teach their classmates.
In China, extra teaching is provided, but to a self-selected bunch. “Children's palaces” in big cities offer a huge range of after-school classes. Anyone can sign up; all that is asked is excellent attendance.
If cost-cutting is necessary in Japan, there is a pecking order, says Yoshi Tsurumi, an economist at Baruch College in Manhattan and a consultant to Japanese companies. Dividends are cut first, then salaries — starting at the top. Finally, there are layoffs — if attrition is not enough to shrink staff.
“The matter of flexibility is important,” Mr. Tsurumi said, “but the Japanese notion is to retrain and transfer people within an organization.”