Sunday, September 9, 2012

10 Differences Between Japanese and American Schools

Textbooks are thin soft covered books, usually no more than 100 pages. The total size of all a high schooler’s textbooks would be approximately the size of one hard cover book in the states.

Time off
Students get 5 weeks off in the summer, but are expected to study and do homework during that time. They get 3 weeks off for New Years. It sounds like Japanese kids are in school a lot more then American kids, but there are so many half days I have lost count. At least one half day every two weeks.

Kids are not required to go outside. They can go to the library, or just stay in the classroom.

All kids are required to eat the school lunch. Everyone gets the same thing, and they must eat the whole thing.

Japanese kids do the cleaning in Japanese schools. Teachers help, but for the most part the kids do all the work.

No Child Left Behind
Students in Japan can’t really fail a class, or fail a year. They can get a total of about 10% in the class, but they will still go on to the next level. Many students play hooky for weeks at a time, but there is no threat of not graduating. No child left behind in Japan means that it’s almost impossible not to graduate, regardless of aptitude.

Kids hit and fight each other here in Japan. Unless it looks like someone will seriously be injured, no one intervenes. Teachers let kids sort out their own arguments and fights on their own, and are OK with a certain amount of anger based rough housing.

They are far less black and white when it comes to bullies here in Japan. Bullies are not automatically at fault, and the bullied are not automatically blameless. Sometimes the teacher deems that the bullied student isn’t trying hard enough to fit in/be a team player. Sometimes the bullied is required to apologize to the bully. Teachers do not have the same rule book of always side with the victim that American teachers do.

Some kids have way more trouble sitting in classrooms, and listening for hours on end then others. In Japan, instead of letting that kid disrupt the other students learning, the teacher will figure out a system that keeps the kid quiet and less disruptive. One of my students has his seat at the back of the class, whenever they have a lecture, he has to stand in the back, it works really well. One of my teachers put stickers on the unfocused kids desks, whenever they get bored they pick at the stickers.

Getting to School
The PTA organizes all the students into the most efficient way for all the kids to get to school. Most of the students walk to school, they walk in a way where one chosen kid furthest from the school is a team leader, and they pick up students as they get closer to the school, until they have a group of about 8-20 upon arriving at the school. No parents accompany the kids. Busses are also organized for the students who live too far away to walk. For the kids that live extremely far away, or in a place not accessible by bus, students have organized car pools. Usually these are the kids that live up really difficult mountain roads. Of my 1000+ students 12 are driven to school. Students all have alarms attached to their backpacks which they can press if they get in any trouble, they are really loud and annoying. The one time I saw one go off, every single adult in all the nearby houses came running. Everyone looks out for kids in Japan, the general rule seems to be if you are the adult nearest to the kid, you are responsible for their wellbeing.

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