Japan’s state education system is sometimes criticized for rejecting original thought among pupils in support of rote learning and for emphasizing theoretical instead of practical skills, especially when it comes to the English state education system. But, it was this traditional approach that has actually helped Japanese pupils easily surpass their English and Northern Irish counterparts.
There are a number of key aspects of the Japanese education system that guarantee this success:
1. Manners before knowledge
In Japanese schools, the students don’t take any tests until they turn 10 (grade four). They simply take small tests. The Japanese believe the purpose for the first 3 years of school is not to judge the child’s knowledge of learning, but to teach them good manners and develop their character. Children learn how to respect other people and be gentle with nature and animals. They’re also taught how to be compassionate, generous and empathetic. In addition to this, pupils learn about qualities such as self-control, grit, and justice.
2. The academic year starts on April 1st
Most schools and universities in the world start their academic year in September or October, but in Japan, April marks the beginning of the academic and business calendar. Thus, the first day of school occurs at the same time as one of the most amazing natural phenomena − the time of cherry blossom. The academic year is separated into 3 semesters: April 1 − July 20, September 1 − December 26, and January 7 − March 25. Japanese students usually have six weeks of holidays during the summer and two-week breaks in winter and spring.
3. Most Japanese schools do not employ janitors
In Japanese schools, students are supposed to clean cafeterias, classrooms, and even toilets all by themselves. When cleaning, they’re divided into small groups and given tasks that shift throughout the year. This is due to the fact that it’s believed that if students clean up after themselves, they will learn about teamwork and help each other. Moreover, spending time and effort on mopping, sweeping, and wiping will teach children to respect their own work and the work of others.
4. Japanese schools provide lunch according to a standardized menu
The Japanese schools make sure that students eat healthy and balanced meals. In public elementary and junior high schools, students eat lunch according to a standardized menu developed by qualified chefs and healthcare professionals. Each classmate eats together with the teacher. This is useful in building a strong and positive relationship between students and teachers.
5. After-school workshops are quite popular in Japan
If you want to get into a good junior high school, most Japanese students go to a preparatory school or private after-school workshops. The classes in these schools are usually attended in the evening. In fact, in Japan, it’s very common to see groups of small children returning home from their extracurricular courses late in the evening. Besides their 8-hour school day, Japanese students study even during the holidays and weekends. Thus, it’s not surprising that students in Japan almost never repeat grades in school!
6. In addition to traditional subjects, Japanese students also learn Japanese calligraphy and poetry
Japanese calligraphy, or Shodo, is a way of writing which includes dipping a bamboo brush in ink and using it to write hieroglyphs on rice paper. Japanese people consider Shodo an art as popular as traditional painting. On the other hand, a haiku is a form of poetry that uses simple expressions to pass on deep emotions to readers. In any case, in both of these classes, kids learn to respect their own culture and ancient traditions.
7. Almost all students have to wear a school uniform
Nearly all junior high school students have to wear school uniforms. Some schools have their own attire, but a traditional Japanese school uniform usually consists of a military style for males and a sailor outfit for females. This uniform policy aims to remove social barriers and get them into a working mood. It also helps kids get a sense of community.
8. A single test decides the students’ futures
At the end of high school, Japanese students have to take an important test that decides their future. A student is able to choose a college they would like to attend and that college certainly requires a certain score. If a student doesn’t get this score, they probably won’t go to college. Since there’s a lot of competition, only 76 % of school graduates go to college after high school. It’s no wonder the preparation period for entrance to higher education institutions is called ‘examination hell’.
Obviously, apart from these factors, the teachers must teach and the students must learn effectively. But, it’s really useful to realize what sets this educationally-successful nation apart and perhaps implement some of its methods in our education system.
What’s your opinion? Do you think the Japanese education system is the best?