日本語 Education

Hey!

In this post I will share about education in Japan.  Did you know that, according to the newest study, children from Japan lead the world in numeracy and literacy skills? So, what makes the approach of Japanese school system so unique and different from the rest of the world, and more importantly, what can we learn from it?

How fast can you multiply 21 times 13? One minute, probably. And, what about 123 times 321? More than one, for sure. Well, Japanese children do it in no time, with a help of several lines. Any kid can do that, even a five year old. They don’t learn numbers by heart. Instead, they draw and play.

You wonder how can it be?

This is because teaching in this country is about the quality of lessons, not quantity.

 

Here’s an example of a regular math class in Japan:

The class starts with the customary aisatsu (greetings) to the teacher and is followed by his question if students know how to solve a problem he had previously put up on the board. That day his class is supposed to learn how to solve equations with multiple fractions and he instructs his fifth-graders how to approach these math problems.

The first student to finish shots a hand up. The teacher walks over, glances at the problem and circles it to signal it was correct. The student then gets up and away from his seat. Another hand shots up. But, this time the first student takes the role of the teacher, or the corrector.

japanese-girl-lecturing.jpg

Math is also a type of a language, so why wouldn’t we approach it as if we were learning English, Japanese or social studies?

The Japanese say that if you teach what you learn, you will remember about 90 percent. If teachers stand at the board and just lecture, through mere listening, the students will retain far less — say, 40 percent — so it’s far more effective to have them discussing problems and teaching each other. Also, it’s important to have very little downtime or rest time and to constantly keep them motivated.

 

What makes Japanese school system so unique?

Japanese state education system is a national pride in this country, with a traditional approach that has helped Japanese pupils easily outperform their counterparts all around the world.

Japanese school system consists of

  • 6 years of elementary school,
  • 3 years of junior high school,
  • 3 years of senior high school and
  • 4 years of University.

The gimukyoiku (compulsory education) period is 9 years: 6 in shougakkou (elementary school) and 3 in chuugakkou (junior high school).

Due to the fact that their educational system is so good, Japan has one of the world’s best-educated populations (with 100% enrollment in compulsory grades and zero illiteracy). Even though high school (koukou) is not compulsory, high school enrollment is still pretty high: over 96% nationwide and nearly 100% in the cities.

 

How Do Japanese Schools Operate?

Most schools operate on a three-term system with new school years starting every April. Except for the lower grades of elementary school, an average school day on weekdays lasts for 6 hours, making it one of the longest school days in the world. Even after the school ends, children still have drills and other homework to keep them busy. Vacations are 6 weeks long during summer break and about 2 weeks long during both in winter and spring breaks. There is often homework during these vacations.

japanese-kids-doing-lab-tests

Every class has its own classroom where students take all the courses, except for practical training and laboratory work. During elementary education, in most cases, one teacher teaches all of the subjects in each class. The number of students in one class is usually under 40. However, in the past, because of the rapid population growth, this number was lot higher, exceeding 50 students per class.

 

What Do Children Learn in Japanese Schools?

The subjects they study include Japanese, mathematics, science, social studies, music, crafts, physical education, and home economics (to learn simple cooking and sewing skills). An increasing number of elementary schools have started teaching English as well. Information technology has been used to further enhance education, and most schools have internet access.

Students also learn traditional Japanese arts like shodo (calligraphy) and haiku. Shodo involves dipping a brush in ink and using it to write kanji (characters that are used in several East Asian countries and have their own meanings) and kana (phonetic characters derived from kanji) in an artistic style.

asian-girl-on-whiteboard

Haiku, on the other hand, is a form of poetry developed in Japan about 400 years ago that has 17 syllables verse form, consisting of three metrical units of five, seven, and five syllables. It uses simple expressions to convey deep emotions to readers.

 

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