inside Japanese schools

By Aka Hige from Denton, TX, USA (Flickr) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 ], via Wikimedia Commons

NY1 Online: "Looking For Answers: Inside Tokyo Schools" [Full Program]: Education Reporter Lindsey Christ traveled to the Far East to produce the hour-long special report, Looking For Answers: Inside Tokyo Schools, a look at what New York City schools can learn from schools in Japan. [48 minutes, new link 2017, original link gone.]
An interesting (48 minutes) documentary on Japanese schools from an NYC reporter. It is mostly about Japan but there's a bit about NYC, too. My notes:

Japanese schools encourage older kids to interact with younger kids. Compulsory education actually ends with 9th grade even though 95% go on to senior high, which clearly shows how compulsory attendance is not the only driver of education policy. Some people in Japan also want to shift their schools away from producing industrial workers and are questioning the factory model. They are moving slowly toward more problem-solving and process-oriented preparation.

The impact of changed test results in Japan have harmed many reforms and many want a return to the 6-day week to get test scores back up again. A look at class sizes is also interesting: NYC cares a lot about this while Japan does not. The jukus, or test prep classes are shown and the closer interaction with students in these is examined. In fact, the cram schools allow more questions and interaction with teachers. Japan students face fewer standardized tests and school promotion is automatic. But there are three important exams that are gatekeepers to good schools though there is a reform aiming to lessen this until the end of "high school."

A fascinating part is a look at how Japan handles food in the schools. They give the kids very extensive information on the food every year, every school has its own nutritionist, and every meal is prepared from scratch at the school. The food is brought into classrooms and eaten there: the kids serve each other, learn portion sizes, and try new flavors often after a mini-lesson on the new food or taste. Then they wash their hands, brush their teeth and cleanup the classroom after food is served. And the Japanese get kids moving, with daily stretching and running. Every school has a pool and every student learns to swim.  Japan has recently added traditional martial arts, archery, drumming, and dance to school requirements. Schools also do complete health checks and the video notes that Japan saves extensive money in healthcare.

An interesting look at Japanese school refusers comes toward the end of the video. School refusal is not considered truancy but an opt-out and there were over a 100, 000 school refusers in a recent count.  Japanese parents are often frustrated by this and there is a new school that allows school refusers to attend a "free school,"  Japanese-style. Homeschooling isn't on the radar according to this report. But the problem of hikikomori, those who will not leave their apartments, is also a factor in this very group-focused society. Bullying is a growing issue and the documentary examines that issue as well.

A look at teachers concludes the documentary. The overall emphasis on the group and a stunningly thorough program of equitable resources among schools are base points for the Japanese approach to schooling. This well-made documentary gives a unique glimpse of Japan.

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