Trisha Martin: Zenryuji Nursery School

Although I started my CIP thinking I would be teaching English, I must admit very little English-teaching has actually been happening. Instead, I am more of an active participant-observer in the early education process of children in Japan. Back in the United States, I had also been very involved with educational- volunteer activities as well, so being able to compare US style early education with Japanese style early education has nonetheless been an enlightening experience.

From observing these two different settings, I’ve come to some preliminary conclusions about the educational styles and societal differences between Japan and the United States. For one thing, US schools appear to adhere to a much more rigid schedule. Lunch begins and ends at a certain time, even if a child is not finished eating. In Japan, every child must finish eating every grain of rice, therefore, lunch only concludes once every individual has finished.  From this observation, it also appears that Japanese early education also emphasizes a much more balanced diet where food is more highly valued; children must say grace before and after a meal, and must finish eating every grain of rice. These two actions are not seen in my US observation at all.

I also noticed a lot of differences in regards to scolding styles in both countries. For example, Japanese children seemed to be punished a lot more for failing to follow proper etiquette – such as incorrectly setting their dishes. One time I also say a child being punished for dropping a plate – something I would only call an accident. However, in the US observation, children were being punished more so for inappropriate behavior – such as speaking too loud, leaving their seats, or not standing still in line. Honestly, I have yet to observe an incident of un-orderly conduct in the Japanese pre-school, which I find very surprising.

Something in common between the two schools though, was the fact they both appeared to be teaching children the value of individual responsibility from a very young age. For example, both American and Japanese children were expected to clean up their own trash after finishing their meals – whether it be throwing away the leftovers or putting their plates away in their appropriate locations. It was only after successfully completing this task that both children were rewarded with recess activities.

However, these observations might not be an entirely accurate reflection of differences in educational styles because of the inconsistency in outside factors. For example, the US observation took place at a public elementary school in a relatively poor area; the Japanese observation took place at a private pre-school in a relatively affluent neighborhood. A better analysis would be to observe more US and Japanese educational settings to flesh out a more accurate comparison.

Trisha Martin: Zenryuji Nursery School” への5件のコメント

  1. Ahhh, you are an analysis master. Such an academic! Did you ever observe a situation where class was delayed because of a student behaving stubbornly? Do the teachers handle outright disobedience in the same fashion as at American schools?

    • Ah, thank you for the complement Erika! And to answer your question, I have yet to observe class being delayed because of a student behaving stubbornly. But, I guess I should also note that I only go during their lunch time (and sometimes nap time), so there really isn’t much to delay in the first place. I wonder if it would be different if I went for an entire school day. Also, there was no outright disobedience observed either. Interesting, huh?

      • Definitely weird! It might be different if you went for an entire day. It’s interesting to note that there wasn’t any disobedience – I wonder if that means that social conditioning takes place more strongly in the household than in the classroom? It seems to be more the opposite in America, where teachers are expected to handle a lot more responsibility in forming a child’s attitude and behavior.

        • Don’t mean to intrude on this conversation, but there actually was one incident of “disobedience,” though it was something that would not be considered a major problem in the States. One week at lunch, one of the children refused to eat his okra, so he snuck it to his friend who ate it for him. However, his scheme did not go unnoticed; the Japanese teachers immediately detected this little act of rebellion. They lectured the boy about appreciating the food he was given and how the food was carefully prepared to make him grow into a smart and healthy person. The teachers also brought the cook into the classroom and made the boy apologize directly to her. As opposed to punishing the boy privately, taking away privileges, or putting him in timeout, the teachers made an example out of his behavior and employed the tactic of public humiliation and shame in front of his peers to correct his behavior in the future. The most surprising aspect of this entire situation was the efficiency with which it was carried out. Despite the disruption, this little incident did not delay the daily daycare schedule one bit and everything proceeded as normal immediately after.

          • Whoa! That is so harsh. But surprisingly effective! It uses vehicles of social responsibility and peer awareness to enforce moral behavior, rather than relying on self-centered and material tactics such as taking away a favorite toy or not getting to eat dessert; it makes the student consider the consequences their actions has on others, the group, rather than on themselves, the individual. That theme seems to pop up a lot in Japanese society, doesn’t it?

            I think it’s actually a really good tactic, but my only worry is whether or not the punishment is continued by the student’s classmates after the shaming. Kids can definitely be vicious, and can quickly turn what could be a healthy moral lesson into something a lot worse and painful.