AN IMPRESSION OF JAPANESE EDUCATION FROM ALT
I was asked to write an article about the similarities and difference
between America and Japan. I thought I'd center the subject around school
since it is the source which is distributing it. I am currently on my second
year as an ALT in Fukuoka City. I am one of 15 Assistant Language Teachers
Japanese government has hired to aid the English teachers in teaching
English. Also, my job requires me to educate the teachers, students, and
the citizens of this city about the culture in my home country. Needless to
say, I have also learned a lot from Japanese as well.
Being half Japanese, I assumed I had a good idea of Japanese tradition,
culture, thinking, etc. My mother is also a native of Fukuoka City.
As a result, I had had many opportunities to visit here when I was younger.
Although in Japan I was always (and still am) considered GAIJIN ( a foreigner)
I still always felt the strong influence of my Japanese upbringing from
my mother. Many times she would shout,"OGYOGI WARUI!!" and constantly
remind me to think of others first and to respect my elders and so on.
I assumed all other kids with Japanese parents did the same. However, after
teaching in Japan for over a year now, I wonder,"Do they really?"
I was shocked to find on my first day of school how the students ridiculed
their teachers--how they didn't listen or pulled out mirrors to comb their
hair or continued their conversations during lessons. Some students even
walked in and out of class as they liked. To me this was"OGYGI WARUI),
NOT thinking of others and NOT showing respect. I realize that CHUGAKUSEI
are at a difficult age. This is definitely one similarity between America
and Japan. People are people. I myself was very rebellious and probably
the equivalent opf what you call here in Japan a "Yankee."
However, the method in which America and Japan deals with'trouble students'
is extremely different.
In Japan, I was amazed to learn just how many responsibilities teachers
(especially homeroom teachers) actually have. Aside from having the
responsibilitiy of teaching their regarded subject, they also must teach
the students manners and how to clean. Then again apart from teaching,
they must do the diciplining. If a student has a personal problem, the
teacher must also be guidance counselor. In the American school system,
three people are employed to perform these tasks. In America the sole task
of the teacher is to teach his or her subject. The principal diciplines
the students. (and believe me, no more EVER wanted to go to the principal's
office!) A guidance counselor who studied child psychology was hired
to help students, if they were feeling troubled. In Japan, the average
homeroom class size is about 30-35 students multiplied by 3 responsibilities
per student, and you have one person doing 90-105 jobs!!
Of course, not all students need to be diciplined or counseled. However,
the students who DO need correction take away valuable class time from
the good students. This is why in America, the student is ordered out of
the classroom and down to the principal's office. Therefore, the teacher
can resume teaching. I find it ridiculous that parents must pay extra money
for their children to go to JYUKU( cram school) in order to pass the
entrance examinations. The exorbitant amount of money people pay in taxes
should be more than enough to educate their children. However because a
teacher in Japan, is not allowed to send a student out, they must continue
to be interrupted by misbehaving students--sometimes preventing them from
teaching everything they had wanted to teach.
I have been told by several Japanese that it would be too emotionally
distressing for a student to be ostracized from their classmates. I
realized that Japan is a very group oriented society whereas American
strives more for individuality. Therefore I find nothing wromg with and
would encourage anyone to display their own distinctive character.
However if it affects other people in a negative way, then I believe that
person to be selfish. Students know their behavior will not be reprimanded
so they continue to sit(or stand)in class or roam the halls causing
I have also been told that many Japanese do not want to change the
system because it was the same system which they went through. I understand
a respect for tradition. However time has changed since many of those people
were in school. I seriously doubt that parents complained about their
children's teachers right in front of their children.
Since I work in City Hall, I have witnessed a few instances where parents have
come in and chastised teachers to The Board of Education. In some instances they
do this in front of their children. How is a student supposed to have respect
for a teacher if they hear their own parents bad-mouthing them?
Another occurrence which has changed since then is that there weren't so
many things to be distructed by such as; SUPER NINTENDO, game centers, video
rental movies, etc.I honestly believe that there is only so much that can be
done at school. Things must be done at home as well. I believe people should
take more responsibility for their own children. PARENTS should be teaching
their children how to behave not someone else. Proper conduct should be taught
before they enter kindergarden since this is the first time a child will
experience how to get along with others. I realize many parents have many
obligations and are very busy--but many teachers are parents, too.
They shouldn't also have to be parents to other people's children.
I realize that America has many problems with its school system as well.
That could be a whole other article. I do not, by any means, think that the
Japanese school system is in total ruin. There are many dreat students
and teachers(who are the reason I have renewed my contract for another
year and possibly another). I would like you to perceive this as a
commentary from NOT just a GAIJIN who thinks America is superior,
but from an American with a strong Japanese influence.
I'm hoping you will read and contemplate my words with an open mind.
Reported by Catherine L. Miller.
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