MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWAKUNI, Japan -- Staff and children from the School Age Care center aboard Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, visited Nishiki Seiryu Elementary School in Iwakuni City, to compare Japanese and American schools, Jan. 23, 2015.
A parent of a student at Nishiki Seiryu was the SAC’s tour guide for the day. The children and staff from SAC visited each classroom and observed how the Japanese classes are conducted.
“The children’s behavior was the biggest difference that I noticed,” said Dahquetta Watson, a program assistant with SAC. “The Japanese children are very self-controlled, they don’t have to be told what to do, they already know what’s expected of them and if they are told to do something, they do it without any fuss.”
Nami Chester, a youth cultural specialist with SAC, agreed saying Japanese students aren’t allowed to voice their opinion like American students, which is why they appear to be so orderly.
Japanese teachers trust their students because they’re disciplined, which allows for more learning opportunities according to Marcelina Pearson, the youth director with the SAC.
“I was amazed at the fact that they had a home economics class,” said Pearson. “They trust their students with a variety of things that we would consider safety hazards, like knives, burners and irons.”
The Japanese culture is much more self-sufficient according to Pearson.
“I noticed that the teachers and students clean up after themselves,” said Pearson. “They don’t have a janitor that comes in to clean for them like we do.”
Watson said experiences like this help Americans admire the Japanese culture more and appreciate what’s available to them and to not take things for granted.
“One of the biggest differences I saw was technology,” said Pearson. “They don’t have smart boards, computers, televisions or any other high-tech equipment that we use back in the U.S. The only electronic device I saw in the room was a little heater, yet they’re still at higher level of education than we are.”
Pearson said she thought everything would be completely different but was surprised because there were more similarities than expected.
“One similarity I saw that I was surprised by was the interaction between the students and their teachers,” said Pearson. “In the U.S. teachers work together with their students to keep their attention, but because of the discipline the Japanese students have, I thought the lessons would be more instructional.”
Although they’re taught differently, Japanese schools teach the same subjects as American schools, including but not limited to: math, writing, history, science and physical education.
“I found it interesting that they learn calligraphy in elementary school,” said Pearson. “It’s similar to teaching our children cursive.”
According to Chester, the Japanese students go to school from about 7:50 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. which is very similar to American schools, but the school year and semesters are scheduled very differently.
In America, students get a 10 week summer break in between school years. Japanese students have three semesters with 2–5 week breaks in between.
“I believe their school schedule might be better,” said Pearson. “Giving our students a 10 week break gives them more time to forget about what they learned in the past year.”
Pearson said if there’s one thing she could take back from that experience and apply to schools in the U.S., it would be the importance in respect towards teachers that the Japanese practice.