What we can learn from Japanese education system?
It was just about at 7.30am. Amid a mild cold wave, we, a team from Bangladesh, arrived in Osaka city, Japan, to visit the primary and kindergarten education system on November of the last year. This trip was hosted by Atshushi Kawabe, CEO of 'Education Aid for Asia', a local NGO in Japan, upon a request from a Bangladeshi researcher Dr Afreen Azhari, currently working in Japan and Dr Nazmul Islam, founder of "O AA Ka Kha School" in Bangladesh. We visited at least five educational institutions from our tour, including elementary to high school. We have been trying to collect certain Japanese perspectives that make a difference from others and what we (Bangladesh) might learn from them.
Early in the morning, we saw students arriving with a guide in a small group. However, we couldn't see a single car dropping them off in front of Kosaka Campus. It was also noteworthy that the train we took to get here was full of school kids from surrounding schools with no parents. Their school communication is very different from our schools to reduce traffic jam by car or in public transports.
Public schools receive children only from a specified area that can be accessed by foot or by bike. The children of elementary schools arrive by walking in a group with an adult guide or with upper grade students' guidance. Because of the arrival of private cars that used to drop school goers in Dhaka city, we find traffic stuck in Bangladesh. When it was before 8:00 am, we saw the teachers, including the principal and vice-principal, stood in front of the main entrance of the school and greeted the students who entered the school saying "Arigato gozaimasu" (a formal thank you). It was 'amazing scenery' for us, because in Bangladesh we can never think of a scene!
After introducing with teachers and students, we visited different classrooms to see their 'interesting' teaching method how they run their activities. When we entered class 1, we found that students were enjoying video-cartoon of morality. Upon finishing the video, a questionnaire was asked to be filled. Instead of issuing any grade or point, the teacher normally reviews the script in the next class and brief on the responses. It's not only MCQ test, but also moral test. During the explanation of the right answers, teacher explains the moral reason behind it.
In the meantime, several students were found playing with various sports-dresses, guided by their physical trainer (PT) in the playground. The playing team left the playground after hearing the sound of the ringing bell and a new team walked in. During the break, we heard a tune in whole campus that was very charming and inspirational, rhythmic to move on their body, mind with full of spirit and happiness.
At the same manner, another PT teacher was found while he was giving mark by chalk powder in the whole-big-football ground alone by himself. During hospitality time, the Principal of Kosaka High School brought tea, snacks by himself alone for us. We also discovered that the school program in Japan is designed to help a child's social life and increase awareness of becoming a resident of Japan.
Japanese school is typically divided into five cycles: Nursery school (Youchien) and Kindergarten (Hoikuen) from 3 to 5 years old, Elementary school (Shougakkou) from 6 to 11 years old equivalent to Grade 1-6, Junior High School (Chuugakkou) from 12 to 14 years old (Grade 7-9), Senior High School (Koukou) from 15 to 17 years old (Grade 10-12), Vocational school or University from 18 years old in general with duration of 2 and 4 years, respectively. The kindergarten periods ended at 2 o'clock, while the nursery school is holding some kids whose mothers are working women until they finish their work. So, working mothers don't need to think about their little kid's care when they're at work.
In Japanese schools, students do not take any tests until Grade 6 (11 years of age). They're just taking small tests. It is assumed that the aim of the first 9 years of school is not to assess children's intelligence or understanding, but to create good manners and grow their character. At Grade 7 Junior High School (12 years old), the tests take place at the end of each year. Depending on the school regulations, there are 2 or 3 terms per year. Whereas in the Bangladeshi education system there has been a great deal of focus on having strong GPA numbers or grades from the primary level, in Japan this is totally different.
From Bangladesh's point of view, in the last year, we have received an announcement from the Ministry of Primary and Mass Education that students of classes I, II and III will not be expected to attend any exams, but will still be expected to do so. Students in classes IV and V would need to take the tests as they did before. This PECE system is so competitive that a total of 29,03,638 students where 25,53,267 students from the general stream and 3,50,371 from madrassa - were expected to appear in the examinations in the last year, according to primary and mass education ministry.
School lunch is free in Japanese public schools with standardised menu or need to pay very little depends on which city they live, while in private school they have to pay full for it or can bring from home. They are totally ignored about any kind of junk foods. The class-teacher along with some students in turns serve the lunch to all students wearing apron, hats, gloves to ensure and teach sanitation, served from childhood in disciplined manner.
Most Japanese schools do not employ janitors or custodians. The students clean their school themselves. When cleaning, students are divided into small groups and assigned tasks that rotate throughout the year. It helps each other for building team work and make kid's respect to their own work. It also teaches them to clean the home and public spaces and it is hard to find even a trash at any corner of Japan.
Finally, we found the main difference between Japanese and Bangladeshi schools that the heavier emphasis on morals and ethics education. Along with, extreme hard physical activities of half of total school hours in daily basis in addition to school cleaning and extracurricular club activities after main school hours are also the premier differences. From the school, students are taught to respect to other people and to be gentle, caring and respectful to animals and nature. They also learn how to be generous, compassionate, and empathetic.
At the end of senior high school, Japanese students will have to take a very important exam that decides their future to enter in university or vocational college.
Md Asaduz Zaman is a Student, Department of Economics, Jahangirnagar University and Afreen Azhari is a Researcher