Thursday, February 15, 2007

Uniformity in Japanese schools

This is from the article “Bright sparks” in The Economist (Feb 8th 2007).

“And in Japan there is a widespread belief that all children are born with the same innate abilities—and should therefore be treated alike. All are taught together, covering the same syllabus at the same rate until they finish compulsory schooling. Those who learn quickest are expected then to teach their classmates.”

I was thinking about this today while in a class in which there are two boys who constantly disrupt. Somehow these two loud-mouths make it nearly impossible for the rest of the 30-odd students to learn—much less hear—anything from the teacher. In most countries, these boys would have been apprehended months back and, if necessary, thrown out of class temporarily. But in here in Japan, students are rarely singled out and disciplined. I can’t imagine what one would have to do to be escorted out of class.

Like the Economist article mentions, the Japanese school system values uniformity over much anything else. From what I see, there’s no individual discipline, or honors classes, or time out, because everyone should be treated alike. This is such a strange concept to grasp but come to my school and the sameness is what will shock you most. The identical clothes, hair styles, sock length for girls, pencil bag accessories, backpacks, etc. It’s like every student is on the same sports team, a far cry from the multi-colored junior highs of the rest of the world.

The uniformity in schools (and society) makes everything so much easier. Efficiency is key, and streamlining makes things run smoother. And it’s not just in the school system—the Japanese population is one of the most homogeneous. There are so many things to say about this. For now, I’ll leave it with today’s incident, where the cost of blind obediance to uniformity was, and will continue to be, wasted class time.

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