the quality of the schooling I received. I also have a longstanding interest in
Japanese culture. It is natural then that I would eventually get to looking at how
Japan does education. What I found was a school system that better instills the
values of leadership, sense of community, and respect than anything I've seen in
New Brunswick. I figured I may as well detail some of the highlights of their
system and make the argument that New Brunswick would do well to adopt at
least some of these policies. The policies are in no particular order of importance.
This is my third time trying to write on this topic and I've struggled with how to cover it. This is mostly because the ideas I
am advocating for are interconnected to a large degree. So doing one topic left a lot unsaid and doing the entire article
created an unreadable master's thesis. I settled on covering two topics in each article. Expect this series of articles to link
back to older articles and forward to newer ones (linear existence being more a suggestion than a rule).
Soji No Jikan
Some might balk at the idea of even a minute of potential class time going towards school cleaning. They may well argue that such cleaning has no educational value. I'd argue they are wrong. Being able to work together in a shared endeavor is an important skill to learn. Understanding that you have a responsibilities towards your community is a fundamental aspect of citizenship. It might even instill a bit of respect for people who clean as a profession. Students might even welcome the change since, as long as the work was getting done, there would be an opportunity to socialize.
Interestingly, having students clean produces a result that is perfectly logical in hindsight. Students tend not to write on school property with pens or markers since they may well be assigned that section to clean later. While there would still be a need for a few janitors for dangerous and difficult tasks the number needed would be much reduced. From a savings and educational stance this policy has a great deal of appeal.
This kind of thing has precedence in New Brunswick. My mother recalls that her school was cleaned once a week by the janitor and the students were expected to clean up after themselves during the week. It is time we revived this expectation.
The Role Of Teachers
While Canada has a very sharp division between moral and academic education, Japan does not. Teachers are expected to be a stand-in for the child's parents at school and to instill moral values and help develop a child's character. Indeed, a teacher's influence often extends into the surrounding community. Teachers in Japan often work unpaid overtime and patrol local events with a eye out for misbehaving students.
In class an observer might be surprised by how little direct discipline there is. An example I read about in Thunder From The East detailed how after a student started playing 'bombs away' with a carrot in the fish tank the teacher stated simply that the fish might get hurt. After a couple half-hearted attempts she gave up. However, after recess she brought up her concerns about dropping carrots into the fish tank with the class. This wasn't the lectures myself and many others have had to sit through. In fact the teacher said very little. Instead she asked the class what they should do about the situation. Some students noted the game was fun while others worried it might hurt the fish and they should stop. The teacher acknowledged the first group but encouraged and praised the second group. She then got the class as a whole to agree with the majority opinion; that 'bombs away' was harmful to the fish and they should stop. This type of discipline has the advantage of being self-enforcing. Students police each other and remind those who stray of the social contract they all agreed to. Hundreds of little pushes like this throughout a student's career lead to high school students who, should the need arise due to a teacher's absence, can be left alone to study quietly for a day and not have them descend into (loud) anarchy. We often hear about the evils of peer pressure but this is largely because it has been ignored how it might be used in a positive manner to enforce positive behavior.
Next time I delve into student leadership and responsibility.