So you say you like Japanese culture, but you’re shocked to know that Japanese public school students eat lunch in the classroom with their teacher? Read on, then, to discover more commonly unknown facts about the Japanese education system.
1. No Exams for The First 3 Years of School
The theory about why Japanese students are not required to take exams until after fourth grade is that the Japanese value excellent manners. According to the Japanese culture, it’s more important to teach proper etiquette to young students than to focus the classroom energies on cramming for upcoming standardized tests. The underlying belief is that children’s character must be developed. Therefore, it’s best to avoid judgement students’ learning progress.
Developing respect for others is taught in the classroom. Students must show deference to each other and, of course, the teacher. Of utmost importance is the student-teacher relationship. Ostensibly, students who don’t want to disappoint their teachers won’t act out.
2. Not Janitors, But Students Clean The School
photo credit: Timothy Takemoto
Japanese students have to clean up after themselves. They clean the classrooms and the bathrooms. The point is to teach students how to teamwork, share responsibility, and develop greater respect for taking care of things (not just people). Perhaps, the lesson here is that how students care for the place in which they learn reflects how the care for others. Opportunities to build character are not to be taken for granted.
The students are split into groups according to tasks. The groups rotate throughout the year, so each student gets experience with all of the tasks. When cleaning, students are divided into small groups and assigned tasks that rotate throughout the year.
3. Students Eat The Same, Balanced Meals
Aside from students with serious food allergies, Japanese students are served meals from a standardized menu. These aren’t just your average, American public school lunches, notorious for the poor nutrition, added sugars, and trans-fats. The Japanese teach their kids healthy eating from the get-go by prioritizing quality ingredients and realistic portions. Menus are a collaboration between healthcare professionals and trained chefs. Additionally, school lunches are largely made using fresh, locally-sourced ingredients.
Teachers eat lunch with their students, a practice that further solidifies the relationship between the students and teachers. Oftentimes, Japanese students serve lunch to one another as a way to distribute the responsibility of the well-being of the entire class.
4. Public Schools Teach Traditional Art
What is considered fundamental knowledge to the Japanese public school system goes far beyond the scope of the foundation identified by most American public schools. Japanese students are taught traditional arts like Shodo (書道、Japanese calligraphy) and haiku, a formal style of poetry. Shodo involves writing kanji and kana characters with a bamboo brush in ink on rice paper. The art requires language knowledge and help instill respect for cultural traditions. The craft of writing haiku works similarly to promote in students an awareness of and value for national, cultural traditions.
5. Japanese Students Wear School Uniforms
photo credit: elmimmo
From junior high school on, almost all Japanese public schools require their students to wear uniforms. Standards vary, but many uniforms share the following aspects: military-style, black uniforms for the boys, and sailor blouse and skirt for girls. School uniforms are modest in color, cut and decoration.
As with all school-related standards, there is a point behind the uniform regulation. The idea is that when students wear the same outfits, they feel a greater sense of community. Also, any social stigmatization that come with outward appearance is lifted, allowing students to focus on learning. Some Japanese schools also have strict rules on accessories like backpacks, as well as makeup and even hairstyles.
Featured photo credit: Tofugu via tofugu.com