Differences in the japanese and english education experiences for the young japanese learnerMost schools
in Japan have the same three-term system as in england
, although the year begins in April, not September. When students begin the year in September in England it can be disorientating as they are half way through their school year in Japan. This can also be true for students returning at the end of the year.
Homework in Japan is more rigorous than in England. The japanese students have daily drills at home as well as homework, continuing throughout the holidays. While they are in England many japanese parents feel it is important that japanese studies are maintained and often students attend japanese schools on Saturday. This can result in japanese students being tired in school as their workload is greater than that of english students. They may also miss out on social events, as they are not able to be with their english friends on Saturdays.
The class sizes in Japan are often greater than those in England with students learning by rote and from textbooks, finding it quite difficult to come to terms with the more student-centred learning in smaller classes in England. Until they become familiar with their english classmates, the japanese students are very private and reserved. They often find the enthusiastic group participation of an english class quite unnerving, especially as they lack the necessary communication skills. One difference between the two systems that students need to adjust to is the english emphasis on creativity and exploration and the japanese traditions which are centred around a structured pathway towards examinations.
The study of english in japanese schools begins early and continues for several years. In the past this mainly concentrated on the skills of reading and writing, rather than speaking and listening. More recently it has been recognised that the teaching of speaking is also important. However, for students arriving at english school it is an added difficulty that the languages belong to different families, and have no common ground in alphabet or structure. We find that japanese students can read aloud accurately but are often reticent to converse for a number of months. Also the emphasis in teaching accurate reading is often to the detriment of the students’ comprehension.
japanese students are often under greater examination pressure much earlier than their english counterparts as it is instilled in them throughout their education that the entrance to the right university can lead to a well-paid job. For students who will return to Japan for higher education, the conflict of striving for two sets of goals while in England can be difficult to manage.
Compulsory schooling does not begin until age 6 for japanese children
, much later than in England. For some, starting at age 6 with students who have been in education for up to four years already with established friendships and an understanding of the expectations and routines, can be overwhelming.
Older pupils in Japan are used to spending long hours in school, often up to twelve hours daily, as lessons are followed by clubs, additional music lessons etc, as well as ‘cram schools’ to push bright pupils or to help others to catch up.
Teaching methods are often described as rigid in the japanese system with less attention paid to the holistic approach of english schools, concerned with the spiritual, moral and emotional well-being of children. In Japan the holistic approach encompasses practical aspects such as nutrition, personal hygiene and sleep.
Classes in japanese schools emphasise student responsibility, evident in the expectation that students will clean classrooms etc. Leadership is a highly valued characteristic and all students have assigned roles such as monitors or lunchtime supervisors.
In the high school environment, Japan has a very lecture-centred, systematic structure geared towards examinations and an intensive selection process. It is difficult for japanese students in english schools to reconcile the pressure from parents who are mindful of their japanese peers, especially if the family will return and the student is to find his place among them, with the perception of lower and different expectations of the english system.