The American education system is very different compared to the school system in Japan. Well, it makes sense considering the many differences between the two cultures. An education system, according to sociologists, reinforces the ideals of the culture. I think this makes sense. American students learn the value of individualism, while Japanese students learn the value of community.
A lot of the motivation for American students seems to deal with grades. Usually, a student is in trouble with any grade lower than 73 out of 100. However, in Japan, there are apparently two systems of grading: attendance and test scores. Grading based on attendance is exactly how it sounds. If the student is present (even if the student sleeps in class) more than the required amount of time in order to pass, the student does not need to worry. As for the test scores, unlike the grading system of most American schools, the student is in trouble if the score falls below half of the average score. For example, if the average of the test scores is 40 out of 100, then anything below a 20 would be dangerous. There are supposedly even retests that are administered (at least in Mito SHS) at the end of the academic year. So, why should the students worry about their grades?
From my observations of the teachers in Mito SHS, they grade very harshly. There are few teachers who give partial credit; answers are either right or wrong. I can’t make a blanket statement to include all Japanese teachers, but from conversations with non-Mito SHS Japanese teachers, a lot of teachers follow this type of grading. In America, there are many ways teachers grade. I think that partial credit has become more widespread. Personally, I favor giving partial credit, because I think it is a good way to encourage students. However, there is a fine line sometimes, and giving too much credit may lead to the placating of students.
In Japan, school functions as a second family. The teachers mingle with the students, not only teachers with teachers and students with other students. In the US, there are some teachers and students who have really good relationships, but in Japan, it’s as if the teachers are the students’ second set of parents or older siblings. There is a great deal of trust. It’s a wonderful community.
What can be a motivation for Japanese students? I don’t have an answer, but I do know one thing that students fear. Students fear being wrong. As I have written in a previous post, I can understand. When I was wrong, I used to think: “I am inferior. I am not as smart as everyone else. I am now set apart from the group. It’s embarrassing and shameful.” I imagine some students have other reasons, but my fear that I experienced apply to at least a few students. There is an AET who gave some advice to new AETs, which was to “use the students’ fear.” I am against this idea. I don’t want to play on their fears. I want the students to be motivated, not trying to get something right for the fear of feeling inferior. The system in Japan was made so that students who are self-motivated to learn would continue with schooling past junior high school, because secondary and post-secondary education requires an application process. These steps of education have become the norm, so the self-motivation factor has decreased significantly from a number of years ago. I am looking for a way to let the students apply English. I am also incorporating American and Japanese pop culture into my lessons as a bit of a boost. However, sometimes I wonder if my efforts are effective. As one of my favorite phrases goes, we’ll see.
Stay tuned next week for another update!
今週の聖書の詩: “The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.”
- Numbers 6:24-26 (NIV)
- 民数記6:24～26 (新改訳聖書第3版)
今週の写真: I was told that Australian high school students were visiting, but when I met them, they were more immature than what I had imagined for the maturity level of high school students. Alas, my suspicion was accurate from my first encounter with them. So, here is a picture from the visit of Australian junior high school students. 1-E and 2-E did a few activities with the Aussies: 夏祭り (なつまつり/ natsu matsuri / summer festival), a lesson on Japanese holidays and festivals by playing カルタ (karuta, a pair card game), Japanese calligraphy, and a tea ceremony demonstration.