We both are Asian, both have the same gene of constitution or intelligence, therefore, what is the secret for Japanese children to always be the front runners in Asia in both education and sports.
To witness with my own eyes the pre – school education of Japan, I don’t find it difficult to understand why Japan is full of talented people, whether in wars or economic development, or even in terrible natural disaster such as earthquake, tsunami, they are still showing a very Japanese spirit.
Playing to learn and learning through playing
The head teacher of Usagi – gumi explained with me, the basic view of Japanese education is: “Create the best condition for children to self-experience and self – discover”. The way children receive information is different from adults.
Adults can learn through reading books, or listening to others, however, children don’t learn in the same way. Children don’t discover world by books, but by what they have experience.
If children self-experience and self – discover that if we mix blue with yellow, we get green, children will remember for a long time.
Children can learn by heart that “seeds turn into shoots, shoots grow into trees, trees have flower – buds, flower – buds turn into flowers…”, but they only learn it by heart, do not really understand.
Therefore, teachers always try to talk the least, and make the best condition for children to self – experience. A children explores that strike a metal bar with another will create sound, even everyone knows that however with children, that discover like Edison invent light balls. Children will learn a lot from it.
Let children do it by themselves
When I mentioned that Vietnam children even in elementary school, still are spoon – feeding by parents or teacher, the headmaster of a Japanese pre–school is very surprise.
She explained that, when children begin to do somethings, they cannot do it well at first, not only Vietnam kids but also Japanese ones. Such as put on clothes, at first children do it very slow, put arms in the wrong sleeves, buttoning wrong, but do it again and again, children will know how to do it in a faster, more corrective way.
Or sometimes when children spill beans, sesame seeds all over the classroom, to clean this mess needs skill in using broom, therefore, children can sweep a few times but it is still not clean. And every time after children leave class, teachers will have to clean the classroom again.
“However, we still let the kids do it, it is not to clean the class, and it’s to form tidiness and self – consciousness” – the headmaster said.
A public pre-school class in Japan has up to 30 children, but only one teacher. But I have never seen a teacher has to scream children, because the kids are very self – aware.
Japanese kids go to school from 9 a.m to 2p.m, 5 days per week, about 25 hours per week, the time that they stay at home is 7 times more than the time they go to school. Therefore, parents have very important roles in developing and shaping children’s personality.
“At school, we can teach children to be independent, keep everything clean, obey to laws… however, if parents do the opposite, everything will be meaningless” – said the headmaster.
Whether how much effort the teachers put on teaching children to obey to traffic regulations, if when they are going out with their parents, the parents keep going when the red light is on, the kids will not obey to traffic regulation as well. Or when teaching children to be independent, at school teachers teach children to have habits to clean up mess, but when they’re at home parents do it for them, this will not help in shaping their habits.
Japanese parents listen to teachers: “I am very confident in economics and accounting, but I have no idea when it comes to teaching children, therefore I always try to listen to teacher’s advices – who are professor in this matter” – said a mother.
5 aims of pre-school
According to the headmaster, one of the important things pre-school needs to achieve is create a plentiful environment for children to experience, from tree, sand – bank, play ground, traditional games, colors… everyday activities are classes for children to learn about outside world.
The environment that Japanese pre – schools creates is not only about the facilities, but also the interactive environment between children and children, children and teachers. Kids are encouraged to play with each other, when kid is playing alone, teachers will talk to the kid and help them to fit in the groups.
When children are fighting with each other – things that unavoidable with children, this is when needed teachers, teachers will not be the judge to find out who’s wrong and who’s right, no one is wrong and no one is right, both need to find out what they did wrong and apologize to each other.
They were so mad with the other just a couple minutes ago, but after just a few minutes they are holding hands, smiling and together exploring the world.
The school also creates many collective activities for children to have the chance to play with each others, or together try to deal up with challenges in games. There are about 2 -3 activities like that per week.
I realize that Japanese children are taught how to act since they went to pre – school. Teachers are very clever when transmit these knowledge to children through everyday activities.
Japanese – preschool is always trying to create the best environment to achieve 5 aims: Children have a diverse soul, children are healthy, children fit in and have a lot of best friends, children is always trying to think, children is always trying and put efforts on doing things.
STARUP MONTESSORI INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL
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