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Preschool education in Japan

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Joined: 18 Jan 2007
Posts: 2
Location: North West, UK

PostPosted: Thu Jan 18, 2007 5:33 pm    Post subject: Preschool education in Japan Reply with quote


I am currently studying early childhood education with the intensions of become a early years practitioner once I qualify.
I am looking for a preschool teacher in japan who could help me with a presentation I have to give as part of my course. We are looking at international perspectives of early years education and have chosen Japan as a focus.
Basically, I need to identify differences and similarities in Japan and British education. I want to know how a preschool operates in Japan and how the environment of a Japanese preschool looks.
Any help would be gratefully recieved!!
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Sally Olsen

Joined: 08 Apr 2004
Posts: 1322
Location: Canada,France, Brazil, Japan, Mongolia, Greenland, Canada, Mongolia, Ethiopia next

PostPosted: Thu Jan 18, 2007 11:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I taught preschool children in Japan - I presume you are talking about before 5 years old when they go to Kindergarten.

The main difference from Canadian children that I found was the emphasis on getting into the right school. There is a path that students can take that pretty well guarantees them a status position in the society so parents want their children to go to the right Kindergarten which will lead the child to go to the right Elementary School and thus Secondary School, and thus University and thus right job. So the pressure at the beginning to get them into the right Kindergarten is pretty tremendous.

It seems that most young women these days have one child and stay at home to give this child the best education before they start their education. They take the children to various lessons, English being a major requirement these days, but also some form of physical education depending on the school they want to get into, art lessons, dancing lessons, music and so on.

The children are usually allowed to do what they want in the homes without much correction as this will probably be the only times in their lives they have to do as they like. Once they are school there will be homework and more after school lessons so their lives are completely taken up with those things.

The children and mothers often spend time in the local department store in between these lessons playing with toys that are in the toy department as there is not much room in the apartment or houses for these toys but many children have a computer or video games at home as these don't take much room but engage the children and help them to be quiet in the home.

At home, the mother will read stories to the children and get them to practice the fine muscle tasks of making puzzles, origami, painting and learning their letters. The mother usually sleeps with the children.

The father takes the children to the park on Sunday afternoon but other than a brief greeting in the mornings, the children don't often see their father as he is off early to his work and comes home late.

There are a lot of chances for the children to show off their talents in shows organized by the after school lessons and the children are probably the most photographed and videod in the whole world.

There are many parks in every neighbourhood with climbing frames, swings and baseball pitches. The children are always supervised in these places though.

In most communities, there are huge buildings full of computer and video games and the children want to visit these places as often as possible. The games vary from simple to complex and depending on their financial resources, they can move up the levels of a game until they become masters. Younger children like to fish, to dance to patterns on the screen and to drive a plane or car.

The children are included in many traditional ceremonies and dress accordingly, including holidays and family religious times.

The family often go on a two week vacation at the father's company vacation site and these places are like palaces with many facilities for the family to enjoy, usually on the sea but could also include winter sports.

Last edited by Sally Olsen on Tue Jan 23, 2007 3:48 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Joined: 18 Jan 2007
Posts: 2
Location: North West, UK

PostPosted: Mon Jan 22, 2007 12:49 pm    Post subject: Early years education in Japan Reply with quote

Hi Sally!

Thankyou so much for your reply! I think I may have worded my email wrong, by preschool education I meant education for children 3-5years old OR before they start formal schooling. Children In the UK are required to start school at the age of 5, is this different in Japan?
I was wondering if there are any statutory documents for teachers of early years educaiton in Japan?

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Sally Olsen

Joined: 08 Apr 2004
Posts: 1322
Location: Canada,France, Brazil, Japan, Mongolia, Greenland, Canada, Mongolia, Ethiopia next

PostPosted: Mon Jan 22, 2007 4:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yes, I was talking about kids from 3 to 5 and what they usually do outside of the system. There are daycares and I am not quite certain how they operate. The kids all wear a uniform and I have been to several plays that they performed during the holidays so I guess they must practice those plays during the year as they were perfect in their presentations. I saw many little toys, lots of small muscle activities like drawing, painting, beading and so on. I know they have a sleep in the afternoon, do prescribed exercises in the morning and they serve them meals and snacks.

Yes, the children go to Kindergarten at 5 as they do in Canada as well. It is attached to the school but I think they only go in the morning or afternoon depending on what the parents want or what space is available. It is a little more formal than the daycare but again I don't really know except for seeing them perform in holiday presentations. It is hard for me to judge how they were doing but the things they had learned for the plays (which were in English as I was invited as an English teacher in the area) were great. I don't know if they understood anything they were singing or saying though but the best and most assertive children often came up to me afterwards to ask where I was from, how old I was and if I liked Japan. They could say how old they were, how many brothers and sisters they had and if they had a pet or what colour they liked.

I am sure that the teachers have a curriculum both for their school and for English. The Ministry of Education developed a preschool curriculum in 1990. They are in Japanese though but perhaps someone has them translated. I will ask my friend who designed an English curriculum for her preschool.

The tutoring schools used a series like "Let's Go" or material from David's English House when I was there. We also had Rhythm and English classes for 3 to 5 year olds and used a great deal of music.

I think that one of the major differences is the attitude of the parents. Here is a quote from a study of first graders in America, China and Japan.
" [these three] cultures differed significantly in terms of parents' interest in their child's academic achievement, involvement of the family in the child's education, standards and expectations of parents concerning their child's academic achievement, and parents' and children's beliefs about the relative influence of effort and ability on academic achievement. Whereas children's academic achievement did not appear to be a central concern of American mothers, Chinese and Japanese mothers viewed this as their child's most important pursuit. Once the child entered elementary school, Chinese and Japanese families mobilized themselves to assist the child and to provide an environment conducive to achievement. American mothers appeared to be less interested in their child's academic achievement than in the child's general cognitive development; they attempted to provide experiences that fostered cognitive growth rather than academic excellence. Chinese and Japanese mothers held higher standards for their children's achievement than American mothers and gave more realistic evaluations of their child's academic, cognitive, and personality characteristics. American mothers overestimated their child's abilities and expressed greater satisfaction with their child's accomplishments than the Chinese and Japanese mothers. In describing bases of children's academic achievement, Chinese and Japanese mothers stressed the importance of hard work to a greater degree than American mothers, and American mothers gave greater emphasis to innate ability than did Chinese and Japanese mothers."

This looks like a very good book and you can read most of what you need on line:
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Joined: 19 May 2007
Posts: 2
Location: Japan

PostPosted: Sun May 20, 2007 5:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi lindsay

we moved with our 4 year old son from Canada (Quebec) to Japan and I can tell you a little about the fundamental differences we see in the daycare - kindergarten system. I can not judge the system in the UK (lived there for several years but before we had a child).
First of all, in both cases we chose to go with the public education system. Therefore, I cannot tell you anyting first hand about the private kindergartens in Montreal or Japan.

1. Similarities:
Japan and Canada provided excellent care and emotional support for children (and parents). Staff is qualified and very proffessional.

2. Differences:
2.1 Daycare in Montreal was provided full time to us (7am to 6pm) for a fee of CAD 7.00 per day. Lunch and snacks were provided by daycare. 3 educators for 15-20 children. Both parents usually work.
Kindergarten in Japan starts from 8.30 am and finishes usually at 2 pm. Parents have to provide lunchbox. Fee is around CAD 70 per month (works out CAD 3.50 per day). Most mothers do not work, and if they do the relatives usually pick up the children and take care of them in the afternoon. 1 Educator and one assistent for 30 children (hard to believe but it works!!!).

2.2. Daycare in Canada was a lot more structured. e.g. everyone does artwork at the same time. Children were following a schedule of activities and playing more inside than outside (due to weather conditions).
In Japan the children do more or less what they like and can choose when they want to play outside or do activities inside. They just pull out their box with crayons or playdoh and start whenever they feel like it. Most of the time they play outside and nature explorations are strongly encouraged. The lunch break on the other side is quite organized and children follow a traditional routine for eating.

2.3. Play structures and playgrounds are more basic in Japan and designed to encourage physical education and competition. In Canada playgrounds are often 'super safe' to avoid any legal claims, but also a little 'overdesigened' . Kids don't need to kick their imagination into gear any more.

2.3. In Japan children have a strong sense to follow the group when there is a group activity and the Educators are highly respected by children and parents. This is for sure a cultural difference - respect is deeply ingrained in the japanese society.

I hope this little inside view makes sense to you. Of course, this is my personal view and other parents might have different opinions.... I have to mention though, that we moved from a bigger city (Montreal) to a smaller town in Japan (around 100 000). There is for sure a difference between the urban or rural enviroment. Razz
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Joined: 18 May 2007
Posts: 5
Location: Buenos Aires

PostPosted: Sun May 20, 2007 1:31 pm    Post subject: if u need me.. Reply with quote

If u are interested in expand your investigatins. I own and teach preschool (1 trough 5 yrs kids) in Argentina.
I have videos and pictures to ilustrate the whole things.
keep it in mind! ok?

Good luck!
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