The Japanese Classroom
The classroom environment is also much more regimented. Students have three set terms; there is no opportunity to take summer school and do a tenth of the regular work but get full credit for it like you can do here. The students have set uniforms and a set place for their bike. Each kumi or class has one or two students who are responsible for checking to see if the teacher needs help carrying something and to formally ask them to teach the class.
A relationship is also built between the students and the teachers that is not necessarily present in U.S. classes. Students see the teachers clean the room, stay after school and help coach sports or clubs and be active in the community, possibly even visiting the homes.
Unlike American schools Japanese daily education does not end at 3:30. Most of the students will be involved in an activity after school such as tennis, gym, baseball or any of the many clubs each school has. In elementary schools, for instance, the top three afterİschool lessons given are, for males, swimming, piano and calligraphy. For girls, it is piano, calligraphy and swimming. (That is of the year 2000. Swimming has been the top choice for boys since 1995 while piano has been the top choice for girls since 1987. Calligraphy was the second most popular male choice from 1995 through 1999 before it was replaced by piano. For boys, the third choice has varied from abacus through piano, soccer, English conversation and calligraphy. Girls have been more consistent. Calligraphy was their second from 1987 through 2000 with the exception of 1998 where it was replaced by swimming. Swimming was their third choice from 1986 through 1996, and again in 1999 and 2000).
The secondary school day starts at 8:30. Students will walk, ride bikes or take buses or trains to get to school. Even on the way to school the students are expected to behave in a way which will not bring any disrespect for their school. Students wear uniforms, so the particular school they attend can be determined from what uniform they are wearing as different schools will have different uniforms.
Students will go to a homeroom class for the taking of attendance and any announcements that have to be given. It's the teachers who move from room to room so the students will remain in the same classroom all day (except for phys ed and lab classes), and will often eat their lunch in the room.
At the end of the school day o shoji, or the cleaning of the school is done. Students will clean the classroom, clean the restrooms and pick up trash. This helps to give the students more of a personal stake in taking care of their schools. (Expecting students to clean classrooms in U.S. schools would be considered a violation of the students rights.
There will also be various clubs after school. Theoretically run by teachers, many are actually run by the students themselves. Students are usually allowed to join only one club and will stay in that club through the rest of their time in secondary school.
The clubs are of two types: one is sports and the other culture. Sports clubs can include clubs for baseball, soccer, judo, track, tennis and a wide variety of other sports. Culture clubs include clubs in broadcasting, calligraphy, English, science and math.
A major factor in these clubs in the development of a social/cultural status association with other students. Students who are older are referred to as senpai, while the younger students are referred to as kohai. Each type has its own responsibilities. Senpai help kohai to adjust to the clubs and teach them what they need to know to do well in the clubs; the kohai defer to the senpai. In tennis, for example, kohai will be the ones chasing the balls on the courts while the senpai play tennis.
The kohai also are expected to model the behavior of the senpai. This type of kohai/senpai relationship can continue well after the school years are finished and similar things will be seen in politics and business.
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