As is true all over the world, the Japanese education system is not perfect. We JETs love to moan about the flaws in the Japanese education system (English in particular) and it’s true, there are a lot of problems in the way they approach language learning. My students learn English the way they learn science and math…as an equation, not a means of communication. There’s little room for inventiveness or flexibility, and students aren’t taught to think for themselves. But there are some things that they do right.
The emphasis on cooperation and a strong team relationship is one of those things. In high school, this begins week one when they go away to what is essentially summer camp, complete with trust falls and canoe races. Teachers are nurture that connection as the students grow older year by year and it’s been amazing to watch them find and play their role in the group…some leaders, some caretakers…some problem solvers….some jokesters. Even with a language barrier I can see them become the cohesive unit that is so highly valued in Japanese culture.
There are two school festivals during the year that perfectly exemplify the team ethic and the value for traditional culture that are uniquely instilled in Japanese children. The first is in October—Sports Day—you can read about OnoKita’s here. The second is Culture Festival, or Bunkasai, which was held this past May.
As the name implies, Culture Festival is a day for students in academic and cultural extracurricular activities to teach their classmates about their niche. Students, teachers and parents spent the morning wandering from classroom to classroom and learning from each club’s projects. Some were interactive, some visual, some funny, some literary. In the afternoon, each homeroom in the school participated in a choral competition that they had been preparing for for the last month. It’s serious…they cancelled classes so the kids could practice. I spent most of my afternoons in May wandering the halls, watching the students perfect their song of choice. The teachers remained completely hands off as the students followed their elected leaders and worked as a team to memorize and perfect their songs. Honestly, they worked together better than most American adults can. Pretty remarkable.
My ESS club members each made a poster about their favorite foreign film and then visitors could take a quiz about the displays. Word had spread that the ESS club was handing out candy with the completion of the quiz, so we had a full house all morning. Advertisement and presents…PR at it’s finest. I can’t take much credit though, they organized and executed everything themselves. I just bought the candy. And they had such a great time. It was so fun to watch. These are some pictures of what they created.
(Mari, the ESS President, turns anything she can into an excuse to dress up in a Halloween costume.)
This is what some of the other clubs created.
Tea Ceremony club performed a traditional tea serving ceremony, or Chado.
Art Club displayed their member’s paintings, sketches, and sculptures.
Flower Arranging club created bouquets that showed the uniquely simple style of Japanese flowering arranging called “Ikebana”.
Biology club gave radishes and lettuce grown from the school garden to their visitors.
Visitors to the Chemistry club’s room got to make gloop. No translation necessary.
Calligraphy club did a Performance Calligraphy presentation where, in rhythm with a modern Japanese pop song, they painted this in front of the audience.