Some ideas from Japan for India’s Education Reforms!!


India’s education system has been a bit stagnant over the years and the new Government is talking about the education reforms. In this regard, Prime Minister Modi during his visit to Japan actually visited a couple of schools to get a feel of the Japanese education system. On returning, during the Teacher’s day interaction with the students, he had mentioned that Japan has very little teaching but a lot of learning and I think he is bang on his analysis. As my son studies here in a Japanese school, I took a lot of interest in trying to find out if this was a step in the right direction. Here are some of the simple things which I think we can introduce in India to help improve our education system.

  • Proximity Rule: Japanese schools have a rule that only residents from a fixed area around the school can send their children to the elementary school. Of course, there are some private schools, but their fees are set pretty high for only the very rich to really afford that education. This proximity rule is an enabler for a lot of other aspects which actually help children learn a lot during their elementary education. Here are some of them:
  1. Parents are discouraged from leaving their children at school, instead it is recommended that they let their children walk to school. For this the parents are required to drop their children to the closest drop point near their house. At the drop point, the children are queued up in groups of up to seven children with the eldest of them assigned as the leader of the group. The responsibility of this leader is to ensure that the children follow the traffic rules and generally walk in a queue all the way to the school. The parents are encouraged to take up volunteering roles along the way, where their responsibility is to stand at various signals and spots where the children need to either cross the road or need oversight. Generally, it follows a line of vision, each volunteer sees the volunteer at either end of his vision. So without teaching, children learn to follow the traffic rules, following a leader’s instruction, the leader learns to lead different kinds of people, and all of them also learn to be disciplined. Additionally, parents keep instructing the children on punctuality and their responsibility not to make their group wait and get late. To top it the school then involves the parents and gets a community feel to the education system. Parents start to know about other kids in the region and start to help in their development and not just about their own children.
  2. Twice every year parents are requested to come to the school to clean the school premises along with their children. On these days when parents come over to the school they are given equipment to cut out the weeds from the garden or to generally sweep the premises. As they do it with the children and the other parents, they teach their children the importance of cleanliness and also how important it is to keep not only our house, but the community buildings like schools etc. also clean. Also this serves as a great socializing event for the parents to meet the other children’s parents and to sweat out with them.
  3. Parents are invited on occasions to the school to observe how their children study during the classes. If there are any concerns that the parents see they can discuss the same with the teachers of the school. This helps bring in an amount of transparency in the way the school conducts its classes and provides parents with view of how the school teaches their children.
  4. A lot of activities are conducted on the school grounds like soccer classes, baseball classes etc. where coaches from region are allowed to conduct these classes for fixed time slots on certain days. Students can join these classes. It is interesting that for such classes parents are requested to pick up their children as the volunteers are not available at these time-slots. Usually the parents would come with some drinks or light snacks for the entire team that is practicing again building up a good social relationship amongst parents of the region.
  • Discipline at School: The most striking aspect of a Japanese school is the discipline that is taught to children. As soon as the children enter the school there are some rituals like where the children need to keep their shoes when they enter the school. What kind of shoes needs to be worn for indoor gymnasium vs. what shoes needs to be worn on outdoor field activities and playground. Add to that the serving and clean up duty that the children have to perform during lunch gives them discipline as well as team outlook to things rather than an individualistic outlook.
  • Focus on Physical Education: Exercise is mandatory in the school. Everyday begins with around 15 minutes of exercise that each class has to perform along with their teachers. Apart from that there are weekly classes for indoor gymnasium and outdoor playground activities. During the summer time there are also swimming classes. The yearly assessment report from the school includes parameters such as the distance to which a child can jump from a standing position, stamina analysis, speed analysis and the physical development in terms of height, weight, chest etc. What makes it even more interesting is that they provide an analysis of similar students in the area from various other schools as well as 5 year average of the region.
  • Practical Homework: One of the biggest initial concern for my wife was that the homework from the school was around 1-2 page maximum which was a sea change from the situation in India where poor kids are laden with loads of homework. But soon we saw the practical side of the homework. During the summer vacations, they provided a sheet to my son, where every day he was supposed to write around 2-3 lines what he did on that day. Additionally they provided him a flower pot and he had to take care of the plant and write a line about what he saw in the plant. I found both these as a much practical way of learning and writing homework. First of all this required the child to write a kind of a diary which is a useful habit later in the life and secondly it taught them observation as they had to observe a plant and write about it. Additionally it starts the binding of a child with nature and the responsibility to take care of the nature.
  • Fun environment at school: Despite the discipline, the environment in the school is all about having fun. The relationship between children and teachers is more friendly. At no time do teachers lose their hold over the children, but all times they do it with a smile in face and are genuinely having fun with the children. My wife once told me that she was shocked to see the principal of the school generally playing and having fun with kids and the children were running in and out of his room without a care in the world. Imagine such a scene in an Indian school where the Principal’s cabin is there to visit when you are in trouble!!

These are some of the aspects of the Japanese Elementary School system that we can learn from. But it would be wrong for us to think that everything that the Japanese do is better than us. For e.g. the level of mathematics that is taught in the schools is pretty elementary and that is one area where Indian education system has an edge and our students also have better aptitude for it. Secondly, I have heard that there are social issues of bullying and a high stress on the children post the elementary stage. But this is something that I have not observed so far. I hope that some of these are adopted by our schools as part of the education reforms to set our future generation up to shape the world of the future.

Cheers!
Ram

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2 thoughts on “Some ideas from Japan for India’s Education Reforms!!

  1. Yes, we need to make both education meaningful and enjoyable. Additionally we need to make it as a link between the next generation and the society. Then only our country will progress as a social society!!

  2. A good concept, earlier in our age, our school were like this, in India, at present education become commercial, all most of the people made it as start school to gain money, that is why standard of education become lost. In this regard parents must take initiative but they are help less.Govt has no mind to take corrective steps. this is the situation.

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