Wednesday, March 5, 2014


On a rainy Saturday, March 1, 2014 I went to a Japanese
school , Minato school, with Dr. Inoue in San Diego. The Minato school is a school for 400 students that is supported by the Japanese Ministry of Education. I was excited to join this trip and see the Japanese teaching pedagogy in action. I have learned about some of the Japanese pedagogy and style of teaching as I have a course with Dr. Noriyuki
Inoue at University of San Diego where I was exposed to the Japanese culture. I also have read a book called Preschool in Three Cultures. One of the cultures that the book has addressed is the Japanese culture. The book talks about a preschool in Japan, and I enjoyed learning about  the Japanese way of teaching and the principles that Japanese society wants to raise their children on.

When I went to the Japanese school I thought  that we might have to take off our shoes and rain coat. However, when I reached the school I did not have to. Actually, it was an American high school, Madison High School, that the Japanese association rented and used for their Saturday school.

Minato School teaches the Japanese national curriculum and tries to teach students Japanese culture. School is taught in a
similar way to how it would be taught in Japan. It is mainly aimed for the children of the Japanese people who are working for Japanese companies such as Panasonic.

The principal of the Minato school is from Japan. One of the things that stood out to me was the fact that the Japanese Ministry of Education changes the principal every three years. I can really connect to the idea of principal rotation.  From my experience, I see that it is so easy for a person to lose his culture when he is fully immersed in another one. Therefore, if the goal of the school is  to keep its culture, they need a principal with a clear Japanese identity.

I also liked how humble and hospitable the vice principal was. He explained the ideology of the school in Japanese and Dr. Inoue translated what he was saying to us in English. The vice principle emphasised that free time for students is at the core of the Japanese culture. He said that other than recess, students might have 10 minutes between the first and second period to go play outside before continuing their other class. He also told us what is typically done in Japan. He said students in Japan learn how to harvest rice, and that this rice is given to them for lunch. The school also provides lunch which includes, rice, yogurt and milk. After lunch students brush their teeth. Students also are the ones who clean their school. Furthermore, some of the Japanese schools are moving away from the morning assembly to more class meetings instead because they think this is more beneficial for the students. He also explained the school’s Omoi, which is that every student feels for other students’ needs. A large part of the Japanese culture is that they care, help and support each other.

After the presentation we went to observe a fourth grade math lesson. The lesson was about the cube and rectangular prism and their characteristics. The teacher first started by explaining the lesson. She used three dimensional shapes to help the students visualize the shapes and their characteristics. She then gave the students boxes with different shapes and told the students to sort them into two groups. Some students thought that the sorting was according to the box color, and then the teacher told them that it has to be according to their shapes. This activity was done in groups of three students. After that the teacher explained the number of sides and the corners of the two shapes. It was clear to me that the teacher was well prepared, had a strong relationship with the students, and that she was full of life.

During our visit we did what is typically done after a Japanese lesson, which is a lesson discussion and reflection. In the lesson discussion the principal and some of the teachers will meet and discuss the lesson that they have observed. We were part of this lesson plan and participated in that discussion. We asked the teacher some questions, and she fondly answered them. I asked the teacher about one student who was copying the answers from her friend. The teacher said that she is aware of that and said she put the lower student with the higher student on purpose. It is a Japanese principle that the individual help the other individual when needed. Another person asked the teacher why did she pre-wrote the lessons’ information and did not write it during the lesson itself. she explained that the reason is that she can not waste time writing on the board when she needs this time to explain, as she has to put two lessons in one lesson. The teacher also told us that she differentiates the lesson and modifies it according to the students’ needs. She also said that she was interested to see the way they were thinking when she assigned them to classify the boxes.

After visiting the Minato school, I can see that one of the challenges that foreign schools face is the different levels of the students. Another thing that  is common between the Japanese School and the Arabic school is that students tend to talk to each other in English. Even though if they are from a Japanese or Arabic origin, the huge exposure to English makes it more accessible to those children.

Going to the Minato school not only made me aware of what the Japanese education looks like, but it actually depended my believe that what we teach in schools and how we teach our offsprings determines the characteristics of the next generation. Every culture has its own way of teaching and emphasises certain things that are at the root of that culture.

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