NEW TEACHING TRICKS:
Alternative Methods Introduced in Japan's Schools
April 6, 1999
Volunteers help make sure the students learn everything they can. (Asahi Shogakusei Shimbun)
The Japanese educational system has long been criticized for forcing too much information on young students and for focusing on rote memorization. With its new proposal for education guidelines, however, the Ministry of Education is moving to create a more flexible educational environment, by reducing elementary and middle school student workloads to about 70% of what they are today and carrying out various other reforms. In response to one of these changes, Tachikawa Ninth Elementary School in Tokyo has launched a "team teaching" program in its second and third grade mathematics classes.
Six Teachers on a Team
Suzuki has seen improvement since the introduction of team teaching: "The idea that every child will be praised for trying his or her hardest is making the students more diligent. This has only been possible thanks to there being more people in the room watching and caring about the students." Parents who see their children studying calmly and earnestly on school observation day are requesting that the same thing be done for other classes and other grade levels.
Helping Those Who Can't Keep Up
In a classroom where cohesiveness has begun to slacken, students refuse to stay seated or to refrain from talking during class. In some cases, this results in the total deterioration of the classroom environment--a problem educators say can be seen more and more across Japan. In response to this situation, the Ministry of Education is calling for a reduction in student workload, along with classes stressing individual instruction, group instruction, repeat instruction, and practical ties to daily life. The aim is to enhance students' understanding of and interest in what they learn in class.
The team teaching approach undertaken as a trial in Tachikawa with the help of volunteers is a direct result of these new guidelines. Masao Kuroda, principal of Tachikawa Ninth Elementary, says he would like to "try as many innovative approaches as possible, to tear down the isolating wall surrounding schools and openly discuss ways to make classes enjoyable for all children." Concerned educators and parents are increasingly looking toward a more flexible educational environment, where outdated concepts regarding schools and classes are discarded and students can better experience the joy of learning.
Edited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.