When we think of where the best students come from, we often think of Japanese students. If we take a look at Japanese education, there are some things we can pick up on that might give our children an advantage in school. Here are a few observations:
- Japanese educational structure very closely follows the American system. There are six years of elementary education, three years of junior high, and three years of high school. However, entrance into high schools is competitive and is based on examination, interviews, and so forth, much like college.
- Japan enjoys 100% literacy because of their emphasis on elementary education, and over 90% of children graduate from high school.
- Japan does not segment classes based on ability or aptitude. The only exceptions to this are schools that cater to those with disabilities (blind, deaf, or major mental handicap).
- Children are promoted each year, almost without exception. Those who struggle are given extra attention and instruction.
- Japanese students are taught a life curriculum in addition to the academic subjects. They learn morals and instruction on how to interact properly with society and the environment around them. Principles like manners, politeness, and respect for adults are all taught in the classroom.
- Japanese students work in groups and are largely self-directed in terms of discipline and responsibility. Student leaders organize groups to maintain appearance and cleanliness of the school, instilling a pride in ownership.
- The assumption is made that all children have equal potential to learn academically and to develop good habits. Differences in achievement and progress are attributed to level of effort and self-discipline.
Our American classrooms, in general, fall short in teaching and developing some of these habits. So, what things can we do as parents to approximate this experience? Here’s what I see:
- Work to teach your children good habits. Organizational skills, study skills, self-discipline and attention to detail can all be taught through example and appropriate positive reinforcement.
- Expect them to excel. Don’t make excuses or concessions for them.
- Teach and expect manners, respect, and politeness. Model these in your own behaviors.
- Teach and adhere to your moral principles. It’s hard to expect something of a child that you’re not willing to conform to yourself.
- Continually talk about the importance of school. Be involved in your child’s education.
- Give them the help that they need when they are struggling. Help them focus on the behaviors and activities that will help them succeed.
- Teach them about work. Give them chores and accountabilities in the home. Show them the value in accomplishment and completion of a task.
All of this comes back to the parents playing a key role in the education of their child. Children are a huge responsibility, no doubt about it. If you’ll teach these things to your child, then you are preparing them for life regardless of their level of success in the classroom. It’s never too late – start today!