Tag Archives: school

Life in Japan – Schools

As you may know, I teach English in Japan. However, I don’t teach in a public school, I teach people of all ages from children to the elderly. But I had a question from stomperdad.

What are the Japanese schools like?

I’ve never been inside one, actually. However, from what my students tell me, and what other teachers who have taught in public schools tell me, there are some pretty big differences between Japanese and North American schools, which I have experience with, of course.

First of all, public and private schools are the main ways to get an education in Japan. A lot of people opt for private school, but that costs a lot of money. They tend to have better quality education, especially in terms of English education.

In public school, the focus is usually on rote memorisation and preparation for tests. There’s not much in the way of critical thinking skills. History classes are mainly remembering dates, people, and events, rather than discussing the reasons behind these events, like we did in school in Canada. In math, they memorise from 1×1 to 9×9 for multiplication tables, while in Canada, we memorised 1×1 to 12×12. As for English class, they don’t learn how to communicate very well.  They study to prepare for entrance exams for high school and university.  They study reading and listening, but they focus on grammar a lot. They do not focus on conversation. Everyone studies English a lot, but they can’t speak it.

Students have to take entrance exams if they want to get into high school, as well as university. So, they study after school in a juku (cram school). One student told me that they don’t really learn anything in public school. Cram school is where they learn everything. So, students are often in school three or four hours longer per day than North American students. And when summer vacation comes, they go to cram school for even more hours. That’s right, many kids don’t have summer vacation time. So, they are pushed hard to study, study, study.

Another aspect of school is that there is no janitorial staff, so the students clean the classrooms.  But that’s not the only extra activity they have. There are also clubs. Nearly all students join a club and participate after school or on weekends, and most likely all summer.

Not all students do all this extra stuff. Some do the bare minimum, yet still turn out fine.

Just one more thing. You know Kumon? In North American, it’s often used to help kids who are struggling with math or reading. In Japan, it’s not generally for weaker students. It’s often for students who want to get ahead. It’s just another form of cram school, though the method is very different.

So, that’s about all I know. Others would be far better suited to answer this question, I think.

Have a question about life in Japan? Go here and ask in the comments.

Authors Answer 24 – Brushing up on Grammar

Authors are expected to be good at language.  Good grammar, good word choice, and good spelling are all very important in a published novel.  But do authors study grammar?  This week’s question was asked by Authors Answer contributor Linda G. Hill.

320px-Modern-ftn-pen-cursiveQuestion 24: How important is it to you to continue learning and brushing up on basic skills such as grammar? For instance, would you pay to take a course?

S. R. Carrillo

Wow, I’m gonna sound so fulla myself, but I consider myself very well-versed in grammatical conventions. I would not pay for a course. I do, however, ensure I always stay on top of my grammar. It’s always come second nature to me – I used to do editing for years and I’m a pretty vigorous self-editor as well. Grammar is where I excel.

Tracey Lynn Tobin

This question makes me feel a little bad about myself, to be honest, because while I do think that it’s important to always continue learning, I am totally unwilling to spend any time or money on such things. Maybe if I didn’t have a full-time day-job and a family to take care of, I might be a little more open to the idea of things like writing courses, but given that approximately 95% of my time and money is already accounted for, and the last 5% is what I actually spend writing, I don’t see me committing to any courses any time soon.

That said, I try my best to learn from my peers, through critiques of my own work, blog posts that writers post concerning their craft, and other such things. I can honestly say that I’ve learned quite a lot in the past four or five years, and I believe my writing has improved tenfold as a result.

Paul B. Spence

Well, I’m taking a graduate level writing course right now, so yes, I think it is very important to continue to hone your skills.

H. Anthe Davis

I’m rather casual about the ‘correctness’ of my writing, and in terms of grammar I really don’t remember any of the rules.  I had a weird middle school experience and missed a lot of stuff that seems to have been basic education in my day, like diagramming sentences, etc.  Frankly I only know what gerunds are because of my foreign language classes.  Nevertheless I seem to do fine in my writing, and I’d rather not have anyone tell me what to do, so I doubt I’d take a course.  I got a Bachelor’s in English (Creative Writing) and I’m never going back.  Never never never.

Elizabeth Rhodes

I’d like to avoid silly mistakes and expand on my knowledge, but I don’t see the need to pay for a course when this information is available for free online.  I follow Grammar Girl’s posts, but for the most part I like to think I have a good handle on the language.  People who read my stories might disagree with me.

Jean Davis

I wouldn’t pay to take a course, but I do try to devote time to reading books on writing and working with my critique group. I’ve found it’s easier to see mistakes in other people’s work than it is my own. The trick then is then creating enough distance to go into my own work to be able to apply that knowledge.

Amy Morris-Jones

Since I actually teach English, grammar is kind of my thing, so I won’t be paying (any more) for that kind of class. I do learn new grammatical structures and ways to make writing stronger constantly, though, through what I read or research in my academic field.  I tend to operate under a “continuous quality improvement” umbrella, so if I can find a way to better my skills, I’m there—as long as it’s not super expensive. I tend to feel guilty when I spend too much money on my “hobby.”

D. T. Nova

It is important to never assume I don’t have anything left to learn, even when it comes to the basics, but at the same time, I don’t think my grammar has enough room for improvement to justify paying for a course in it.

Caren Rich

I think it’s very important to keep learning.  The research involved in writing is fun and rewarding. I love learning new things, the more trivial the better. Stagnation is dangerous and boring. I’ve never paid for a writing course, but I would love to try it. Can you recommend one?

Linda G. Hill

I have paid to take college courses online to brush up on my writing skills and I absolutely loved them. I was actually amazed at how much I learned in the grammar course I took; I expected it to be easy. I’ve never been wronger in my life. 😉

But seriously, it’s been two years since I took the course (or thereabouts) and I’m considering doing it again. I love school now that I don’t have to go. (My teenaged self would probably shoot me for saying that.) It’s a challenge. And I love challenges.

Jay Dee Archer

I did take an online writing course last year, but it had nothing to do with things like grammar, and more to do with the creative writing process.  It was free, anyway.

But I am an English teacher.  I teach grammar every day.  I’m immersed in grammar at work and I’m constantly thinking about it.  Grammar is one of my strong suits.  I don’t feel I need any kind of course to strengthen my skills in grammar, simply because it is what I do best.  I’m also very unlikely to make spelling mistakes. Spelling is another of my strong points.  I’m confident with both grammar and spelling.

How about you?

How do you feel about your grammar skills? Would you take a course to improve it? Leave your answers in the comments below.

The Value of a Teacher

In my opinion, teachers should be paid more. They work longer hours than most people. They’re responsible for the education of children who will grow up to contribute to society. They need to be prepared. Teachers aren’t appreciated enough. They used to be valued by everyone. Now, they’re underappreciated.

When my daughter goes to school, I will thank the teachers and give them respect. They deserve it.

All In A Dad's Work

Our school year has 10 extra day built into it to accommodate for snow days. Teachers are paid by salary so they make the same amount whether those snow days are used or not. As of this writing, we have used 8 of those 10 allotted days and school boards are scrambling trying to decide if those missed days need to be made up. If they decide yes, then they need to figure out how.

View original post 1,010 more words

Keep Your Religion Out of Our Public Education

I’m a big supporter of education.  Good education.  I especially love science education.  Science is very important for many professions, including medicine, engineering, agriculture, and computers.  But when something threatens good education, I want to fight back.

In Manitoba, a candidate for the Winnipeg School Board is supporting teaching creationism in the science classroom.  Not only that, she advocates abstinence only sex education.  This kind of thing is heard of a lot in the United States, but rarely in Canada.  To Candace Maxymowich, I say keep your beliefs out of Canadian education.  They have no place in the classroom.

First of all, she’s supporting abstinence only sex education.  This is irresponsible.  Never mind the studies that have shown that this kind of sex education doesn’t work.  You don’t need the studies, you need to use common sense.  We’re talking about teenagers.  Telling teenagers not to have sex doesn’t work.  Nor is it really sex education.  While abstinence is the most effective way of preventing pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, telling teenagers not to have sex is likely to backfire.  At that age, they don’t always make the best decisions.  They will have sex.  Then what?  With education about contraceptives and birth control, they will at least be far more likely to have safe sex rather than unprotected sex.  Candace, what you advocate will lead to more pregnancies and STDs.

Secondly, something that I feel extremely strong about, is the teaching of creationism in science classes.  Never.  Creationists want the alternatives to evolution to be taught, and of course, that’s creationism or intelligent design.  Neither of these (basically the same thing) are science.  They do not use the scientific method, do not use all the evidence, and are simply not science.  I don’t want religion to take up valuable science class time.  It should not take up that time.  What Candace fails to understand is that there are many religions represented by the students.  Which creation story is to be used?  Of course, she intends for it to be her religion’s creation story.  Not everyone follows your religion, Ms. Maxymowich.  This shows you don’t understand what science is.

I’m all for creationism to be taught in school.  Yes, you read that correctly.  But not in science class.  Teach it in religious studies.  But you also have to teach about other religions, not just your version of Christianity.

Science and health are both extremely important.  They need to be taught responsibly.  Science needs to be taught using science. Keep religion out of it.  Sex education needs to be taught from a health point of view, not from a religious point of view.  Candace Maxymowich, your version of science and sex ed are not welcome.