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Topic: California SAT-9 Testing.
Replies: 13   Last Post: May 30, 2000 9:39 PM

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Posts: 3
Registered: 12/6/04
Re: California SAT-9 Testing.
Posted: May 28, 2000 12:38 AM
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On Fri, 26 May 2000 05:01:18 GMT, "Don Blasingame"
<> wrote:

>As a footnote to your post, it is my understanding that Japan does not track
>students and their elementary and middle school classes are heterogeneous in
>terms of ability.

The Japanese School system has severe limits on student and teacher
freedom because the schools are strictly controlled by the central
government. All of the classroom curricula, assemblies,
examinations, etc. are conducted in a *simultaneous* fashion
governed by common rules in all schools on a set schedule.

Student dress, hair style, and personal effects are subject to
regulations set forth in elaborate detail.

At the center of this is the examination and competition for places
in the various schools that has been the heart of Japanese schooling
since the beginning of the modern era. School choice has ended up
being rationed on the basis of physical, mental and emotional
handicaps, gender, cultural background and social class.

Almost all Japanese children attend what Americans would call
preschools. Generally children enter nursery school at 3 or 4
and continue in these schools until they are 5 or 6. In general
one teacher is present in a classroom of 30 to 40 children. About
60 % of the nursery schools are private and 40 % are public
with only 1% of the public sector schools being national in

Interestingly, Americans have an incorrect idea of how the
Japanese accomplish control of their children. Mothers do not
make explicit demands on their children and do not enforce rules
when children resist, but children strongly internalize parental,
group and institutional values. Small, fixed-membership groups
are a striking feature of Japanese Nursery Schools. Groups
have their own tables, are frequently assigned the same chores
and do the same teacher-initiated projects together and this
carries over into lunch and informal play. Teachers seem to select
the groups initially on the basis of children who play well together
though best friends are often split up into different groups. The
groups are also constructed by distributing *able* children into
all the groups by skills. Teachers tend to minimize the impression
of control, delegate much control to the children, provide lots of
opportunities for children to acquire a positive identity and avoid
any attribution of intentional misbehavior to the children. This
kind of control helps make the transition from a very indulgent
home environment to a large group classroom manageable.

Preschools do differ, however, in their curricula. There are
academically oriented and non-academically oriented preschools.
The major difference between these schools, however, involves
how much formal and intensive the program was. The non-academic
preschools tend not to teach formal reading or math, but to feel
that speaking and listening should be emphasized while in the
academic preschools there were lessons on reading and writing.
At the fourth grade level, there appears to be no difference in
the achievement of children from one or the other type of preschool.

Elementary schools in Japan also emphasize group learning.
They are far from the *rote and drill* model that westerners
believe are common. Teachers in Japanese classrooms rarely
rely on choral responding and group reading. Less than 2 % of the
time in elementary classrooms are spent on these tasks. In
mathematics, for example, teachers utilize a variety of approaches
that stress application, problem solving and abstract
representations of problems. Notably, the incidence of
hyperactivity, hair-twisting, lip-biting and other tension signs
seem to be fairly low also in this elementary school setting.
Teachers in these classrooms are successful at engaging the
attention of their pupils in these large classrooms partly because
they are not responsible for classrooms during the entire day.
They have much more time than American teachers devoted
to preparing lessons, working with individual children and
conducting class related acitivities outside the classroom.
The cultural appraisal of the effect of hard work on mastery
of the curriculum encourages children to succeed at a higher
difficulty level, since they do not believe that genetic ability
is the limiter of their achievements.

In Japan, compulsory education extends only through the primary
and lower secondary schools. However, almost all Japanese
students do go on to high school. The entrance examinations
constitute a special hurdle that makes the process quite different
from the process in the US. About 50 % of Japanese students
actually attend the *ordinary* high schools that lead directly
to working careers, but almost all students at the junior high
level want to take the examinations for the *good* academic
high schools. The intense competition created by this system
makes it difficult for the originally group oriented children to
maintain friendships. This is the level at which the sorting of
students into various tracks of society occurs, though the
elementary schools are not uniform in their treatment of
minorities (especially of the Burakumin - Japan's invisible
people who are outcaste by their hereditary association with
occupations involving blood and death). Ninth graders who
score low on the tests here are essentially relegated to second
class economic status for life. There are also significant
differences in the patterns of opportunities provided to women
in Japanese schools. Junior Colleges have become the
*women's track* in higher education. Japan's schooling is
also segregated in terms of special needs students with
special schools predominating, not just special classrooms
within regular schools.

All of this information comes from the book edited
by James J. Sheilds, Jt. Japanese Schooling: Patterns
of Socialization, Equality and Political Control.

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