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japanese school system question 2008/1/1 22:13
we have been 4 times to Japan and were very surprised to see that schoolchildren out of the classroom all the time. Is there so much "on the field" education ? Everyone telling that the schoolsystem is hard, this seems odd to us
by ingrid  

Depends... 2008/1/2 12:48
What age group were the students?

Just because class maybe out in the field, doesn't mean that the school system is easy...
by Nika rate this post as useful

... 2008/1/2 23:39
As mentioned, what exactly do you mean by "schoolchildren out of the classroom all the time"? Because (even as a parent) I don't notice so many children "out all the time". Please at least tell us the age, month, time and district you saw them. Of course, certain spots like museums and zoos accept field trips all the time.
by Uco rate this post as useful

schools 2008/1/3 02:31
one possible explanation is that Japan is densely populated i.e lots of people per km2, likely more so than in your country, So it makes sense that you will always see groups of children around famous sights, museums etc. Ueno Park in Tokyo and Peace Park in Hiroshima for example are must-see places for students from all across Japan so you will always see hordes of children of all ages in these places everyday.
I was looking at a new apartment building in Yokohama and their brochures noted that there are 90 schools in the area. That means quite a lots of kids around!!!
by Red Frog rate this post as useful

thank you all 2008/1/3 03:15
Thanks for your explanations, our country(Belgium) is also densely populated (339 inhab/km²), and our school system very hard. We were in Japan in September/October and saw children classes from all ages. I think it is far better to let them out on the field, in our system children sit in the class nearly all the time.
by ingrid rate this post as useful

????? 2008/1/3 09:46
-------we have been 4 times to Japan and were very surprised to see that schoolchildren out of the classroom all the time. ------

You need to be more specific but I think I understand your misconception coming from a different culture.
These Japanese school children you've seen are not out all the time, usually a school trip is scheduled for a day trip to a couple of days maximun. Also because Japan is densely populated and the students come from all angle of regions in Japan, the schools all have to take turn to make the trips on available days especially if they need to commute from distance and if it's a popular place as to Kyoto and Nara or to Hiroshima. So during the warm to comfortable temperature seasons during the school term, these places will be visited by the students from different schools from all over Japan throughout.
In the 1960's, in a large city public schools, average of 50 pupils or more per each class in six class rooms per each grade was normal. That meant 300 students or more each grade times. That's a lot of students to have in a school.
So you can imagine the number of schools are added since.
So when you saw these students every time during your visit to Japan, it doesn't mean those were the same students you saw before and most aren't locals.
The schools from all over Japan come out in rotation basis few at a time.
Younger school children are also taken to a field trips in their neiborhoods areas followed by a picnic, usually a day trip.
It's a Japanese way to take cultural trips or social science trips etc. Good learning I think.

by cc rate this post as useful

. 2008/1/3 09:54
September/October is an ensoku (field trip) season. When the school children are out, it seems millions of them are out on the same day and go to the same spots.
by Tokyonet rate this post as useful

... 2008/1/3 09:57
We were in Japan in September/October
Now I see the reason why you saw many students outside classrooms. Schools normally hold school trips and Sports/Cultural Festivals in these 2 months.

By the way, the Japanese government has been continuously decreasing classroom studies but just decided to reverse its policy as Japan's ranking in Mathematics and Science dropped sharply as a result.
by JLady rate this post as useful

ensoku & shugaku-ryoko 2008/1/3 16:19
As mentioned, autumn is the major season for annual school day trips and pre-graduation over-night trips.

But Ingrid has a point. I don't know about Belguim, but I've attended elementary schools in the U.S., and field trips are rarely held there compared to Japan. It's more like it's held only if the teacher feels like it.

On the other hand, in Japan, field trips are part of the curriculum. From age 6, there is almost always one around May, from age 10 or so there is one over-night trip each year, and in a lot of senior/junior high schools classes go to a theater to watch a play or a movie.

Each trip has a reason: To tighten the bond between classmates, to learn how to move in groups especially in preparation for bigger trips, to have fun, and of course to learn about the world.

Trips are held when the climate is nicer and when there are fewer local tourists, so September and October are ideal. Just as an example, you often end up having about five or six schools assembled on the same date at the same terminal station. Quite a headache for the teachers assisting them :)
by Uco, teenager's mom rate this post as useful

um.. 2008/1/3 19:16
Some Japanese schools pretty much take trips when time seem permissible. We've seen students on school trips in January, end part of April and June.
You may also notice Japanese students will travel with their coach (soccer, baseball etc) to play the game in another town etc.

In the USA, the school trips depends on where you live; students who live in New York, Washington DC or near these areas have advantage of going to a lot of places (national museums, theaters, etc) thru school programs. Whereas those who live elsehwere will have to settle for a trip to the natinal parks etc or a picnic.
Those in Seattle, Washington older students like seniors in HS may take a trip to Canada which is only about one hour by a ferry.
In other areas, some parents will allow senior highschool trips to be in Europe, Hawaii etc but only by choice.
Not many schools in USA arranged trips for the students probably due to safety and liability issues, unexpected behaviors and money issues.
The students in USA do not have saving programs thru schools as do in Japanese schools. So no money saved for a trip to go anywhere.

Lately, out here where we are near the mountains, I do see more and more teachers trying to bring little ones (elementary level) out to the national parks and take a nature walks followed by a picnic. Which is good thing some children will probably never get to do this.
I also see some teachers take students out for a jog in a park next to the school to get their ya-yas out.
Many ways to do things.

by cc rate this post as useful

thanks again 2008/1/4 02:18
Thank you, now I really understand why we see so many schoolchildren at the same place on the same day. Must say, the always are very
polite and disciplines.
by ingrid rate this post as useful

schools 2008/1/4 07:55
I must say that as a foreigner the most amazing sight of kids was in Ueno. My partner went to see the Zoo and I rested on a bench outside. I saw I don't know how many groups of kindergarten kids. each group was wearing a differently coloured hat and t-shirt, not just the kids but also the adults! (do schools plan with one another to make sure no 2 schools wear the same colour on the same field trip?) ..this was so uniquely Japanese in the organization, discipline, cuteness! some of the tiny kids even shouted at me "hello Amerikan-jin!"
by Red Frog rate this post as useful

reply 2008/1/4 11:35
"do schools plan with one another to make sure no 2 schools wear the same colour on the same field trip?"

Not exactly, but having some sort of visible identification does help a lot. At my son's elementary school, students always wore a yellow bandana around their necks when travelling out of the schoolyard. I guess it would be easier to spot them when they happen to move away from the group. Especially, teachers will be standing in various spots to make sure the students are behaving well, and those teachers may not always be homeroom teachers. So it helps to have something to let them know that they are "their" students.

Also, most junior/senior high schools used to have students wear their school uniforms during trips. However in recent years, most schools have been making students travel in ordinary clothes. A teacher told me that somehow they behave better that way. Uniforms, against the original intention, sometimes make certain students want to rebel or get themselves in trouble with rivaling schools :)

I'm a bit relieved to know that "witnesses" find these children disciplined. As a former student and current mom, teachers keep telling us how so many complaints are reported about students' bad behavior in public transportation. No wonder a lot of countries spend taxes on school buses!
by Uco rate this post as useful

Schools 2008/1/4 15:33
thanks Uco..I really enjoyed your answer.. by the way the reason many places--in the European country where I was born-- have school buses now is not because the kids may misbehave but because in the past 30 years or so the state has drastically cut down the # of trains that served small country towns and also reduced the number of schools. My country cousins used to walk or bike 3 km to the railway station then take a train for 10 km to a secondary school. Nowadays there are no more trains..hence the school buses. I was raised in a medium size town and the school children there still walk a long way, or bike, or take the public transit as I and my parents used to (the teachers do the same as there is no parking in my former high school, a former convent built in the 17th century..)
in the North American town where I live now parents drive kids to school because walking a couple of blocks, never mind a couple of km, is too appalling to think about. Walking is only for poor people isn't it?
by Red Frog rate this post as useful

walking 2008/1/4 17:56
Thanks Red Frog, for an informative post. I was just joking about the relation between behavior and school buses. I'm sure it's not the initial reason for having them, although it may be one of the reasons.

I think the reason why schools in Japan hardly have school buses is because walking is honored here. Whether this is scientifically true or not, locals believe that walking is the healthiest thing you can do to yourself, and they believe that "young ones" are supposed to do a lot of walking.

In Japan, having people drive you to the door is only for those who are spoiled. If the school is far, children are to learn to use public transportation alone, surrender their seats to those older than them and climb station stairs. If they live in the countryside with no public transportation, they are to either walk or ride bicycles. Motors are for punks.

But I do agree that in a lot of places like L.A. and N.Y., buses literally seem to be for the "poor people". Also the Japanese living in developing countries have private drivers drive their little kids to school since traffic and crime seems too dangerous compared to those in Japan.

On the other hand however, in recent decades many kindergartens in Japan started using school buses (kindergarten buses to be precise). Children as young as them are expected to have their parents accompany them to the kindergarten gate. It will be a burden for the parents if they live far away. But by arranging buses that come to pick your kids up, kindergartens can attract more users. At the end, we all want to spoil ourselves :)
by Uco rate this post as useful

P.S. 2008/1/4 17:59
I guess my last post brings us back to the topic. Schools in Japan are encouraged to have field trips, also because walking longer distances are considered to be a great thing to do. Students literally walk all day during those trips.
by Uco rate this post as useful

buses 2008/1/5 03:01
---------each group was wearing a differently coloured hat and t-shirt, not just the kids but also the adults! (do schools plan with one another to make sure no 2 schools wear the same colour on the same field trip?) ...-----------

I'm not sure if they were kindergartens (don't remember taken field trips in kindergarten) but if they were school children, they were more likely from same school. Color code was probably to idenify themselves to stay within their own group or class with their teacher, common thing they do among younger children when the color codes or same Tshirt etc used.

In Japan, kindergartens are too young to be using public transit system or walk by themselves so I think that is a reason for providing buses to transport them and have parent wait for children at where they drop off the children. It's a safety issue I think. I know I was lost when no one was waiting for me at the gate to take me back home.

Many students in Japan from JR high and HS would have to use transportation system to get to their chosen schools, sometimes it involves riding a bicycle to the train station (they park the bicycle in bicycle parking lot nearby) or use multiple transfering by subway, city buses etc. Years ago, people out in the country was not privileged with the city transportation systems, so some parents had to board their children in the city who would take them in so their children can attend High School of their choice in developed cities.

In the USA, buses are not meant only for the poor. It's a enacted law to give children safe means of transportation to get to and from schools since most areas don't have any means of transportation system as do in Japan.
Children still have to walk to their home from where the bus drop them off.

You'll notice, most of the school trips in Japan are organized thru buses if it's within not so long of a drive. Our trip to Kyoto/ Nara was thru bus from Nagoya. Which was very convenient because the guided bus took us from one sight to another.

In USA, most states don't have means of transit systems as most cities in Japan, Japan is about the size of California, people in USA have to travel with cars in the vast open spaces in most rural states. Hence the school buses, some parents can drive their children to schools but most are working parents so in that since school buses are handy but mostly it is for safety issues to make sure the children get to schools and back.
by cc rate this post as useful

just to clarify 2008/1/5 15:57
cc wrote;
"In the USA, buses are not meant only for the poor. It's a enacted law to give children safe means of transportation to get to and from schools since most areas don't have any means of transportation system as do in Japan."

Just to clarify, when I wrote that buses in the U.S. seems to be for the poor in my last post, I didn't mean school buses but public transportation buses. As cc mentioned, adults living in the U.S. are expected to own cars and be able to drive (we had two there, one for mom and one for dad which was normal), and children who can't obtain a driver's license are expected to ride school buses.

But in Japan, you can be fairly wealthy and middle-aged and still have no driver's license if you live in the city. It is quite normal, and you'll even be respected for not contributing to the traffic jam and polution.

Especially in Tokyo where there is less room, cars often are just a pain in the neck that consumes your taxes and gas fee and your time for searching reasonable parking spaces, so it's a lot more convenient to stick to public transportation especially if you love to drink like me.
by Uco rate this post as useful

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