Source: Wide Angle: "Back to School"
Funding for the VITAL/Ready to Teach collection was secured through the United States Department of Education under the Ready to Teach Program.
In this Wide Angle segment, learn what it's like to be a student beginning school in Japan. We see Ken entering first grade and then later we see him in third grade. He has attended day care since he was one year old, so he was well prepared for first grade. In the past, Japanese children were under a great deal of pressure in school, but in recent years the Japanese government has relaxed the requirements. As a result, there is no longer school on Saturdays and elementary schools cover about 30 percent less material than they did 10 years ago. One thing has not changed, however. In Japanese culture it is considered valuable and important for teams to work together. As students, children are expected to work together in groups, too.
Japan, culture, education, social studies, geography
The following Frame, Focus and Follow-up suggestions are best suited for middle school students using this video in an English language arts or social studies lesson. Be sure to modify the questions to meet your students' instructional needs.
What is Frame, Focus and Follow-up?
Frame (ELA) What does it mean to express an opinion? On what do we base our opinions? Share your opinions about how children are educated in the United States. Do you think, for example, that schools help children grow up and prepare for careers and work?
Focus (ELA) While watching the video, determine your opinions about Ken’s school experience. Listen for references from the text that support your opinions.
Follow Up (ELA) Express your opinions about Ken’s school experiences in Japan. Support your opinions through references from the video.
Frame (SS) What do you know about schools in other countries?
Focus (SS) Learn what it is like to go to school in Japan.
Follow Up (SS) Discuss the similarities and differences between your school experiences and those of Ken. Share your opinions.
NARRATION: When we first met Ken he was six, and preparing for his first day of school at Saho Elementary. KEN HIGASHIGUCHI: I have to wear this for a whole hour? It’s embarrassing. CHIZUKO HIGASHIGUCHI: Everybody will be dressed up for the ceremony. We want to give Ken a lot of chances, a lot of opportunities. The most important thing is for Ken to be happy for his life. NARRATION: Ken was joining the ranks of students who follow a long, well planned journey through one of the most successful school systems in the world—and one of the most demanding. CAPTION: Welcome to first grade! NARRATION: Unlike his counterparts in most of the world, Ken was well prepared for first grade. He had been in state-funded day care since the age of one. By the second day of school, Ken and his classmates had no problem reading the words to the school song.
STUDENTS: Our cheeks are glowing.
We’ll hold hands and cheerfully learn today.
We’re Saho Elementary School
Nara’s Saho Elementary School NARRATION: In addition to school, Ken’s family was able to offer him various after school activities.
ENGLISH TEACHER: I’m
ENGLISH TEACHER: Hi, I’m Mary.
STUDENTS: Hi, I’m Mary.
ENGLISH TEACHER: Very good.
NARRATION: It was a full schedule for a first grader—and the concern was that as Ken progressed further along in the Japanese school system, the expectations and pressures would mount. But three years later, if there is pressure to be felt, no one has told Ken about it.
KEN HIGASHIGUCHI: From first through third grades, I’ve made many friends and I’ve learned to do various things. So, I’m happy.
NARRATION: Ken is growing up in the second most affluent country in the world, in a city where tradition and technology go hand in hand. Both of Ken’s parents work full time—his father is an engineer, and his mother works at a vocational school—but weekends are devoted to their only child, often doing what Ken loves most.
CHIZUKO HIGASHIGUCHI: So far he likes everything, including sports, studying and playing around. I think he feels that if he makes the effort, he can do anything.
KEN HIGASHIGUCHI: This much?
NARRATION: Ken’s natural confidence is bolstered by a comfortable and stable home life.
CHIZUKO HIGASHIGUCHI: Turn it down.
NARRATION: And a consistent life at school. Ken is now in third grade at Saho Elementary. He has not missed a single day this year, and often arrives early to play with his friends.
HIROAKI ONISHI: This project was very well done, and very detailed, Miss Nagano.
NARRATION: This year, Ken’s class has embarked on an independent study, Sogo Gakusyu, required in all public schools in Japan.
HIROAKI ONISHI: I want my students to have fun. I’m not talking about fun in a superficial sense. I always want to help my students to learn on their own and become interested in things.
NARRATION: Mr. Onishi asked his students to do firsthand research on a business or public place in the community, and report their findings to the class. The project was called Pride of Saho.
CAPTION: The woman who makes noodles at the noodle factory.
NARRATION: Japan expected so much of their students for so long that they?ve relaxed their requirements in recent years—self correcting for too much pressure.
KIYOFUMI NAKAMURO: It was thought that Japanese school children were forced to study too hard. Therefore there are no classes on Saturdays anymore.
NARRATION: Elementary schools cover about 30 percent less material than they did 10 years ago. But one thing hasn’t changed—teamwork, the hallmark of the Japanese work force, remains sacred.
HIROAKI ONISHI: I have 30 students and I’d like for them to do something together continuously. That’s how we started skipping rope together once a week for a year back in April.
NARRATION: Today their goal is to achieve 1,000 consecutive jumps.
HIROAKI ONISHI: Sit down. Now we’re up to 800 and something 838. You guys jumped 300 more than the time before. Do you know why we were doing this?
HIROAKI ONISHI: Teammates.
NARRATION: This is Ken’s last day of third grade. The students have only a two-week break before starting fourth grade. But it’s not vacation yet. The children clean the classrooms as they have daily throughout the school year.
KEN HIGASHIGUCHI: When I become a fourth grader, there’ll be subjects I haven’t studied yet. I look forward to studying them. I also look forward to new things in gym class.
NARRATION: For Ken, school is a given, and childhood a blessing. And yet his mother feels there may be one gap in his education.
CHIZUKO HIGASHIGUCHI: I think it’ll be necessary for him to experience some small failure. It’s also necessary for him to learn how to overcome that.
Academic standards correlations on Teachers' Domain use the Achievement Standards Network (ASN) database of state and national standards, provided to NSDL projects courtesy of JES & Co.
We assign reference terms to each statement within a standards document and to each media resource, and correlations are based upon matches of these terms for a given grade band. If a particular standards document of interest to you is not displayed yet, it most likely has not yet been processed by ASN or by Teachers' Domain. We will be adding social studies and arts correlations over the coming year, and also will be increasing the specificity of alignment.