I think early education is very important to create a mould for a person to grow into. I had the opportunity to visit Japan during the first two weeks of December last year. When I was there, I visited two elementary schools. Even though the visit lasted only one day, I found a lot of things in the Japanese school system that is different from ours.
At the first elementary school, I had to give a speech to Grade 3 students. Every word I said was absorbed by the kids as if they were sponges, hungry to learn new things. I could tell they were paying attention to whatever rubbish I said. Even if they had no idea what I was talking about, they still gave me all their attention. They are taught to pay attention to what other people say, even when they don’t understand. This has been drilled into their heads, so it would have been impossible for them to miss anything I said that day.
After the mini ‘assembly’, it was time for lunch. A group of appointed students from each class put on a uniform complete with caps, masks and gloves. They were put in charge of everyone’s lunch. Two of them carried a big basket filled with milk cartons, while another two guided a trolley loaded with food and plates. The rest rearranged the tables so the students could eat comfortably. The monitor made sure the teacher received a plate of food before anyone else. After distributing the lunches, the class monitor said ‘Itadakimasu!’ and the rest also followed. Then everyone ate. After lunch, the same students who had brought the food were also responsible for sending the trolley and excess food back to the kitchen.
Then, the students cleaned the school. Seriously! They rearranged the tables to place them back in their original positions and cleaned the staircase, some of the hallways, the gym, the class and basically every single room other than the teacher’s lounge and the kitchen. The younger students cleaned the areas near their classes while the older ones cleaned the areas farther away. After the cleaning exercise, the students continued with their lessons until it was time for them to go home.
At the second school, I joined the Grade 5 students in their class. That day was the coldest day of my visit. But the kids did not seem to feel the cold at all. They wore skirts and shorts. I, on the other hand, had to wear thick clothing in addition to my already thick jacket. When I joined them for PE class, I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was so cold but their PE uniforms included a short-sleeved T-shirt, shorts (that didn’t go past their knees) and sport shoes as well as yellow and purple caps. They had to run several laps in that uniform and in the cold weather. I had so much respect for them because of that. No one complained.
By Maryam Sofia