31 July, 2014

Differences in Education Systems

Being Australians in Japan with four out of the five us involved in an American-style international school, educational differences are pretty much in our face all the time. Therefore I found this an interesting article. It is written by a Japanese person who went to college in the US. She's identified three main points of difference between Japan and the US educational systems, all of which are interesting. 

However the last, "You actually have to attend class" doesn't correlate with the tertiary Australian scene. In the US, I learned on Sunday, they take attendance at lectures. They don't in Australia, at least I don't think it is common. That doesn't mean you don't need to work hard, though!

Interaction differences
But what's most fascinating is a fundamental difference she's pointed out between western and eastern (to generalise) education. In the west we're encouraged to ask questions, and to participate. We're also required to do lots of presentations and group work. In the "east" the opposite is true. 

I noticed the difference when at the World Occupational Therapy Congress last month, the Asian presenters generally had pretty poor presentation skills (and poor English). That's not to say that all non-Asians were fantastic (powerpoint presentations were more often bad than good no matter who presented), but it was clear that Westerners had had more practise in doing up-front presentations.

Another thing that seemed to stick out to me was that many Japanese research projects were focused on very detailed data analysis, but many non-Asian research included broader questions that weren't so easily analysed. I wonder if that is another difference? I don't have anything to back up that thought, except for the understanding that in Japan and other Asian educational systems, rote learning is of high importance. In Western cultures, there is a greater emphasis on process, rather than regurgitation. Related? Perhaps.

Differences between US and Australian systems?
People sometimes ask us about differences between the US and Australian systems. There are lots of small differences, vocabulary, for example, and the way the calendar is set up. But there are probably more similarities than differences, especially as compared to Asian vs Western styles.

A few superficial differences we've noticed in our switch back this time are:

  • shorter day (our boys are at school for about an hour less in Australia)
  • more subjects available in high school (though this might be a function of CAJ being a smallish school)
  • uniforms (of course!)
  • campuses are much more outside in Australia (a climate thing, lockers are on verandahs here, at CAJ they are inside where it is often heated or cooled)
Occasionally during this transition our boys are trying to compare cultures and decide whether one particularly thing, place, institution, or custom is better than another, my answer generally is, "It's different, not better or worse." That's the best perspective to take when in the midst of cultural adjustment.

But still, it's interesting to compare.

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