Friday, October 7, 2016

Preschool in the US vs.Preschool in Japan and BOTH Still a Dream Developing Countries

This post was Sponsored by CARE in order to help educate children around the world.

This week, we were given the opportunity to work with CARE and explore the similarities and differences with our child's education and those in other parts of the world. Due to a short term move from California to Japan, we left a "little red schoolhouse" in California and we enrolled our 4 year old in equally charming international preschool.

I had worried that preschool might be somewhat more rigorous and demanding in Japan than it had been in the US. However, I found that there were way more similarities than differences.

For the most part school in Japan and the US are places where children learn reading, math, science, history, art, music, and various elective skills and academia, so they can eventually choose what they want to do in life to provide for themselves, take care of their own needs as well as their families and communities. Preschool is where they are introduced to these concepts while having fun and developing social skills.

I know some of you may be curious about how Japan preschool compares the US preschool we attended.


Similarities at our preschool in Japan and the US:
Both girls and boys are welcome.
Kids do circle time.
There is an emphasis on social skills and play.
Both have an introduction to letters and numbers.
There is story time, songs, and arts and crafts.

Things that they do differently in our Japan preschool:

Reusable water bottles, bento boxes for lunch, towels, to wash hands, napkins, and utensils are required. No disposable items!

Food - Most schools will have a cooked lunch where everyone gets the same and is expected to clear their plate. They offered catered lunch daily of typical Japanese food which was tough for a vegan and non-Japanese kid. We always packed a lunch, which they allowed at our son's preschool.

Kids bring a renrakuchou or a log book to and from school to share information between teachers and parents to record the child's bedtime, wake time, how much breakfast and lunch he ate, how his health is, and whether he went to the restroom or not in school.

Uniform - Pretty much all Japanese schools require a uniform. Our preschool required a school tee shirt and he had a hat for when they went to the playground. The hat had a removable flap to protect his neck from the sun. They were loose with the guidelines beyond that.

No Shoes in School - Shoes are taken off and placed in a locker area called a "geta bako". Slippers called "uwagutsu" are worn inside to protect the floors and keep dirt out which they say teaches respect because students are the ones tasked with cleaning the school. In preschool they could just wear their socks indoors if they wanted to but there were slippers available if they did not.

Information is shared through quick update meetings with the teacher before the kids are released each day. We find out what they learned, what they made, and any other pertinent information.

Although these things may seem like a slight contrast from Japanese preschool to their US counterpart, I think the ideals remain the same. 

We in the US and Japan are afforded the opportunities to get a complete education with everything from technology in the classroom to field trips and extracurricular activities, beginning at a very young age.

Meanwhile, in developing countries, the CARE organization is dedicated to address issues like lack of familial support, location of schools, financial obstacles, as well as remove any stigma and gender biases affecting who deserves to go to school. Preschool can be virtually non-existent in some areas and the continued schooling that Americans and Japanese take for granted is for a priviledged few, and even boys only.

"Education inspires me to... work hard to help my parent." 
Joyce, 13, lives in Mukuru Kwa Reuben slum in Nairobi, Kenya with her mother and three younger siblings. Although her father lives in the neighborhood, he does not support her or her family.
Let's get this straight. ALL kids deserve to go to school!

To fight poverty and hunger around the world, we need to do what we can to encourage the access and availability of education to all as well as learn from other cultures what the best practices are to make sure all children are given the chance for success.

Take Action!

Add your name to the message of hope to let children around the world know that you support them, however difficult it may be and whatever sacrifices they have to make or biases they have to fight, to continue their education.

In sharp contrast, education is not necessarily even an option in countries like Bangladesh and Cambodia. Girls are given a disproportionate lack of schooling. Some girls simply wanted to go to school as a means to stave off marrying at a ridiculously young age or help their family survive.

Obstacles for children around the world:
Families unable to afford basic tuition and school supplies.
Parents not supportive of education, particularly for girls.
Distance and transportation can make attending school impractical and impossible.
Kids may be needed to work to help support the family.

What can we do to help kids in developing countries?

Simply spreading awareness can help CARE continue to improve education around the world. To make it super easy, you can head here to quickly add your name to to the card and send a message of hope.

You can also add a personal message which may be selected and shared with actual students.

"My biggest challenges... My family does not wish me to study further"
Anzida, 14, was enrolled in school until the second grade, but like too many girls her age she was forced out of the classroom and began working around the home doing chores. She says that the best part of her life began when she joined the CARE’s Udaan school. At the Udaan school in India, girls who were forced to drop out of school can catch up through an accelerated learning program. I love to study here and hope to study further, Anzida says.

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