EAST facilitator offers a look inside Japanese education

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

EUREKA SPRINGS -- Japan was the topic of discussion at the Eureka Springs School Board meeting held Thursday, Nov. 16, at the Elementary School.

EAST Lab Facilitator Mila Lynn Floro-Powell gave a extensive Power Point presentation on her recent trip to Tokyo.

Floro-Powell was a participant in the Japan Fulbright Memorial Fund Teacher Program that hosts more than 200 American educators for three weeks in order to get a better understanding of the two cultures.

In her presentation, Floro-Powell noted the extreme differences in American and Japanese education.

"The national government controls everything. There are no school boards, no school buses, and every single school is exactly the same. You can go to any school in the country and they are built exactly the same way.

"There is no maintenance crews, so the students spend one hour in the morning and one hour in the afternoon cleaning the school. They are also not allowed to wear shoes inside, so they must wear slippers to class," she added.

During the slide show, pictures were shown of students dressed in traditional uniforms.

"The dress code over there would be in violation over here," she noted after showing female students wearing very high mini skirts as part of their required uniform.

She went on to note the immense variation in Japanese education versus American eduction.

"Teachers in Japan don't have their own classroom. The students stay in one room and the teachers move from room to room. The students are not allowed to raise their hands to ask a question if they don't understand something.

Also, students don't eat in the lunchroom. All students are served lunch in their classroom while listening to classical music that is piped in over the loudspeaker while they eat," she added.

One of the pictures shown, that also got the biggest laugh, was a School Rules sign. It stated, in both English and Japanese, "No Pushing"; "No Running"; "Don't Speak"; "Don't Come Back!" Floro-Powell went on to explain the "Don't Come Back" was a rule concerning not reentering the building after an earthquake.

On a more serious note, she did state that bullying was biggest problem at the schools along with a lack of discipline for the students. In her discussions with other teachers during her stay, she was told of students that were sleeping in class, talking on cell phones and completely ignoring the teacher.

When asked how the teacher handled the situation, she told the board that the teachers just ignore it and keep on teaching.

"Japanese kids are spoiled, with little to no punishment for bad behavior. The parents and teachers do that because of the extreme demands of students when they go to university. Which ever university they choose, determines their career. Many students have committed suicide because they did not get into the best university," noted Floro-Powell.

In other business, the school board:

* During public input, discussed procedural guidelines with parents and family members in attendance, concerning complaints made to the school about faculty members and/or students about bullying.

It was explained to them, by school board members, that discussion concerning specific individuals cannot be made in a public forum for legal reasons, but assured them that the situation would be handled with importance and taken very seriously.

* Approved the 2004-2005 Audit report.

* Appointed Robert McCormick as the ASBA (Arkansas School Board Association) delegate for Eureka Springs.

* Approved Standards and Reviews policy changes.

* Approved a bus trade. The trade will involve the trading of a 1979 school bus for a headlight alignment machine.

* Heard the financial report.?The district is down $593,277.83 from this time last year. It was noted that they were still waiting a collection check from the State Treasurer.

* Met in an executive session, with no action taken.

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