As teachers in Australia hear regularly from politicians and the media, Japan does extremely well in standardised tests in schools, as do many other Asian countries, whereas Australia doesn’t do as well. Some of the teachers we have spoken to in Japan mentioned that they feel obliged to keep this standard up, and that means a focus upon knowledge-based learning, rather than inquiry-based learning.
Many of the educators or scientists that we have spoken to in Japan expressed a desire to improve the capacity for science inquiry and student-initiated investigations in Japanese schools.
From our conversations with teaching colleagues at schools in Japan, there has recently been a move by the government in this direction. An example of this is the establishment of ‘Super Science Schools’ that are each attached to a university. Two years ago, the Ministry for Education introduced the ‘Science Koshien for Juniors’ competition which focuses upon inquiry. Sony Education Foundation hosts a yearly competition and, as a result, significantly funds two schools per annum, which demonstrates that they support inquiry and student control over learning.
|Mr Takahashi would like students to form their own |
ideas and discuss these with peers
One of the specific policy targets of the Japanese government is to have ten Japanese universities to be ranked in the world Top 100 within ten years. Making changes in allowing elementary and high-school students control over their learning and developing their skills in following self-initiated science investigations will surely help achieve this goal.
I am very much aware of the privilege that I have been offered through this Exchange; to learn from the expertise in Japanese schools. I have been absolutely blown away by the level of skill and enthusiasm of the Japanese teachers. The music teacher at Asahigaoka Junior High School, standing at her piano and playing like a concert pianist, singing as competently as any recording artist you have heard, all the while encouraging and directing her large choir in a very personable manner, will always stay in my memory.
The Japanese and Australian school systems have, surely, so much to share, for the benefit of both systems. The ASTA / AJF teacher exchange program has certainly provided a highly effective platform for this sharing of expertise to take place.