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Japan

What Arab Teachers Learn From Japanese Education System

Schoolchildren in Tokyo
Schoolchildren in Tokyo

TOKYO — Earlier this year, a delegation from the Egyptian government was visiting Nibukata Primary School in Tokyo. "The children are well-disciplined and work in teams," a member of the delegation noted.

But the delegate then went on to express particular surprise that children sweep and mop the classroom floors, for it's common in Egypt for all the cleaning to be done by janitors. "We'd like to introduce Japan's special activities, which foster human capabilities, in our school education," said former Higher Education Minister Hany Helal.

Efforts are increasing to introduce Japanese-style education, with its emphasis on special activities like cleaning and school events in addition to children's academic development, in countries across the Arab world and elsewhere.

These moves are prompted by the expectation that fostering discipline and cooperativeness will help to develop the human resources responsible for future nation building. The government has decided to "export" its knowledge of this kind of education, with the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry accelerating efforts to build a framework to respond smoothly to the needs of each country.

As Principal Hiromi Shimizu of Nibukata Primary School said to the Egyptian delegation, "Special activities help reduce bullying and also lead to improved academic performance."

According to the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), the number of officials in charge of educational administration around the world who visit Japan to learn about the educational methods of its primary and middle schools has been increasing. A total of 617 officials from 79 countries visited in fiscal 2014, up about 70% from fiscal 2004.

Some children overseas have already experienced Japanese-style education.

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Schoolboy in Setagaya, Japan — Photo: spaztacular

High expectations

The Japanese school in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates has been accepting local children since 2006 at the request of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan. About 20 local children take classes with about 50 Japanese children and participate in special activities. "They're pleased the children can learn Japanese-style manners and achieve high academic performance," said Principal Masahiro Ogawa, 57.

According to the education ministry, primary schools in Saudi Arabia introduced classroom cleaning after a special program on Japan was aired in 2009 on MBC, a Middle East satellite TV station. The program spotlighted classroom cleaning and school lunches in Japan.

Expectations are also high for Japanese-style career education.

There are moves to introduce Japanese educational methods in countries other than those in the Arab world. The education ministry plans to establish a council in fiscal 2016 that will comprise JICA, incorporated educational institutions and other organizations. The ministry aims to help schools expand their operations overseas.

"The awareness that holistic education, which teaches cooperativeness with others, is important has been spreading globally, and Japanese-style education is drawing attention," said University of Tokyo Prof. Ryoko Tsuneyoshi, who specializes in comparative education.

"However, Japanese-style education also has drawbacks in that it lacks a diverse perspective in terms of things like ethnic groups and religions. By learning from each other, I hope Japan will take this opportunity to improve its own style of education."

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Society

In Northern Kenya, Where Climate Change Is Measured In Starving Children

The worst drought in 40 years, which has deepened from the effects of climate change, is hitting the young the hardest around the Horn of Africa. A close-up look at the victims, and attempts to save lives and limit lasting effects on an already fragile region in Kenya.

Photo of five mothers holding their malnourished children

At feeding time, nurses and aides encourage mothers to socialize their children and stimulate them to eat.

Georgina Gustin

KAKUMA — The words "Stabilization Ward" are painted in uneven black letters above the entrance, but everyone in this massive refugee camp in Kakuma, Kenya, calls it ya maziwa: The place of milk.

Rescue workers and doctors, mothers and fathers, have carried hundreds of starving children through the doors of this one-room hospital wing, which is sometimes so crowded that babies and toddlers have to share beds. A pediatric unit is only a few steps away, but malnourished children don’t go there. They need special care, and even that doesn’t always save them.

In an office of the International Rescue Committee nearby, Vincent Opinya sits behind a desk with figures on dry-erase boards and a map of the camp on the walls around him. “We’ve lost 45 children this year due to malnutrition,” he says, juggling emergencies, phone calls, and texts. “We’re seeing a significant increase in malnutrition cases as a result of the drought — the worst we’ve faced in 40 years.”

From January to June, the ward experienced an 800 percent rise in admissions of children under 5 who needed treatment for malnourishment — a surge that aid groups blame mostly on a climate change-fueled drought that has turned the region into a parched barren.

Opinya, the nutrition manager for the IRC here, has had to rattle off these statistics many times, but the reality of the numbers is starting to crack his professional armor. “It’s a very sad situation,” he says, wearily. And he believes it will only get worse. A third year of drought is likely on the way.

More children may die. But millions will survive malnutrition and hunger only to live through a compromised future, researchers say. The longer-term health effects of this drought — weakened immune systems, developmental problems — will persist for a generation or more, with consequences that will cascade into communities and societies for decades.

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