Learning to Respect one’s Surroundings – The Japanese Way!
Education in current times has been confined to just learning numbers or formulae or theorems. Even before pre-schooling starts, parents are focused on making children learn numbers, words, poems, etc. As they grow a little older, the questions that frequently appear in most parent’s minds are how quickly can your child start preparing for the competitive tests or at what age can he start coding to become the next Mark Zuckerberg!
But, this is not how the approach to education should start. Learning should begin by understanding the co-existence of all the objects around us. Education should start from learning the co-existence of parents, family, house, neighbours, society, people, plants, animals, and all objects surrounding us. It is about learning how to become a member of society and taking responsibility for oneself. This approach to education is best explained by the practice of “Gakko Soji” in Japan.
Gakko Soji is an aspect of education in Japanese public schools, which does not focus on theoretically teaching specific moral values in children as young as 3 years old, but fosters their skills to become a functional member of society. Gakko Soji refers to cleaning the school daily by the students themselves.
For a student, cleaning the school every day is just part of going to school. They read, write, learn, play and eat with others daily along with cleaning up the school. Young students clean their classrooms and serve lunch to their classmates! This encourages a child’s sense of responsibility, cooperation, cleanliness, interpersonal and socialisation skills and duty towards the community and society. Thus, eliminating the view by all of us that “Cleaning is a chore – a task given by our parents and further incentivized by watching TV or playing”.
Japanese schools don’t teach students. Instead the students are indoctrinated since the beginning of school to strictly obey and follow social norms. The students are learning to respect their surroundings. This approach to education encourages a child to take care of his/her surroundings from an early age, and this approach automatically ‘programs’ the child to respect their surroundings and environment. This develops every child to be mindful about others and encourages empathy, a primary need of the world today.
Kids grow up to become responsible citizens who are looking for the betterment and happiness of others. This is demonstrated by well covered incidents such as the Football World Cup tournaments in Brazil (2014) and Russia (2018). After Japan’s matches, Japanese team’s fans amazed the world by staying behind to pick up trash from the stadium.
The Japanese way of Gakko Soji demonstrates the need for education to start by learning to respect one’s surroundings, and attenuates the current education focus on teaching. Remember that the whole purpose and the direction of education has to change from being teacher-centric to learner-centric.
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