Just a Glimpse

Posted Jul 25 2007

During a visit to Ogaki Kita High School in Ogaki, Japan I shared lunch with Miki, a senior aspiring to attend one of Japan's most competitve universities. During our conversation I began thinking about how interested my students in the States would love to speak with someone like her. I asked her if I could interview her and she agreed. This actually motivated me to do a series of other interviews. I originally had no intention of interviewing anyone but this conversation proved to be the catalyst, which I'm grateful for as they've been invaluable tools in the classroom and I learned quite a bit. Alas, Miki and I had limited time and just as she began warming up, she had to return to class. I sent her an e-mail with follow up questions but my message was bounced back. Nonetheless, she makes some interesting points that were worth documenting. My group did a lot of observation at different schools and heard from some great speakers, but it's always great to hear from the students themselves.

So, what do you want to do upon graduation?

I want to study international affairs, which deals with international conflict and refugee programs. I want to help developing countries. I'm not 100% sure in which area, but I find education interesting. My goal is to attend Kobe University.

Why there?

They have great professors who are helpful and they push you. Plus, they're competitive and have an active Rotary club. I'll be getting an apartment, but it's very expensive and I'll need to get a part time job.

What does a typical school day look like?

At 8:30 we start and we finish at 3 PM. On Monday and Thursday we finish at 4 PM. Some students to clubs, but not all of them.

Are you inolved with clubs?

No. After I came back from Australia (New Castle). I had to catch up. I was there for a year as part of an exchange program. When I returned I was behind all of my classmates.

What were some of the biggest differences between Australia and Japan?

In Japan we have everything in one class. The teachers move to different rooms, not the students. In Australia the kids move. At my school in Australia, we had to wear uniforms. The Australian school was too easy, especially in math. There we could use calculators.

No math classes in Japan allow calculators?


Not even in calculus?


How long is your summer vaction?

In Japan you get three weeks or less off for summer. You still need to study and do work so it's not really a holiday. How long do you get off in the U.S.?

10 Weeks.

Wow! I want to go there.

What would you ask students from the U.S.?

Would they have any interest in visiting Japan?

How do you feel about school uniforms?

I don't mind. Sometimes teachers say that our skirts are too short and every morning a teacher stands in front of the school checking the uniforms.

Are students sent home if they're out of dress code?

No, they're scolded.

Do the students listen?


What's the uniform?

At our school, white shoes and socks, the girls wear navy skirts, we can't dye hair, and we wear white shirts. Girls aren't allowed to wear pants and students can't wear accessories. I really enjoyed Austraila because students could express themselves more. But like I said, I wasn't satisfied with classes. Most of the students were too lazy and were not prepared. They had too much freedom.

What do you think are some of the biggest problems for students?

One thing is cell phones. Everyone uses one. They're useful, but they're a distraction, especially with texting....


1. Shatika S. said at May 15, 2008 2:34 pm:

I learned a lot about the way schools in Japan are taught. It's very different from the way schools are taught in the U.S. The main difference is in Japan they are not allowed to use calculators for any math class. I learned using a calculator says your being lazy. I don’t agree with that because some math equations are just too big to try to solve in your head. After reading the article I realized with school in Japan there isn’t that much freedom. Even though we wear uniforms at Unity, we have the advantage of adding accessories and our own style to the uniform which would be unacceptable at a school in Japan.

2. emmanuesl said at June 12, 2008 4:10 am:

Wow this is an interesting article and its hard to believe that little kids in Japon are receiving a better education than the students from the usa. So in reality students in Japon never receive vacation during the summer. That's very interesting.

3. mori said at June 13, 2008 5:37 pm:

i find this very interesting because they are taking their education to the next level. un like other studens incaliformnia

4. alejandra Ruiz said at June 14, 2008 2:26 am:

Its strange how their is so much discipline out there. Over here in Oakland we think that Unity is strict, but once you find out how it is in other placeS it makes you think. Its hard to believe they cant even use calculators, but I think that, that helps them, they don't just go to the calculator when they can't solve something. Its definitely different than Oakland out there, but you don't have to go all the way to Japan to find that out, you can just cross the border and see how strict it is in Mexico, its almost the same thing. i think now i will think twice before i complain though.

5. Claudia Robles said at June 21, 2008 3:29 am:

While reading this I got a change to really think about the big difference that there is in the way that we are educated and in the way that the children in Japan are educated. Also their education system is very different in the way that they are not allowed to use any calculators not even for calculus. Their summer schedules are also very different because over here we get about 2 months and a half of summer vacation with no homework but in Japan they only get three weeks and they have work to do. This article really made me think about how lucky we are to not have an educational system like they do. It also made me think about how much we at school wine about the uniform and how we are not given freedom but if I was to compare our uniform policy to that of Japanese schools we are given total freedom. Here all we have to do is wear kakhis with a white or black colored shirt and no colored shoes but in Japan girls have to wear skirts and they are not allowed to wear any type of accessories which is the difference to us and also they are not allowed to put any hair die.

6. Ernesto said at June 21, 2008 1:08 pm:

Wow, this is intersting to me. I wish I can interview a student live, face to face, in Japan. It is tough to wear strict uniform code and I know already that cellphones is a big problem. I am surprise that they are not allowed to use calculators, I tried it and it is very difficult. I have a friend at Australia, she lives at Perth, she has already graduate from school and she is my age. She says school is easy. It must be dissapointing that people are not allow to express them selves compared to Australia. I would like to learn the japanese life of a high school student.

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