Evening high school builds intl bridges
Midori Matsuzawa Daily Yomiuri Staff Writer
Two years after coming to Japan from China at age 18, Zhao Na found herself with a Japanese boyfriend. But Zhao soon found herself puzzled at some of his dating habits. Whenever the couple left a restaurant, for example, Zhao was asked to pay half the bill. "I doubted that in Japan men and women had to divide payments equally even when they were dating," she said. "In my country, men pay all the costs for their dates."
Zhao, now 25, was speaking to about 15 first-year students on Feb. 7 at Tokyo Metropolitan Omori High School's evening course in Ota Ward, as a guest speaker in the course's four-day special program titled "International Understanding Week 2007," which kicked off on Feb. 5. She discussed how the customs of socializing between men and women differ from country to country.
"Of course different countries have different customs, but basically [individual] people are [also] different from each other," said first-year student Takashi Kurabayashi, 30, after Zhao's talk. "I thought it wouldn't be good to stereotype what a person would be like just based on his or her nationality."
Omori High School has both a full-time daytime course and a part-time evening course, but the two have different teachers and systems. Evening courses, originally intended for those who want to get a high school diploma while holding a job, often have just four classes a day, thus taking four years to complete.
Omori High School's evening course currently has about 150 students, with a range of ages extending to the early 70s. Of the current students, 12 are from China, the Philippines, South Korea and Vietnam, and some of them need to receive Japanese instruction along with other subjects.
In recent years, such evening courses have also been attended by young Japanese with a history of truancy, or who have dropped out of other schools.
International Understanding Week 2007 featured special classes by guest speakers ranging from actors to officials of nonprofit organizations working with local foreign residents or in developing countries. The week's topics also looked at the extent to which the school's neighboring Kamata area has been "internationalized" so far.
Among other activities, second-year students on the first day listened to an official from an NPO that sends books to Laos, and participated on the second day in a workshop on Chinese opera. Speakers on the third day included an Ota Ward government official, who talked to third-year students about world-class industrial techniques developed in Kamata--home to many small-scale factories--while a local Bangladeshi resident talked to another class of first-year students about his life in Japan as a restaurant owner.
It was the fourth year for the course to hold an International Understanding Week in collaboration with Ohta Citizens' Network for Peoples' Togetherness (OCNet), a local NPO that offers Japanese-language classes and multilingual counseling services for local foreign residents, as well as organizing events to build bridges between Japanese and foreign residents.
Zhao is an alumna of OCNet's Japanese classes, while staff members of the NPO also served as guest speakers for the special program. The ties between the two sides date back seven or eight years, when two Chinese youths who had been learning Japanese at OCNet applied for the evening course.
"It was the first time that I had known such an organization," recalled Hitoshi Tsunoda, 44, a course teacher who has been leading the collaboration with the NPO.
The collaboration deepened in 2003, when the Education, Science and Technology Ministry granted the course two years of status as a "pilot school" that other schools may study to learn how to work together with NPOs to offer students distinctive programs. The course also introduced a revised curriculum to have focus more on promoting international understanding.
The course and OCNet collaborated to design new classes to meet the theme, with launching International Understanding Week as one example. And the NPO also got deeply involved in general studies classes for then second-year students.
Under the theme "to know the world through Kamata," the students did research on the local community, looking into things such as how many foreign residents lived there and what kind of foreign shops operated there. OCNet members offered the students advice and helped them conduct interviews at the ward office and such shops. Their research eventually resulted in making a "Kamata World Map" that was featured in the December 2006 edition of a multilingual newsletter the ward office publishes.
Some of the students, now in their fourth and final year of the course, also made a presentation on their three-year efforts to first-year students at the latest International Understanding Week.
"[Interviewing local foreign residents] made us wonder if Japan today is really a comfortable place for them to live," said Eri Matsuyama, 27, one of the fourth-year students. "We spent a huge amount of time completing the map, but it has become an important memory of our time at high school."
How significant is it for an NPO to get involved in high school education? Hiroshi Kurakata, 28, an OCNet member involved in the Kamata research project, emphasized that its mission is to bring about a multicultural society in which Japanese and foreign residents get along with each other on equal terms.
"We hope that more and more people in society will come to share this attitude, and a school is the best place to promote our ideas," he said.
Tsunoda pointed out that holding an International Understanding Week did more than just help the students open their eyes to the world and the local community. "Our teenage students tend to have negative feelings toward adults, as many of them have been through bitter experiences at previous schools or their homes," he said. "Here they see their school and local residents working together to offer them special classes--resulting in helping them develop more confidence in and higher expectations of the school."
On the last day of the program, the students shared with other classmates what they had learned for the previous three days. A first-year student, for example, wrote a note that said, "The guest speakers told me how wonderful it is to have a goal," while a third-year student wrote, "With more understanding and love, we could solve issues like war and nuclear proliferation in a peaceful way."
And another first-year student wrote: "To the teachers, it must have been hard to prepare for this program. Thank you. And thank you so much, too, to the members of OCNet."
Foreign kids face barriers in Tokyo
For non-Japanese students who have just come to Japan and wish to attend public high schools, it is hard to build sufficient Japanese language skills to take the school entrance exams. Some prefectural boards of education, therefore, set enrollment quotas exclusively for such examinees and offer them preferential treatment in entrance exams, such as extending testing times and providing hiragana readings of kanji characters.
In contrast, the education authorities for Tokyo do little for foreign children wishing to attend metropolitan public high schools, according to schoolteachers and citizens' organizations that support them.
Among metropolitan government-run institutions, only Kokusai High School in Meguro Ward has an exclusive enrollment quota for foreign examinees, which involves only an interview and writing an essay in Japanese or even English for screening. But because the race always gets competitive as seats are limited, most foreign examinees instead take regular entrance exams that involve testing in five major subjects--Japanese, mathematics, science, social studies and English.
"They give up [on getting good scores in] Japanese and social studies," said Tsuyoshi Kowata, 51, director general of Study Group of Multicultural Education.
Therefore, many non-Japanese examinees prefer to apply for less competitive evening high school courses, with the result that about 30 percent of foreign students at public high schools in Tokyo attend such evening courses, according to Kowata, himself a teacher on such a course.
On Feb. 6, unions of public school teachers and citizens' groups in Tokyo working to help non-Japanese children--including Kowata's organization--filed a petition with the Tokyo Metropolitan Board of Education, urging that it offer preferential treatment to non-Japanese in high school entrance exams and make more high schools set specific enrollment quotas for them.
Based on data from the Education, Science and Technology Ministry, the organizations assume that while about 60 percent of Japanese public middle school graduates in Tokyo go on to attend local public high schools, the ratio is just above 40 percent for non-Japanese students.
Kowata expressed concern at the fact that the board of education has been closing more and more evening courses in recent years as part of its reorganization of public high schools. "We're afraid that the advancement rate in high school for non-Japanese students will decline further if entrance exams for evening courses are made more competitive," he said.
(Feb. 22, 2007)
|<< 前記事(2007/03/01)||ブログのトップへ||後記事(2007/03/05) >>|
|<< 前記事(2007/03/01)||ブログのトップへ||後記事(2007/03/05) >>|