Last Thursday, a group of 20 Japanese people came walking into the Academic Building of Amsterdam University College (AUC). Armed with a range of Sony cameras and notebooks, the group, existing of people ranging in age from 20 to 40, was ready to meet with a group of AUC’s Dutch students to have a conversation about this country’s educative system. This and other meetings were set up by an Osakan non-profit organization called Core Plus. They had just spent the last 3 weeks touring through the Netherlands, visiting a primary school, a Montessori school, high schools, and a university. Almost everyone being either a teacher or an aspiring one, their mission is to reshape Japan’s educative from the inside out by studying the approaches different countries take.
One of the people that stood out most among the group was Hayato Saito, a 34-year-old primary school teacher and part-time clown from the Southern part of Japan. Being used to the strict way of teaching in Japan, he was surprised at how the Dutch seem to have more room for input from their pupils. “In Japan, the teacher only tells you the information and you have to learn from that. The classes here seem to be more interactive,” Saito said. According to him, this makes it so that Japanese students don’t feel like they enjoy their time in school too much, a problem he tries to solve by cheering them up with his circus acts.
According to Mao Uno, an aspiring English teacher from Tokyo, this problem continues even at the university level. Whereas in the Netherlands you don’t always have to do an entrance exam before you are allowed start your degree, this is the standard for universities in Japan. “Most students in Japan study very hard for their entrance exam and really want to be accepted,” said Uno, “Because there is such a high barrier, however, this makes it so that they are less motivated to work hard as soon as they get in.” Uno also emphasized that this lack of motivation has made it so the students get barely-passing grades and mainly spend time looking on their phone during class. She believes this is a great problem, which is why she is now looking at the Dutch way of teaching for some answers to this problem.
When asked, most Dutch people said they enjoyed the cultural exchange. Even though there was a slight language gap between some of the people, most managed to get a very sensible discussion on a range of topics that ranged from primary school experiences to weed consumption. Afterwards, a group photo was taken and Facebook contacts were exchanged between the two groups. The Japanese certainly seemed ready for innovation in the field, and perhaps they found some inspiration in their visit here.