A group of eleven students led by two faculty members from the U.S. University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW), an OKU exchange partner, participated in a four-day visit to OKU’s affiliated schools and other Osaka and Nara public elementary, junior high and high schools from June 22 to June 25.
The visit was part of the international education studies program of UNCW’s College of Education, a program that is fully supported by OKU. UNCW collaborates with OKU’s U.S. language study tour and school visit programs in a mutual exchange relationship that has been in place for over ten years.
The visitors divided into an elementary school group and a junior high and high school group, observing classes and taking part in calligraphy, koto and shakuhachi lessons. Members of the group, many of whom are teachers continuing their graduate school education, had the opportunity to discuss the differences between the education systems of the U.S. and Japan with teachers at the schools they visited. During the visit to Nara public elementary schools, the group also toured a nearby school meals center that had recently opened. Because U.S. schools have no common concept of kyushoku (school-provided lunch meals served by students and eaten in classrooms), group members viewing the new, highly systematized facilities were surprised by differences in the education systems of the two countries. They also enjoyed getting to know the children during meal time and the noon recess. The children were at first shy, but began to try out their English as they overcame their shyness, finally vying for signatures from the group.
On June 26, the group participated in the School Education class taught by the director of the International Center, Professor Noboru Takahashi, where they joined in a lively discussion on the Japanese and American educational systems with OKU graduate students and researchers.
After visiting the schools, participants said that they were impressed with the ‘cleaning time’ in Japanese schools and the way that “children are allowed to learn naturally in a relaxed environment.” They also said they “definitely want to try applying the things we learned in Japan.”