‘Bad-smelling bathrooms’ and other school problems, as told by my students

My class’ latest project was identifying problems at our high school and making plans for a solution. The project highlighted parts of Japanese school life you might not always hear about. And, yes, I will be sending these concerns to the Board of Education.

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What the students disliked about the school was completely valid (from my American view point):

  • The school building is old, dirty, cold and generally needs repair and maintenance.
  • It’s difficult for them to get to school easily, with no school transportation, though there are the trains.
  • Many of my students come from places which aren’t on the train line. One of them bikes to school an hour (one way) each day.
  • Many want to change their school uniforms (Note: Not get rid of, but change or make more stylish, as most of the designs date back to 1970 or something.)

Japan spends the least amount of money on its schooling system out of any developed nation. And some of these problems may be attributed to this.

Seriously, it matches Slovakia in spending, according to a Nov. 25 article by the Japan Times. Now … it would be easy to say that this is a good model for how more $ doesn’t = better test scores, if you know anything about the end product of this same system.

Well, actually, yeah. It is a great argument that more $ doesn’t affect test scores. These kids are really good at taking tests. You don’t really need a lot of money to memorize answers, do you? But to create more engaging lessons that teach students to question and think out side of what they are told — yeah, it’d be nice to have a personal computer at work, an email system for employees and students, a projector (old style or new style) or even some type of technology in the classroom beyond a boombox. When I say boombox, I mean a boombox. Like one you would use to listen to CDs in 2000. Or perhaps, more than one computer lab to access to computers for research during class.

Anyways, the interesting point is that the kids, none of them, wanted better materials or more technology (out of 40 kids). Nor did they complain that the school doesn’t provide school lunch. Actually, two private vendors come in and sell essentially the same stuff each day: bread, rice balls, meat and rice, curry and rice, salad, sandwiches, omelet rice and desserts. The students don’t eat in a lunch room, but eat in their classrooms, pushing their desks together.

They wanted the basics:

  • Not to be freezing (cuz there aren’t enough heaters allotted to each classroom) and no heat in hallways or bathrooms
  • not to have to feel uncomfortable going to the bathroom because the toilets are old and smell,
  • To have a clean space to change their clothes for sports and gym classes
  • To have a safe road to walk along to get to the school (there are no real sidewalks on the old road and the roads are quite narrow)
  • and not to have to deal with old shoe boxes morning and afternoon, but to have easy accessibility to make the day go smoother.

It really makes me think about what a truly different school experience this is from my own.

Here are some more posters from a few of their presentations about problems and solutions:

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2 thoughts on “‘Bad-smelling bathrooms’ and other school problems, as told by my students

  1. When I visited Victoria’s School in August I was very surprised by the environment. I remember my high school classroom, I think the desks were from that era in the US. I am 61 years old. it had chalkboards and desks, that’s it. No technology at all. Even though as a retired College Professor, technology is not the answer nor the best learning tool, as some of the latest research is proving. But I am impressed that the students are speaking out, not easy in the Japanese society.

  2. Victoria,
    I forwarded this to Nicole – we are both interested to talk to you about this report. See you in a couple weeks!!! Love. cv

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