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Learning to Go to School in Japan: The Transition from Home to Preschool Life

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Japanese two-year-olds are indulged, dependent, and undisciplined toddlers, but by the age of six they have become obedient, self-reliant, and cooperative students. When Lois Peak traveled to Japan in search of the "magical childrearing technique" behind this transformation, she discovered that the answer lies not in the family but in the preschool, where teachers gently train their pupils in proper group behavior. Using case studies drawn from two contrasting schools, Peak documents the important early stages of...

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Overview

Japanese two-year-olds are indulged, dependent, and undisciplined toddlers, but by the age of six they have become obedient, self-reliant, and cooperative students. When Lois Peak traveled to Japan in search of the "magical childrearing technique" behind this transformation, she discovered that the answer lies not in the family but in the preschool, where teachers gently train their pupils in proper group behavior. Using case studies drawn from two contrasting schools, Peak documents the important early stages of socialization in Japanese culture.

Contrary to popular perceptions, Japanese preschools are play-centered environments that pay little attention to academic preparation. It is here that Japanese children learn their first lessons in group life. The primary goal of these cheerful—even boisterous—settings is not to teach academic facts of learning-readiness skills but to inculcate behavior and attitudes appropriate to life in public social situations.

Peak compares the behavior considered permissible at home with that required of children at preschool, and argues that the teacher is expected to be the primary agent in the child's transition. Step by step, she brings the socialization process to life, through a skillful combination of classroom observations, interviews with mothers and teachers, transcripts of classroom events, and quotations from Japanese professional literature.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Peak Ph.D., Harvard School of Education explains the socialization process that occurs during the indulgent home life of Japanese youngsters, and the structured school environment for which it prepares them. The Japanese educational system sets clear objectives and expectations for both parent and child. Children are assigned to class by age regardless of maturation or handicap. Classes range from ten to 40 students, and large classes are preferred because they encourage interdependence and ``give and take.'' Children ages three and four are taught self- reliance, conformity, and appropriate behavior, and given a high standard of expectation. Solitary or maverick behavior is quietly but persistently discouraged. Because of the increasingly common comparisons between the Japanese and U.S. educational systems, this is a timely book. Less comprehensive education collections owning Joseph Tobin's Preschool in Three Cultures LJ 5/15/89, which covers some of the same points, may pass. For others, this is a mandatory purchase. See also the review of Bruce Feiler's Learning to Bow , in this issue, p. 114.--Ed.-- Annette V. Janes, Hamilton P.L., Mass.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780520071513
  • Publisher: University of California Press
  • Publication date: 11/18/1991
  • Pages: 224
  • Product dimensions: 6.36 (w) x 9.36 (h) x 0.91 (d)

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