By Heather Gibson
HURLEYVILLE – “Back to school, back to school!”
“Back to class and homework and following the rules. And lunch and gym! Hey, it’s very cool, I’m glad to be back in school.”
Children all over the world just began the new school year, just like you did! Do you ever wonder about schools around the world? How are they different from our schools here in New York?
In France, math and science – especially physics – are only studied by those students with the very best grades. Students attend very long school days from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and even go to school on Saturdays. However, they get Wednesdays off and have two hour lunch breaks.
School is free in France and this is especially helpful to college students who wish to study. Grades are posted publically on bulletin boards outside of the classrooms, so anyone can see what grade you just received! While this might be embarrassing to some, it is certainly good incentive to keep those grades up.
In Spain, there are mixed levels of ability and age in each classroom. There are no AP classes. This makes it harder for brighter children to advance, but it also cuts down on bullying. When you enter a classroom, you are with those kids of all different ages throughout your school years, and so you become like a family to one another in many ways. Due to the continued close friendships, these students tend to get along better and stick up for one another. Students in classrooms stay put, and it’s the teachers that move around from classroom to classroom. There is a split session during the day, which allows students to go home for lunch, because you can’t bring your lunch to school.
In India, the biggest difference is how many classmates a student has in class. While we average about 20-30 kids per class here in the USA, children in India share their classroom with 50 other students. Sports and extra- curricular activities are offered but they aren’t deemed very important. Students aren’t praised for being a good athlete; instead they are praised for being bright students. Therefore, the structure of study and the school day is very rigid. Public schools often lack good infrastructure and facilities and so most parents prefer to send their kids to private school, though it is very expensive. Students in India do not have lockers for their books. They carry their heavy books everywhere they go. In India, unlike in France, math and science is not an option, but the main area of study.
In Japan, there are no school buses to ride, and 99% of students walk or ride their bikes to school. Most of them don’t ride very far because there is a school every few miles. In high school, they may attend school across town and take a bus or train. The teacher is in full control of the class and discipline is decided by that teacher. There is no getting sent out of the room to the principal, because in Japan there is a rule that you can’t ask a student to leave your class.
In the Japanese culture, one takes off one’s shoes upon entering a Japanese family’s home. In school, it is the same. There are no lockers for books, but there are shoe lockers at the front doors which hold all students’ shoes until the end of the school day. Students in Japan never leave their homeroom class and when it is lunch time they can eat in homeroom or go home for lunch, but there is no cafeteria.
There is also a strict no junk food policy, so what comes into school must be approved food. However, they say there are a few rebels that sneak junk food into their book bags. There are no janitors in the Japanese school system, instead the chores of cleaning are the students’ responsibility and built into the school day. This allows each student to work on vocational skills, which are so important as they enter the work force.
The students in many of these countries wear uniforms to school, though some only have uniforms in private schools, just like in our country. Most countries typically get a summer break, and some countries take a break every few weeks.
There are countries in Africa that are struggling to maintain a school system for children. They lack teachers, supplies, and the infrastructure to operate a school system. While Africa is constantly trying to improve its education system, the class system and basic survival in local villages often depends upon the children working at home from a very young age to help with things like farming.
Sometimes children aren’t very happy about going back to school. Summer is filled with a lot of fun activities like swimming, and camp, so it’s understandable that the freedom of summer is preferred by most to the structure of a school day. However, it’s important to guide all students in a way that allows them to visualize their future just a bit. Questions like, “what do you want to be when you grow up?” allow children to understand how school can help them attain that goal.
Extra-curricular activities are a great way to continue the summer fun by getting involved with sports teams or after school clubs. The sky is the limit when children tap into their imagination and creativity. They should all reach for the moon, and if all else fails they will land upon a star!
Although the classroom and students may look different from country to country, one thing is for sure, every student has a dream and many of them will look up into the night’s sky and wish upon the same star; whether a student in France or Spain or India or Japan, or a student in Hurleyville.