Education Abroad / Expanding Horizons

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Summer semester can often consist of stressed students, class work and little free time.

But three lucky students from UWG’s College of Education were able to take a break from the rigors of campus classes to experience the diversities inherent in foreign education.

In May, Alexander Axt, Michaela Boggs and Summer Skinner participated in an exchange program with the Kagoshima University in Japan.  Dr. Hema Ramanathan accompanied the students during their time in Japan.

To be eligible for the program, each student had to write a 1,000 word essay and provide three references.

The exchange program involves the UWG students traveling to Japan for three-weeks during the beginning of summer, and the Kagoshima students spending six weeks in March on the UWG campus. 

“The Japanese students are English-speaking students interested in teaching English in Japan,” said Axt, “while we are in Japan to observe their education.”

The students observed elementary school classes to discover other forms of education.

Uniforms are one of the main variations from typical American schools.  The uniforms are an almost universal part of the Japanese school policy.

“I do think it gets rid of some of the problems,” said Axt.  “You don’t have to worry about who is wearing inappropriate things if everyone is in the same attire.”

Anther aspect that differs from American education norms is that the faculty members of Japanese schools do not have desks in their classrooms.

“It cuts down on distractions,” explained Axt.  “Who hasn’t had a teacher spending more time on the computer than teaching class?”

The desks are grouped together in a separate room for the faculty to utilize before or after class time.

To further prevent distraction, most classrooms lack the media equipment that has become a regular facet in American classrooms. 

“Unlike us, they don’t use PowerPoint for everything,” said Axt.  “The classes we observed were much more centered around hands-on learning.  I think I only saw one teacher actually use a projector once and that was the first time in two months.”

To advance to the next level of education in Japan, each student is required to take a type of competitive entrance exam for admittance into most high schools and some junior high schools.

“The exams are kind of like the SATs,” explained Axt.  “Some students travel good distances for an opportunity to take classes in the higher ranked schools.”

In between the observation hours each student acquired, they took in the sights of Kagoshima assisted by the previous Japanese exchange students. 

“Keeping the previous students involved was what made this trip a success,” said Axt.  “We were able to see parts of the city that would have been unavailable to us without them.”