by liberal japonicus
Though every week is education week at the lj household, this week has a bit of an edge to it. Yesterday, we experienced katei homon, where the teacher of my youngest (2nd grade elementary) comes by to visit the home, talk to a parent (almost always the mother) and see how the child interacts. My daughter has been practicing making coffee for the teacher, and got to show off her barista skills. The visit usually lasts about 30 minutes and happens every year of compusory education (elementary and JHS)
Saturday is our oldest's sankanbi, or demonstration lesson, where the parents are invited to the school to watch a lesson. Because my schedule is a lot more relaxed that the average father's, I've been able to attend more of these, though I'm not the only father in the room, thank god.
Both of these events underline how serious Japanese take education and also hint at a dark side in that they can enforce a conformity that is difficult to escape. For example, the katei homon for a first year elementary student has the teacher come and look at where the child studies and gives the teacher a chance to make suggestions and it is easy to see how teachers could determine how much and what kind of attention a child gets based on what is just a glimpse into his or her homelife. This also leads to things like the randoseru, a backpack that all elementary school students purchase. Theoretically, there is no requirement for the type of backpack that is purchased, in practice, everyone has the same kind of backpack. When I was working in Miyagi prefecture, boys had black and girls had red, but in the past ten years, not only has the price been driven down by online sales, a variety of colors are now available as well as a variety of prices.
I'll try to add some other things that might strike folks as strange in the education system here in the comments, but y'all are a pretty varied crowd, so I'm sure everyone has something that will surprise and amaze me. Have at it.