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A mirror to ourselves? : the educational experiences of Japanese children at school in the UK

McPake, Joanna and Powney, Janet and , ESRC (Funder) (1998) A mirror to ourselves? : the educational experiences of Japanese children at school in the UK. Educational Research, 40 (2). pp. 169-179.

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Abstract

This paper reports the main findings of the ESRC-funded study 'The Educational Experiences of Japanese Children at School in the UK'. Research for this project was carried out by Janet Powney and Joanna McPake, at the Scottish Council for Research in Education, between April 1994 and January 1995. The work was based in two areas with thriving Japanese communities, one in Scotland and one in England; and focused on children in the 11-13 age-group, attending UK schools during the week and Japanese Saturday schools. This was a small-scale study, intended principally to explore areas of dissonance in Japanese children's experiences of school in the UK: the researchers defined a 'dissonant' experience as: one in which the children encountered contradictory notions of what school is and of the roles which pupils should play. It was postulated at the outset of the research that these dissonances would arise from the very different educational philosophies and practices in Japan and the UK. In the course of the research, however, the researchers realized that an additional and very powerful influence on the children's perceptions of school and of themselves as pupils was the experience of transition from one educational culture to another. The researchers identified four principal areas of dissonance for Japanese pupils: (1) understanding the role of talk and silence in the classroom; (2) the relative importance placed on knowledge and skills for learning; (3) expectations of academic achievement and educational aspirations; and (4) notions of cultural identity. This paper gives a brief account of the causes of these dissonances and the effects on Japanese children's school lives. The researchers believe that the relevance of this work lies not only in the fact that Japanese children are an under-researched, though economically important, minority group in UK schools, but also that some of the issues raised in the study pose questions about aspects of UK educational philosophy and practice often taken for granted. Of particular concern is the apparent absence of teaching strategies which take into account culturally diverse approaches to learning among school pupils.