Preschool in Three Cultures: Japan, China, and the United States

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Yale University Press, 1989 - Education - 238 pages
As the numbers of mothers in the workforce grows, the role of the extended family diminishes, and parents feel under greater pressure to give their children an educational headstart, industrialized societies are increasingly turning to preschools to nurture, educate, and socialize young children. Drawing on their backgrounds in anthropology, human development, and education, Tobin, Wu, and Davidson present a unique comparison of the practices and philosophies of Japanese, Chinese, and American preschool education and discuss how changes in childcare both reflect and affect larger social change. The method used is innovative: the authors first videotaped a preschool in each culture, then showed the tapes to preschool staff, parents, and child development experts. Through their vivid descriptions of a day in each country's preschools, photographs made from their videotapes, and Chinese, Japanese, and American evaluations of their own and each other's schools, we are drawn into a multicultural discussion of such issues as freedom, conformity, creativity, and discipline. In China, for example, preschools are expected to provide an antidote to the spoiling that Chinese fear is inevitable in an era of single-child families. Americans look to preschools not only to teach reading and to encourage children to be creative, expressive, and independent but also to provide a stability and richness otherwise missing from many children's lives. Japanese preschools, surprisingly for many Americans, deemphasize discipline and academics and instead stress the teaching of group interaction to a generation of overly sheltered children. In all three nations, preschools, rather than being radical or transforming, function to conserve values believed to be threatened by social change.
 

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Preschool in three cultures: Japan, China, and the United States

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The authors videotaped similar situations in preschools in these three countries and then discussed the videos with teachers, parents, and others. Their efforts reveal the different behaviors and ... Read full review

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We have a Japanese-styled preschool here in the metro Detroit area (USA). Our student population ranges from 3 through 5 years old, and would represented the first 2 years of a 3-year kindergarten program in Japan. I find that in the over 8 years' experience of watching my Japanese wife (she was the better teacher of the two of us, so I now play a teacher support role) interact with the children (about 80% Japanese kids), the values and observations by Professor Tobin still hold true as they did 20 years ago. The priorities of socialization at the preschool age, downplay of academic skills attainment, and other factors all hold true. The only area we can't attest to here in the US is the class size (we're a licensed child care in the US, so we have teacher-student ratios according to age as prescribed by law). Judging from my observations in Japan at the kindergarten, elementary, and junior high school levels, I agree with Professor Tobin's assertions regarding the need for larger class sizes given the intents and purposes of the Japanese educational system. 

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