In the U.S., Japan is often thought of as a country known for three things: peculiar culture, anime and cutting edge technology.
Often times the technology aspect of Japan is forgotten, buried underneath the constant highlighting of its unique culture and the fact that anime oftentimes is created there.
People should remember alongside those things, Japan makes consistent strides in technology, and with those strides comes new, fresh ideas.
Education is an area where several of these ideas apply to, and the U.S. should heavily consider studying and even implementing similar ideas and methods Japan has in its education system.
One idea is the presentation style of PechaKucha.
This framework for building a powerpoint presentation comes from Japan and follows a strict 20 by 20 rule: 20 slides, each 20 seconds long, resulting in a six-minute and 40-second presentation.
This alternative to a more traditional powerpoint provides several benefits for presenters and audiences alike.
An article from the University of Pittsburgh's Center for Teaching and Learning explained some of the advantages of PechaKucha presentations.
The first advantage it isolates is attention span.
A common problem with powerpoint presentations is keeping an audience engaged. This is evident when teachers lecture to classes and when students present to their fellow classmates.
PechaKucha helps combat this through its strict six-minute 40-second time length. The article explains how that time period is long enough to fully introduce new ideas and concepts without risking losing an audience’s attention.
PechaKucha also strongly encourages the use of images over text. This is beneficial for two reasons.
First, it helps keep the audience attention by providing visual aids that draw its focus back to the presentation, however, it doesn’t risk being too distracting since the slides rotate every twenty seconds.
Second, it’s advantageous for the presenter. By having a minimal amount of words on each slide, the presenter needs to rehearse to know what they’re going to say and when. This ensures they understand what they’re talking about while simultaneously stopping the dreaded reading presentation where a presenter simply reads off of the powerpoint.
PechaKucha is just one idea the U.S. could adopt. The U.S. could also look toward Japan’s model for hiring teachers for schools.
An article from The Atlantic explores how Japan has a unique way of assigning teachers to schools.
It explains how in Japan teachers are hired by prefectures or what could be compared to states in the U.S. These prefectures then examine schools underneath their umbrella to decide what their needs are before then providing them with what they feel is the best teacher to meet their needs.
The article further explains how often times these teachers are moved around to different schools, expanding teachers’ skill sets and making them better at their job.
This not only increases overall education quality but arguably just as importantly, also increases the overall equality for students in their education system.
Another idea the U.S. could potentially adopt is the lesson study model.
The same Atlantic article isolates how lesson study enables teachers to create and fine-tune their own course curriculums and teaching methods.
As teachers fine-tune their lessons, other teachers critique them and offer suggestions. The result of this process are curriculums that are more effective and helpful for students, maximizing education.
These are just a few of the several ideas and models in the Japanese education system that the U.S. could consider studying or even implementing.
For a country that is constantly amazed and wowed by the technology and ideas produced in Japan, the U.S. should remember to examine them alongside its exploration of the more quirky aspects of Japan’s culture.