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Community and Time after School

This article is a translation of "Chapter 6 - Monographs on Elementary School Children, Special Issue 2005" published by Benesse Educational Research Institute, Benesse Corporation.

Due to the introduction of the five-day school week and the implementation of the new curriculum, the relationship between communities and how children spend their time after school and holidays has drastically changed over the past dozen years or so. This chapter will discuss the circumstances of this phenomenon.

<Past issues referred to in this chapter>
Private tutoring school, vol.4-8, 1984
Community's educational functions, vol.10-7, 1990
Holidays, vol.11-7, 1991
Children and home study, vol.11-11, 1992
Private tutoring school, vol.15-6, 1996
"How Children Spend Time After School", vol.21-3, 2002
"How do Elementary School Students Feel about Schoolwork?", vol.24-1, 2004

1. Before the Introduction of the Five-Day School Week

1) Daily Routine
A study of fifth and sixth graders in elementary schools in the Tokyo metropolitan area was conducted in 1999, before the implementation of the five-day school week, and examined how the children spent their holidays (vol.11-7). The study showed that 68.1% of children studied at home on holidays (vol.11-7; Figure 5), particularly around 10 a.m. and after 8 p.m. (vol.11-7; Figure 6). Thirty-eight fifth graders were grouped into seven types according to their primary leisure activity on Sundays: outdoor play, indoor play, sports clubs, studying, TV/video watching, going out, or doing nothing special (vol.11-7; data 1). Children are happy on Sundays when they play with friends, go out somewhere, and enjoy hobbies (vol.11-7; Figure 17). In addition, children want to spend their Sundays going out; relaxing more; playing from early morning; and sleeping in longer. The results reveal children's contradictory feelings of wanting to spend time actively, but also wanting to relax without any scheduled activities. (vol.11-7; Figure 18). Having few friends to play with and attending private tutoring school affect children's ways of spending their holidays. Of the children who did not play the Sunday or day before this study was conducted, nearly 80% replied that they never or seldom play with their classmates on holidays, and 20% did not do so even on weekdays. In addition, nearly 20% go to a private tutoring school on holidays. (vol.11-7; Table 9,10). Is it really beneficial for children to have more holidays under these circumstances?

2) Survey of Mothers
In order to introduce the five-day school week, the ability of the community to to educate and raise children needs to be revitalized. Based on this assumption, a study was conducted in 1990 to find out about what mothers think about the community and what it should do (vol.10-7). The study indicates that parents pay attention only to their own children and lack a sense of community that would make them aware of the role they play in the community's educational functions at the most basic level. (vol.10-7; Figure 29, 30)

2. After the Introduction of The Five-Day School Week

A study of fourth through sixth graders in public elementary schools in the Tokyo metropolitan in 2001, just prior to the start of the five-day school week, examined how children spent time after school and on holidays (vol.21-3).

Table 6-1: Weekly Plan (vol.21-3; Table 1-2)

1) Daily Life after the Introduction of the Five-Day School Week
According to Table 6-1, 40% or more children are busy every weekday attending either private tutoring schools or other lessons, which makes it difficult for them to socialize with their classmates, and 36.5% have something to do even on Sundays. The introduction of the five-day school week appears to have made children busier. 42.3% go to a private tutoring school, but very few attend on weekends. 77.4% take lessons or go to a sports club and the majority who go there on weekends are boys (vol.21-3; summary at the end of the book), probably because boys are more likely to join a sports team or club activity.

When asked about the day before the survey was conducted, 39.4% had spent one hour or more attending private tutoring school or other lessons, while 52.8% had spent only 30 minutes or less studying at home. Private tutoring schools are now an integral part of studying after school. The survey also showed that 18.4% played outside for 2 hours or more, and 52.2% did so for only 30 minutes or less. Although the weather might be a factor, the time devoted to play is short considering the children are in the upper grades of elementary school and at a playful age. On the other hand, the percentage of children who watch TV and videos for an hour and a half or longer goes up to 47.5% (vol.21-3; Table 1-11), and many of them play videogames, too. It appears that children play inside with a small number of friends for short periods of time.

* In Table 1-11, vol.21-3, the times for 1 through 5 are revised from two hours or more to two and a half hours or more.

2) A Richer Life after School
How can children's lives after school be more fulfilling? Table 6-2 provides a hint. Children's experiences of the community are enriched when parents participate in regional activities and enjoy them. The community does not merely exist as a physical space, but as spaces that have meaning for children as human relationships. In other words, parents' ways of relating to the community become an example for children and their relationship to the community or a catalyst for children's community experiences. Furthermore, they influence children in their own attachment to the community and the tendency to settle and remain there.

Table 6-2: Children's Community Experience X Parents' Involvement in the Community (vol.21-3, Table 4-8)

___ indicates the maximum value for the case that children experienced it many times.
"<" indicates the difference of 5 points or more.
"<<" indicates the difference of 10 points or more.

Parents' Involvement in Regional Activities: "Participated" includes parents who very often/relatively join the activities.
The Degree of Satisfaction Among Parents' Participating in Regional Activities:
"Seemed Happy" indicates parents who seem very/relatively happy.
"Neither" indicates parents who do not seem to be happy or unhappy.
"Seemed Not Happy" indicates parents who seem not so much/not at all happy.

In addition, interaction with people in the neighborhood provides children with a specific community experience. The more children get to know adults in the community and exchange greetings with them, the more children feel happy and positive (vol.21-3; Figure 3-9, 10).

Improving community life requires that children have access to places to play or open spaces and that the community offer various events and activities while children and parents relate to each other in various ways to reconstruct the community.

3. Home Study and Private Tutoring Schools

1) Taking or Not Taking the Entrance Exam
The survey in 1991 of 3,034 sixth graders at elementary schools all over Japan (vol.11-11) showed that 43.6% of children went to private tutoring schools, and 18.7% took correspondence courses (vol.11-11; Figure 6, 7). In addition, 13.0% planned to take the entrance exam for a private junior high school, while 42.9% did not and 44.1% were undecided. The percentage of children with a private junior high school within commuting distance was 65.2% (vol.11-11; Figure 10, 12). According to the comparison, nearly 90% of children who did not plan to take the entrance examination went to a private tutoring school about three times a week or an average of 2.36 times per week, while nearly 40% of those who planned to take the examination went to a private tutoring school four or more times a week or an average of 3.25 times per week (vol.11-11; Table 38). Considering that some children also take other tests and extra classes on holidays, those who plan to take the entrance examination appear to be overloaded with out-of-school study.

As Table 6-3 indicates, children who plan to take the entrance examination have specific goals such as going to a good junior high school and high school; getting a job they like; and living a happy life. To accomplish this, a large percentage of these children cut back on sleep, give up TV and comic books, and study voluntarily and according to a schedule they make themselves (vol.11-11; Table 43, 44). However, they also tend to complain about health problems such as easy fatigability and difficulty in getting up in the morning (vol.11-11; Table 47). Can it be said that some children are motivated enough to study hard, while others complain about their health problems because they are discouraged by low self-confidence and uncertainty about their future?

2) Comparison of Schools and Private Tutoring Schools
In an evaluation of schools, preparatory schools, and after-school tutoring schools in 1995 (Figure 6-1), children liked their own schools somewhat more or much more. About 60% like going to school and just under than 80% enjoy talking with their classmates. However, the percentage of children who like private tutoring schools over their own school was the same or higher when asked about the fun of learning, teaching methods, and easy-to-understand classes. Of those attending preparatory school, 60% or more think the instructors are excellent and the classes are easy to understand. The approximately 40-50% who go to after-school tutoring schools also feel the same.

The survey conducted in 1984 (vol.4-8) 11 years before the abovementioned study showed that an overwhelming number of children liked school better than private tutoring schools in terms of teaching method and fun of learning, although fourth graders were included in the survey (vol.4-8; Figure 20). Over the decade or so from 1984 to 1995, schools became unattractive to most of the children who went to preparatory schools, and unsatisfactory to the children who attended after-school tutoring schools. Ten more years have passed since this survey. Based on new scholastic perspectives, school education has worked on fostering children's zest for life and promoting guidance based on individual needs. Have these efforts been able to stop the move away from school?

In the 2001 survey, 42.3% of the children went to private tutoring schools (vol.21-3; Table 1-2). The percentages of children attending private tutoring schools on weekends were as follows: 4.4% for fourth graders, 10.6% for fifth graders, and 14.8% for sixth graders. The percentages increase in the higher grades (vol.21-3; summary). Of those who attend a private tutoring school, 70% or more considered it fun (vol.21-3; Figure 2-4).

3) Less Studying
When children who like private tutoring school very much or somewhat were asked their reasons, they cited the following: can make new friends (77.2%), can perform better in more subjects (75.3%), and can understand lessons more or improve athletic ability (74.4%). The results indicate that children find positive significance in private tutoring schools and lessons (vol.21-3; Figure 2-5).

Let's compare the data on sixth graders in 1991 (vol.11-11) with that in 2003 (vol.24-1). Despite regional differences, children who like their school very much or somewhat decreased from 75.1% in 1991 to 65.0% in 2003. In 1991, 24.5% studied for about 30 minutes or less, and 26.3% did so for 2 hours or more. In 2003, however, the percentage of children who study for 30 minutes or less increased to 53.6%, while those who study for 2 hours or more dramatically decreased to12.1%. Nevertheless, the number of children who go to private schools has not necessarily increased. Moreover, regardless of the introduction of the five-day-school week and the substantial revision of curriculum, children tend to study for the same reasons and there was not a substantial change it their cited motivation (vol.11-11; col.24-1; Summary).

Although it is thought that school should be a fun place for children, children no longer find it fun and they are studying less at home. Not only are elementary school children less interested in school, but they are studying much less than in the past.
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