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Preschool with Mixed-Age Childcare Fosters Empathy

Japanese Chinese

Professor Joseph Tobin, the author of "Preschool in Three Cultures: Japan, China, and the United States," is a renowned scholar and researcher of preschool education in the United States. In this book, a comparative study of preschool in Japan, China, and the United States through the view of cultural anthropologists, Japanese ECEC is characterized by mimamori (teaching by watching and waiting or non-intervention). In an observation of a daycare center in Kyoto, the study highly evaluated the practice by teachers of watching at the sidelines, but not intervening in quarrels between children.

The second edition of this renowned book titled "Preschool in Three Cultures Revisited" reports on changes in the preschools that were observed 20 years earlier in the first edition. At his lecture given in Shanghai, Professor Tobin presented footage taken at a daycare center in Kyoto which showed older children carrying younger children and helping them use the bathroom. As we watched the footage, Professor Tobin noted that while we might consider it dangerous for children to take care of each other, no accidents had occurred in the daycare center. He praised the practice of older children taking care of younger children as an excellent way to cultivate empathy in children. The importance of fostering social and emotional skills at school, not only in early childhood education, is recognized, and empathy plays a major role in this.

With the discerning perspective of an anthropologist, Professor Tobin has pointed out a feature of ECEC in Japan. When Western scholars, such as Edward S. Morse and Carl Peter Thunberg, visited Japan at the end of the Edo era and saw older children taking care of their younger siblings and carrying them on their backs, they noted that such practices fostered empathy and considered them significant in cultivating social and emotional skills.

At the dinner after the conference, Professor Tobin and I were able to talk about various subjects and exchange views while drinking, and perhaps we enjoyed the wine a bit too much....

From the CRN Editorial Team:
Professor Joseph Tobin has kindly written us an article on this topic. Please see the original article for details.


sakakihara_2013.jpg Yoichi Sakakihara
M.D., Ph.D., Professor Emeritus, Ochanomizu University; Director of Child Research Net, Executive Advisor of Benesse Educational Research and Development Institute (BERD), President of Japanese Society of Child Science. Specializes in pediatric neurology, developmental neurology, in particular, treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Asperger's syndrome and other developmental disorders, and neuroscience. Born in 1951. Graduated from the Faculty of Medicine, the University of Tokyo in 1976 and taught as an instructor in the Department of the Pediatrics before working with Ochanomizu University.
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