I figured I'd tell you a little bit about the Japanese school system. Not so much philosophies of teaching, but more daily life in the school.
First of all, general structure. Kindergarten is separate, kids will stay there from 1-3 years, it's kind of a mix between kindergarten and pre-school. Most, if not all of them are right next to an elementary school, but technically they're separate, as far as I can tell. Next comes elementary school (grades 1-6). Pretty much like the ones in the US, one main teacher per class. Everyone, even teachers, have to eat kyushoku (school lunch) everyday, with milk. The kids serve it in each classroom with aprons and facemasks on.
After elementary school, they head to junior high (grades 7-9). The main difference between Japanese and American middle schools is that here, the kids stay in the same classroom all day and the teachers rotate out. The students of each "kumi" or class, are in that kumi for all three years. So if they start in 1-1 (1 year, 1 class) then they will be 2-1 and 3-1. So by their third year, the kids know each other really well. Through middle school school is a right for the students, therefore they can't be suspended or expelled. Even if they beat up a teacher or another student, they can still come to school if they want to. Another interesting thing about lower schools in Japan, is that they don't separate special needs students from the rest of the kids. They have most of their classes in regular classes and might have one or two periods in a separate room. At first this surprised me, but I think it's very good. The other kids treat the special ed kids with respect and help them in and out of class as much as possible.
School is only required through middle school. Kids have to test into the private high schools or if they want, they don't go at all. Each high school varies in academic and athletic ability, depending on their focus. Omura currently has a very good academic school, an agriculture school, a technical school and an all-girls school (I don't know much about it, there are no ALTs there). There is also a special ed school and a deaf school.
Now some quick facts/observations:
-No shoes in school, everyone wheres indoor shoes. There are big shelves for shoes at every entrance.
-Different shoes are worn in the gym
-The kids in all grades do all the cleaning. Most days there is a 15 minute period after lunch when the kids clean their assigned location (bathroom, teachers room, shoe shelves). When there is a special event (sports day, fall break, teacher conference), they'll spend a whole 50 minute class period cleaning.
-Textbooks often come in sets of two- one explanation and text, and one is a workbook.
-All schools have Sports Day in the early fall, which consists of running races, relays, other wacky games as competitions. The kumis compete with each other, so 1-1 vs. 1-2 vs. 1-3 etc. The practice before and after school, and one or two class periods in school for a few weeks. Then there will be a day with no class where they just practice ALL day.
That's all for now, I'm sure I'll think of more to share with you later.