Hello to our readers,

It has been a while since we’ve posted our usual series of Edu Watch articles, and so it’s time to catch up on what’s happening with schools in Japan and other education-related news. However, because we are currently living in the aftermath of the Tohoku tsunami-quake, there is also a lot of news focusing on the lives and conditions of children and survivors.

Also, at this page “Earth & Fire: Above the Pacific Ring of Fire lies Japan” you’ll find a lesson resource on plate tectonics to be used with kids with a nifty clickable link to a detailed Tectonic Map of Japan.

Below you’ll find links to news articles of what’s happening on the educational scene in Japan.

Be safe,

Aileen Kawagoe

Editor of the EIJ Community Blog


Child-rearing benefits face ax / Handouts to be abolished to free up funds for quake reconstruction (Apr.14)

New relief plan should provide secure shelters, proper care to evacuees

Excerpt: …”infants and handicapped children who acted restlessly at evacuation shelters were reprimanded and began to show abnormal behavior because of stress. The conditions of elderly people who needed nursing care worsened while they were staying at shelters, and people with chronic diseases sometimes showed serious symptoms because no medicine for their illnesses was available at evacuation shelters. Moreover, family members of some of these patients suffered from depression. …Psychotherapists working in quake- and tsunami-ravaged areas warn that many children are showing signs of mental instability. “There are some bulimic children and others whose eyes lack focus. But the parents of these children are mostly unaware of such symptoms because they are mentally exhausted themselves,” one of them said.

The government intends to ask nursery schools and kindergartens in an emergency evacuation preparation zone to close while urging residents to be always prepared to flee in case of emergency. However, as these residents have returned home because they could not stand staying at evacuation shelters, they cannot easily flee unless there are homes available where they can stay without concern. Unless these problems are solved, elderly and handicapped people in the five municipalities designated as a planned evacuation zone will be left behind.” more here

Child evacuee from Fukushima bullied in Chiba amid radiation fears NATIONAL › Thursday 14th April,

A child evacuee from an area near the troubled nuclear power plant in Fukushima Prefecture was bullied by other children, who taunted him, saying he could infect others with radiation, an education board in Chiba Prefecture said Thursday. After learning about the incident through an anonymous phone call, the board in the city of Funabashi instructed 83 local elementary and middle schools to tell their students to be kind to the evacuees and be considerate of their feelings.

An anonymous caller said a sibling of a pupil at a Funabashi elementary school, who took refuge from the Fukushima Daiichi plant, was harassed by other children in mid-March at a park in the city, according to the board. The board said it urged the schools to work with their pupils’ parents and other guardians to prevent children from acting impulsively after being influenced by grown-ups’ own anxiety about radiation.”

Quake-hit schools still to reopen

Aid organisations have warned that thousands of children in Japan are still unable to return to school a month after the tsunami – as many of their classrooms are still full of people left homeless following the disaster. Save the Children said 160,000 people have been displaced and have nowhere to go after the 9.0-magnitude quake triggered the destructive waves that hit Japan’s north-east coast. (UKPA)

Graduations held at evacuation centers

Crisis keeps foreign students away from classes (Japan Times) – 70% of foreign students in the Northeast returned to their home countries, 20% fled to other safer regions of Japan. The government said it will provide return-trip fees for any of the 770 state-sponsored exchange students residing in the damaged Tohoku area if they evacuated to their home countries after the quake…

Schools and students face uncertain future in Japan

Japan to offer scholarships despite disasters

Classes have resumed in the 12 elementary and middle schools of Natori, Miyagi Prefecture, which was devastated by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. In the heavily damaged city of Ishinomaki, north of Natori in Miyagi Prefecture, all the elementary and middle schools are scheduled to resume classes in late April. But many other schools in disaster-struck northeastern Japan are experiencing great difficulties. More than 6,500 publicly-run and private schools – including 1,054 in Ibaraki Prefecture, 920 in Miyagi Prefecture, 471 in Iwate Prefecture and 134 in Aomori Prefecture – sustained severe damage. (Japan Times)

Getting kids get back to school

Gov’t to expand financial aid for students after quake

Universities call off Japan study abroad programs

Gov’t to spend 200 bil. yen on temporary schoolhouses after quake

Graduates take up new jobs in subdued mood

International school typifies Sendai’s community spirit

Fewer foreign students at Tokyo Japanese school

Elementary school grads hold ceremony (in Miyagi)

670,000 schoolbooks lost or rendered unusable

Quake-hit schools can’t resume class (Apr.8)

Classrooms, teachers in short supply (Apr.8)

Steady efforts needed to restore schools

The kids (and parents) will be all right
Longing for her mother / 4-yr-old girl pens heartbreaking letter to missing parent
Students in quake-hit areas express hopes, despair in interviews
Evacuee life tough on kids / Children and parents suffer mental and physical stress

Smiles belie traumatized kidsShould kids be shielded from coverage of disaster?Explaining the Japanese crisis to childrenTrauma stalks children of Japan tsunamiLeak at Fukushima would hit children hardest, experts warn | Where will the Tsunami Orphans go?Prefectures struggling to identify children orphaned by quake, tsunamiQuake orphans expected to be in the hundreds | Quake orphans support begins |

101 children orphaned by March 11 disaster NHK World

Japan’s health ministry says 101 children in 3 northeastern prefectures lost their parents in the March 11th quake and tsunami.

The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry says that as of Thursday, 44 children in Iwate, 43 in Miyagi and 14 in Fukushima had been orphaned by the disaster.

It says most of the orphans are now living with relatives, with the exception of 2 children in Miyagi who will enter an orphanage.

The number of orphans is expected to rise further … more here

Ministry to boost number of school counselors for disaster-hit children Kyodo News

“The education ministry decided Wednesday to dispatch an additional more than 1,000 school counselors to areas hit by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami disaster to provide psychological support for children.// The government will include about 3 billion yen for the project in a first supplementary budget draft for fiscal 2011.//With the Japanese school year having begun April 1, there are growing concerns among teachers over depression affecting children who lost their family members in the disaster as well as the adverse effects of prolonged life in shelters on children’s mental and physical health.//Some teachers and education experts also point to the need to help children adapt to new environments after changing schools following mass evacuations.//Surveys by local offices in Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures, which were hardest hit by the disaster, said that as of April 1 at least 73 children had been orphaned after their parents died or went missing in the disaster, while the number of those who have lost a family member is likely to be huge.//The plan to boost the number of counselors will apply to both public and private schools from elementary to high school level in Aomori, Iwate, Miyagi, Fukushima and Ibaraki prefectures, the area subject to the disaster relief law.//School counselors are expected to provide care not only to affected children, but also to their guardians and teachers, many disaster victims themselves.//About 6,100 counselors were working at public elementary and junior high schools across Japan in fiscal 2009, according to the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology.”

Elementary class graduate after tsunami trauma (Yahoo news video)

Missing Virginia teacher’s body found in Japan (ABC News, 22 Mar) | Scottish teacher tells of Japan earthquake aftermathEnglish teacher ‘finding life hard’Missing U.S. English teacher’s fiancee confident he will be found alive | Priest, teacher gave all to Japan
British teacher’s miraculous escape from Japan earthquake

James Ganesh, 25, was trapped in a school library after bookcases crashed down on him as the first huge 9.0-scale earthquake hit. He was rescued when – colleagues realised he was missing but came within inches of death a second time when a bridge suddenly gave way as he fled in his car

Children in Onagawa safe

Lack clean water at Shichigahama junior high school (Miyagi)

A line of children, swept away / Majority of school’s students taken by tsunami mid-evacuation

Local residents have described their horror at seeing primary school children being swept away by tsunami on March 11. About 70 percent of the 108 students enrolled at Okawa Primary School in Ishinomaki were killed or have been missing since the quake-triggered tsunami hit. The children were evacuating as a group to higher ground when they were engulfed by a wave that roared up the Kitakamigawa river. (Yomiuri)

English teachers witness Japan disaster

Parents in Japan comb through school that’s now a graveyard (LA Times)

B.C. teacher saved from tsunami heading back to Japan
Disaster-zone foreigners feeling linguistic squeeze

Body of American recovered weeks after Japan tsunami

Young Aussie English teacher trapped in Sendai

Together, but apart at Japanese refugee centre

U.S. teacher stays to return favor to helpful residents of Miyagi town Kyle Maclauchlan, an English-language teacher from the United States, experienced a nightmare when the March 11 monster earthquake and tsunami devastated the small Miyagi Prefecture town he lived in and wiped away most of his belongings. But he, along with many of his non-Japanese friends here, decided to stay. “I didn’t want to leave Japan this way,” said the 30-year-old, who has been working at Tagajo Junior High School in Tagajo, Miyagi Prefecture, as an assistant language teacher for three years. “I wanted to be here where I can help. It was important for me to stay and be with people who helped me for so long.” (Japan Times)

Earthquake as it happens – English Teacher in Japanese School

Non-disaster related news:

It takes a village to raise an English speaker | Community helps school improve itself

Middle school textbook pages to rise by 25% (Apr.1) | Give appropriate guidance to enhance desire to learn (Apr.1) | Keep class ALTs in the team loopReady for English?English Big Business and GrowingJapanese textbooks draw ire of S. Korea |Japan’s education ministry approves problematic textbooks |

EDUCATION RENAISSANCE / E-boards stand in for unavailable ALTs (Mar.31)

EDUCATION RENAISSANCE / Schoolteachers try to wrap heads around new role (Mar.24)

On the educational scene and news elsewhere in the world:

Scores of schools in South Korea closed over fears of radioactive rain

Princeton Review’s 2011 “College Hopes & Worries Survey” Reports on 12,000 Students’ & Parents’ “Dream Schools” & Application Experiences

International students rally for quake causeInt’l migration body helps quake-hit foreigners leave JapanGlobal migration body helps quake-stranded foreigners exit Japan
Evacuation turns into chance to help victims

In the early hours of March 17, the U.S. Embassy began advising American citizens to evacuate from an 80 km radius of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant complex; some, like the British Foreign Office, maintained that, in addition, their “nationals currently in Tokyo and to the north of Tokyo should consider leaving the area.”

With so much information available and even governments disagreeing on the best course of action, many residents of the affected areas understandably became worried about the safety of staying in their homes as the nuclear crisis unfolded.

Though their Sendai home is technically just outside the official evacuation area, British-born Dominic Jones chose to evacuate with his Japanese wife and two young children as soon as the British government recommended leaving the already shaken area. “They were saying that the situation on the ground was much more serious, in fact, on par with Three Mile Island. They also said it’s ongoing, so it might even get worse.”

Leaving their home was clearly not an easy choice, and, over drinks in an Oxford cafe, Jones speaks as if he’s still trying to make sense of his decision. “It’s our home. We’ve been there 12 years, you know, everything is there, our friends, and half our family.”

It is, however, clear that because of discrepancies in the way that information is being interpreted, foreign nationals living in Japan are under a lot of pressure from family and friends overseas to leave the country.

“I found news reports conflicting,” explains one Nagano Prefecture resident, who will be called Emma for this story. She extended a holiday in Australia because of radiation worries.

“U.S.-based channels like CNN were screaming ‘meltdown’ and Japanese stations remained calm and collected. Some of our friends, particularly those who have lived in Japan a long time, stopped watching CNN and sensationalized foreign news and reverted to Japanese and English updates and embassy reports due to the drama and fear-mongering of foreign channels. But for non-Japanese speakers, one problem was that Japanese channels only had limited news in English so most foreigners had to rely on overseas channels. If I had not already booked flights home, I am sure I would have experienced a lot of stress with pressure from my family and friends from home, to come home.”

Why isn’t it cheaper to raise kids? Apr 8, 2011

Everyone has heard the nightmarish stats on how much kids cost. According to the feds, a couple making between $57,000 and $98,000 a year, before taxes, will cough up $222,360 raising a child to age 17. And many moms and dads feel that childcare and kid-chauffering duties seriously limit their career opportunities. But economist Bryan Caplan, author of the new book Selfish Reasons To Have More Kids, says there’s no persuasive reason to devote so much time and money to parenting. Here, a brief guide to his contrarian take:

So… we’re spending too much on kids?
“In a nutshell,” says Sierra Black at Strollerderby, “Caplan believes that parents are ‘overcharging’ themselves for their children.” By committing to intense tactics like attachment parenting, which requires moms to carry newborns non-stop and respond to their every desire, they’re unnecessarily robbing themselves of time. Parents also feel obligated to spend a fortune on lessons of every kind, and an endless stream of educational videos and toys.

And all that expensive attention is really unnecessary?
Yes. Caplan says the bottom line is that nature — the kids’ genes — mostly determines who they’ll be; the power of nurture, he says, is minimal. Research on twins and adopted children shows that kids raised by highly educated parents with big vocabularies, for example, tend to know more words when they’re tiny. But by the time they reach age 12, “the effect of enriched upbringing on vocabulary was barely visible,” Caplan says in The New York Times.

So what should parents do?
Save your money, relax, and don’t be afraid to have more kids. In Caplan’s view, says Brian Doherty at Reason, “it’s perfectly OK and harmless to rely on ‘electronic babysitters’ such as TV and video games, as well, to make parenting less costly on you.” He wants parents to focus instead in enjoying the experience of parenthood, and watching their kids grow up. “Most people think that raising decent kids requires decades of unpleasant sacrifices,” Caplan tells the Times. “No wonder they’re tempted to keep their families small — or remain childless.”

What do the critics say?
Caplan is reading too much into the twin studies, says Tyler Cowen atMarginal Revolution. The same kid will turn out vastly different if raised by Amish, or Chinese-American, or orthodox Jewish parents; nurture likely has more influence than Caplan cares to admit.


An Interview with Frank M. Hess and Bruno V. Manno: On Customized Schooling by Michael F. Shaughnessy (on his new book “Customized Schooling: Beyond Whole School Reform” at Amazon and Harvard Education Press’s website: http://www.hepg.org/hep/book/133. )

New App lets parents read to children from afar

New report details children’s media consumption and exposure to multiple digital tools at young ages

Excerpt: “My hunch is that it was distorted teaching methods that ruined our respect for memory. Instead of regarding it as comprehension and competence with a body of knowledge, memory got a bad name during the last century as it became linked to pressuring students to grasp large chunks of subjects barely enough to get through a test but certain to be forgotten almost immediately. Students did the inevitable. They crammed, they learned by rote (i.e. without assimilating meaning), and their obviously-stumbling memory took the blame. This is just my hunch.

But I can only regard it overall as an intellectual crime committed by education officials. Neither the school, nor the teacher, nor the students themselves expected to retain the results any longer than necessary to get past the test. This practice may have met adults’ needs to categorize students but did not meet students’ needs for sustained learning. It has been foolish, it has been mediocre thinking, for adults to impose a time-consuming task on students impelling them to utilize an ineffective learning tool while leaving behind little solid residue of learning.

To the contrary, the challenge to sustained memory matters greatly because the essentials of any field of knowledge are certain to depend on exact knowledge: the meaning of terms, the assumptions and structure and systems that characterize the field, the exact words and numbers of formulas, and all the steps of key procedures. One cannot be competent in any field without knowing exactly what other competent people in it know exactly. Some learning is simply indispensable to grasp correctly.

We can draw from this a reasonable expectation for education: learn exactly all the important knowledge in every subject. This would be the single best step for equipping students to expand their knowledge into everything else less important! Let’s at least have them learn and retain the critical stuff perfectly, and see if that brings us closer concernng what else to place in front of them.

If that seems like an overwhelming task, it divides neatly into doable increments, just like learning names. In the 1900s, a member of a European royal family (whose name escapes me) was very good at remembering names. Due to his formal role, he met a large number of people, and although he had no special facility, he worked at it. He would immediately repeat the name, fix the person’s face in his mind, and repeat the name again and again. Later the same day he would follow up with further effort to recall each person and connect names to faces.

Stand this member of royalty alongside any given student who faces a steady stream of new ideas coming at him. If he can repeat an idea instantly upon hearing it, it’s made an impression on his mind and he’s at least turned it into a memory. He drew out what went in. He converted an impression into a memory by the act of retrieving it while it was fresh. From that point on, all he needs is periodically to do the same thing. Just retrieving what went in drives it deeper.

For you and I, for anything really important to us, we try to hold onto as much of it as we can right from the start. Our Plan A is to seize a piece of learning and steadily deepen it by thinking about it, recalling it, talking about it, and relating it to other knowledge. Our Plan B is more leisurely. We familiarize ourselves with the material, understand it, forget it, re-acquaint ourselves with it, understand it, forget some of it, etc. Then at some point when pushed, we realize we’ve wasted a lot of time and have to actually exert effort to discover what we can retain. Without the deliberate attempt to elicit the material from the depths of memory, it remains a surface impression easily forgotten.

Think of the teacher axiom, “You learn a subject by teaching it.” Why is this a commonplace? Teaching a subject inevitably calls up our understanding from the depths of our mental field and expresses it in words. The same activity may also account for the long-observed impact of peer tutoring on the tutor—who typically learns the subject better himself.

A characteristic of memory that appears to be largely overlooked is the difference between how much you know when you can tell it back soon after reviewing it, compared to how much you know if you can explain the same knowledgeafter not having thought about it for six months. What’s the difference? The latter is lodged more deeply in you, is more fully associated, and relies on more robust neurological connections. You developed it so thoroughly within your knowledge base that you can ignore it for six months and still recall it perfectly.

Knowledge retrievable only if reviewed the same day is confined to the surface of the mind, spelled out in a more tenuous network of mental associations. If you couldn’t retrieve it at all, then you have to have it re-taught to you, which is time wasted. Those who got it the first time are bored (they typically expect to be), and those who didn’t pay attention in the first place may not even do so on hearing it a second time and may need it repeated a third or fourth time. What’s needed instead is realizing what instantly deepens our grasp (e.g. of the volt, amp, watt, and joule). What might it be? It’s simple really. Only one answer is possible: you retrieve from within what you installed there. That’s the only activity that helps.

The practical, simple way to do this is to have students turn to someone near them and explain it back and forth till both know it.  To give system to this effort, have them record and claim every answer they can call up and explain—generating a tangible record of their growing competence that they enjoy and value. From then on, by just periodically retrieving what they’ve learned, they keep it permanently. From hour one they begin to build a permanent body of knowledge they never relinquish. They supply the missing teacher intent, and correct the violation of the laws of learning. To sum up:

1) For any learning to be utilized, it must be remembered. 2) Without teacher intent, students won’t remember anything. 3) The easiest time to begin is when learning is first presented. 4) The most efficient route to deep learning is to practice retrieving and expressing it from the time of its first presentation.

John Jensen is a licensed clinical psychologist and author of The Silver Bullet Easy Learning System: How to Change Classrooms Fast and Energize Students for Success (Xlibris, 2008), and of Practice Makes Perfect: How to Rescue Education One Classroom at a Time, published elsewhere on this site. He welcomes comments sent to him directly at jjensen@gci.net and will email an ebook version of the titles above to anyone without charge upon request

Read the rest here


10 College Admissions Trends | A Harvard Interviewer’s Haunting Memories

It isn’t the Culture, Stupid

Hold out for the Plus Element

The State of the Art of Math Education: Let’s Move On

Our Testing Obsession

On Fixing Special Education: 12 Steps to Transform a Broken System


Lesson resources:

Not losing to the Rain – A powerful poem, especially now lent new meaning, by Tohoku poet, Kenji Miyazawa that embodies the spirit of the Tohoku people. Many of us are great fans of Kenji Miyazawa’s children’s books (especially the nature and animal books including “The Night of the Milky Way Railway”) and they are found in every public library. See The World of Kenji’s Works

Earth & Fire: Above the Pacific Ring of Fire Lies Japan – about plate tectonics and Japan

Niall Ferguson – Empire: How Britain Made the Modern World – White Plague 1/5 (on Youtube)

NASA Scientists Develop New Way to Accurately Predict Tsunami Size

U.S. Earthquake Preparation – Japan 8.9 Magnitude Earthquake – Popular Mechanics – Japan is the most earthquake-savvy nation on earth. Its population is psychologically prepared, its building codes are tough, and it lavishes millions of dollars on research. Its E-Defense shake table, located at the Hyogo Earthquake Engineering Research Center, north of Kobe, is the world’s largest, ­capable of holding full-scale buildings up to seven stories high and weighing up to 2.5 million pounds.

Japan has also spent decades implementing an Earthquake Early Warning (EEW) system that transmits an alarm signal to population centers. Because a quake’s motion travels at the speed of sound and a fiberoptic signal can travel near the speed of light, such a system could provide anywhere from a few seconds to more than a minute of warning.

The EEW helped save the lives of more than 150 passengers aboard a bullet train in 2004, when a magnitude 6.8 quake struck the island of Honshu. The train was traveling at 125 mph about 11 miles from the epicenter. Within 3.6 seconds of the quake, an observatory detected the tremors. Simultaneously, an alarm issued and the train’s power­ supply was cut. The operator applied the brakes, significantly reducing speed. Two and a half seconds later, violent tremors hit. The train derailed, but no one aboard was injured. A similar ­system gave Tokyo 80 seconds’ warning of the Sendai quake.

The U.S. is just starting to explore these kinds of technologies. The USGS has begun to install 120 seismic monitors in the most vulnerable areas of ­California, mainly in the Los Angeles basin and the northern part of the state. Still, building the system will take time. “We’re talking at least three years, and probably five” before it becomes operational, project chief David Oppenheimer says.

Earthquake Research Digs Deep to Find Timely Warning System – Right now the best that seismologists can do to “predict” earthquakes is to send out a warning immediately after activity is detected. In the case of the Samoan islands, they sent an alert about a magnitude 8 earthquake under the ocean floor early Tuesday morning. Within minutes of that alert, mammoth tsunami waves stampeded the islands leaving little time for evacuation.

“The state of knowledge of the subsurface is just at the beginning,” says University of Wisconsin-Madison geophysicist Harold Tobin, “We’re at the point now where we need to move our experiments from the lab and see if what we think is happening is actually occurring on a larger-scale.” To that end, Tobin and his team have drilled 1-mile deep holes in a major fault zone off the coast of Japan and placed instruments inside fault lines to record subtle changes in activity.

“It’s similar to hooking up a patient to an EKG machine to monitor vital signs,” says Tobin, “We’re recording things like pressure and temperature.” The goal is to “wire-up” fault zones all over the planet.

In addition to studying the physical characteristics of fault zones, scientists are also examining the behavior of tremors far below Earth’s surface. University of Edinburgh scientists recently developed a new technique to use earthquakes as essentially natural seismometers. This will allow scientists to record movements far deeper in the Earth than normal seismometers and create a more comprehensive map of seismic activity.

Researchers are also looking at how seismic activity in one fault zone may influence another. Although some earthquakes are the result of stress built up between two plates, quakes are also caused by weakened fault lines. A high magnitude quake in one area can increase the probability of future quakes down the fault line.

New research indicates this impact may even extend to distant fault zones. A study released this month by researchers at the Carnegie Institution shows that the powerful Sumatran quake of 2004 directly weakened the far away San Andreas fault zone in California. The researchers developed a unique method to monitor fault strength by measuring fluid movement within fault zone fractures. (Fluid movement lubricates fault zones increasing the likelihood of an earthquake.) Using highly sensitive seismic equipment, they found that a large earthquake is able to cause subtle shifts from long distances.

Physical and behavioral data from these natural labs could potentially be used to develop computer models that may one day have real short-term prediction capabilities. But this is still a long way off.

What to pack for disaster — and what to leave behind

Predicting Earthquakes: Scientists Use Satellites and Drills to Follow a Force of Nature

The Island Nation Article on the spirit of Sendai  and the nation, from foreignpolicy.com an interesting article

Resources on how to make a vegetable oil lamp. All you need is some aluminium foil and tissue paper to make the wick, a glass jar and veggie oil. It burns brighter than a candle, and when the bottle or jar tips over, the fire stays contained within the jar. Less flammable than a candle. They have been featured all over J. newspapers in the weeks when the teiden news was rife. See: http://sites.google.com/site/olivesoce/nichi-youhin/saradaoiru-ranpu and https://picasaweb.google.com/moshimotion/VegetableOilLamp02#slideshow/5585446760129082370