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Just about everyone knows someone who has been bullied, in ways big and small. Understandably, though, many victims are reluctant to speak about their experiences. We found some who aren't.
BY CAROLINE WALLACE, St. Petersburg High
How would your high school experience stand up against schools in countries on the other side of the world? Three St. Petersburg high students make the comparison with China and Japan for you: Seniors Hayden Grant and Solomon Howard spent two weeks during the summer in Takamatsu, Japan as St. Petersburg’s student ambassadors. They attended two different Japanese high schools. Noelle Rutland, also a senior, spent six weeks in Zhuhai, China on a scholarship from the State Department. She took Chinese classes at a local university and learned about Chinese high school from her host sister and other students she met. Grant, Howard, and Rutland found several differences, both good and bad, between the American and Asian school systems. A few areas stood out.
In Japan, the high school students choose different specialized tracks to follow. Howard and Grant went to school with the international, humanities and English tracks. The students are grouped into classes of 40 based on their tracks and stay with the same class, in the same classroom (the teachers switched classes) throughout high school. In China, Rutland observed similar large, lecture-style classes. Grant liked that the students were able to form close bonds with their classmates. Howard disliked the style of the classes, which discouraged discussion and comments from students.
In both China and Japan, students go to high school for three years instead of four. Japanese high school runs from eight in the morning to four in the afternoon, with a few hours of extracurricular activities after class. In China, Rutland said that her host sister “went to school around eight in the morning” and would be there all day, sometimes returning “at odd hours of the night.”
Grant, Howard and Rutland were surprised to learn that in China and Japan college admissions is entirely based on one standardized test. Grant and Howard liked the system. Their friends in Japan already knew where they were going to college and avoided the kind of anxiety that American seniors experience. In China, however, Rutland’s host sister “was a little crazed” because her exams were coming up. She thought the system was stressful and unfair to bad test-takers. Free from the pressures of high school and living at home, the Chinese college students she met seemed more relaxed and happy.
Because they had no bearing on college admissions, extracurricular activities in China and Japan have a different character from those in the United States. In Japan, they center around sports and cultural preservation. Grant and Howard loved participating in after-school activities such as Japanese archery, martial arts and tea-hanging. They also played in a sports tournament among classes. In China, Rutland found that extracurricular activities were more family-based instead of organized by the school. Many parents encouraged students to play sports or musical instruments.
Howard and Grant said they enjoyed a vibrant social life in Japanese high school. The students in each class have close bonds with each other and with some of their teachers. Both participated in karaoke, a popular activity for Japanese students even on weeknights. In China, Rutland thought her host sister’s social life was virtually nonexistent. She hadn’t been to a birthday party since she snuck out to go to one in middle school. In both China and Japan, a social divide exists between girls and boys. Chinese parents do not allow their high school children to date. Rutland’s host parents forced her host sister to switch schools when they found out she had a boyfriend. In Japan, Howard and Grant thought that boys and girls in general did not form strong friendships.