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January 10, 2017

Japanese-Style Education - “Special Activities” /Tokubetsukatsudo(Tokkatsu) - Spreads to Egyptian Elementary Schools

photoKeeping the classroom clean with a broom and dustpan
photoGood Luck on your nitchoku (day duty)!
photoPromoting “special activities” at a meeting with parents

In Japanese elementary schools, students participate in “special activities.” These include cleaning the classroom and being the class leader for a day (nitchoku). They are in addition to lessons on academic subjects. With JICA’s support, Japanese-style special activities are now spreading to the classrooms of Egypt. Special activities are a basic component of Japanese-style education. They are intended to complete the balanced development of students’ physical, emotional and intellectual abilities.

Japanese-style education was introduced in the Egyptian educational system under the initiative of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. He showed a keen interest in Japanese education when Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited Egypt in January 2015. In this country facing political uncertainty and an economic downturn after the Arab Spring, it is a monumental task to educate the children responsible for the future.

In response to this situation, JICA and Egypt’s Ministry of Education and Technical Education introduced 10 activities on a trial basis in two elementary schools beginning in October 2015. These activities include washing hands, nitchoku, cleaning, a physical fitness test and a five-minute daily calculation drill.

The most popular activity among students is nitchoku, in which everyone can be a leader for a day. Usually in Egypt, a student who has good grades helps the teacher as the leader of the class. Nitchoku gives every student in the class a chance to be a leader. They all can barely wait for their turn. Nitchoku duties include announcing to the class when a new class period begins, keeping a class journal and turning out the lights when a classroom is vacated.

Another of the activities is that students clean their classroom by themselves. At first, parents objected, saying cleaning is not students’ job. But after a trial run, students started to take the initiative to clean their own houses, and parents were persuaded.

Special activities look likely to take root in schools around Egypt. The experiment is expected to be effective. In addition, these activities are expected to lay the foundation for students actively studying school subjects on their own. JICA is preparing the project “Maintaining of the educational environment for improving the quality of education,” its first that incorporates special activities.

In advance of a new school year, JICA and the Ministry of Education held a four-day seminar Sept. 19-22 in Cairo aimed at putting special activities into practice. The Ministry of Education and Technical Education plans to expand the trial to 12 schools. A total of 300 people attended, including teachers of the new pilot schools and university faculty members interested in Japanese-style education. Many attendees said they want to work on special activities right away.

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