Becoming Individuals Together: Socialisation in the Japanese Preschool

Rachael Burke


Early childhood educators and parents in New Zealand commonly express the hope that young children become independent, creative individuals. In contrast, Japanese preschools work towards a harmonious group of children whose views and behaviour are mirrored by their classmates. Dominated by lengthy periods of free play with little disciplinary action by teachers, classes as large a forty introduce children to 'life in the group' (shūdan seikatsu) and to essential Japanese social values. This approach is often at odds with stereotypical images New Zealanders may have of Asian children as academically driven from an early age. As New Zealand institutions face increasing numbers of Asian children entering the early childhood sector, this paper examines the ideology and practice of shūdan seikatsu socialisation methods prevalent in Japanese preschools in the hope of stimulating critical reflection by New Zealand educators on their own methods and goals.

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