2011 TC Pressroom
Teachers College, Columbia University
Teachers College Columbia University

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TC and Japan: Comparing Notes on Daycare

In October, about 25 daycare directors, administrators and teachers from the Independent Day Care Association of Hiroshima came to TC for professional development and to observe American daycare centers.

"This is part of an on-going project we have with them," Professor Leslie Williams said. Williams, a Professor of Education in the Department of Curriculum and Teaching, added that the partnership also allows TC to use authentic examples of early childhood education in other cultures.

Presentations made by Williams and doctoral candidate Mari Mori in addition to outings to nearby daycare centers focused on policies and practices in creating environments at daycare centers.

The Japanese daycare providers divided into three groups to observe local child-care centers. One went to the Center for Infants and Parents, one went to the Center for Toddlers and Parents and one went to Riverside Weekday School at Riverside Church. There they observed children and talked with teachers and parents. Volunteer TC students served as interpreters.

They also focused on multiculturalism in their own society. Mari Mori noted that, "Our understanding of Japan is that it is very homogenous. Japanese also believe that. In fact, it is not." She said there is diversity from region to region and family to family. "We also see children from foreign countries in our schools," she added. Mori's dissertation is entitled The Views of Japanese Kindergarten Teachers on Diversity and Multicultural Education.

Another observation involved looking at the balance between group and individual consciousness. Williams noted that the American centers they visited use many more individual kinds of activity centers than the Japanese do. The Japanese centers, according to Williams, "have fewer materials and greater emphasis on child-child interactions." One of their priorities is working on the development of empathy with each other at a very early age.

This partnership with the Hiroshima association is one of five international projects that the Early Childhood Education program is involved with. "It enriches our program and gives specific experience to our doctoral students," Williams said. "We used to only see through our own lens. Now we see there are different choices with different cultural priorities." "It doesn't mean we will change our choices," she added. "We have to understand our own cultural dynamics to influence our teaching in the ways that we wish."

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