1st Grader School Life #2

Second version of Japanese public elementary school life.

As you may know, public schools are free – parents would have to pay for the school lunch that cost around 5,000 yen per month and some school supply fees that are collected time to time, mostly at the beginning of the school year and that’s most likely it.

PTA (Parents and Teachers Association) conditions differs depending on the school and the principal. Generally there is a core PTA committee participated by parents of all grades as the school’s counterpart that hold annual general assemblies. There are also a few parents participating in the PTA activities at a class level, who are in charge of event planning, watching over children on their way to/from school, and newsletters to list a few. For some schools parent participation for one school year is mandatory, and for some schools parents can choose whatever they want to participate in according to their lifestyle: working parents choose to be in charge of events that are usually held in the weekends, and stay-at-home mothers choose to watch over children a few times a year at the school routes, because it is less burden.

In my daughter’s school, the biggest events would be summer festival in late August and sports day in late September.

The summer festival takes place during summer vacation so it is not mandatory to join – however it is a good chance to meet up and have fun together with school friends so most students stop by. There will be stores ran by PTA parents that sell food, drinks and cool deserts like shaved ice. Also there are game shops and music performed by teachers and senior students from nearby junior high schools, which seemed to be a lot of fun to my daughter last year. Many students dress up in Yukatas (Japanese summer kimonos) and enjoy Bon dancing (a traditional Japanese dance; originally part of a religious ceremony to comfort spirits).

Sports day is a day that many Japanese children look forward to. It is a special day to enjoy sports, dancing, and performance with classmates and have their parents come and look, and record their efforts. It is a full-day event, and parents carry handmade lunch boxes for the whole family. It is literally a festival – which means PTA would also have to make a lot of effort toward the big day. Likewise schools in other countries, parents play a large role in the children’s school life.

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