Exasperated educator takes workplace survey and is depressed by rationale for forcing students to join after-school programs.

Japanese society is often described as being group-oriented, and that’s something that extends all the way down to youth education. Students are strongly encouraged to participate in school-administered extracurricular activities such as sports, art, and music programs, and students that don’t are sarcastically, and somewhat pejoratively, referred to as being members of the kitakubu or “going-home club.”

Many schools even go so far as to mandate that all students must join a club of some sort. That’s the case at the high school where Japanese Twitter user @kimamanigo0815 works as a teacher, but she wondered what the real rationale is for forcing the students to participate in extracurricular activities.

To investigate, @kimamanigo0815 took a faculty opinion survey, asking her colleagues if they felt a compulsory extracurricular activity system was necessary, and if so, why. Roughly 80 percent of her coworkers responded that they believed the school should keep the requirement in place, with the four major reasons they cited being:

1. The students will be more likely to misbehave if they aren’t made to participate in extracurricular activities.

2. Without the requirement, some clubs won’t be able to attract members and will be discontinued.

3. Without the requirement, it will be harder to attract new students/their parents to the school.

4. The school will no longer be able to collect an “extracurricular activities fee” from all students’ households if some of them are not participating in any such activities.

While those are all pragmatic reasons to keep the current requirement in place, @kimamanigo0815 couldn’t help but notice something missing from the responses. “No one mentioned anything about the mandatory extracurricular activity system benefiting the students themselves,” she tweeted.

Online reactions included:

“My school was like this, so I had no choice but to join a club. I ended up in one I didn’t have any affinity for, and since we couldn’t just change clubs when we wanted to, I ended up being forced to stay in the same one. How can anyone think this is a good system?”

“It’s just easier for the school to manage the students if they’re all doing the same sort of things.”

“When my junior high school got rid of its extracurricular activity requirement, kids stopped ditching sports practices and club meetings. You stopped hearing kids say they hated school because of extracurricular requirements, and they started behaving better, so I really can’t say making extracurricular club activities mandatory is good for the students.”

“I’m a student…Some [of us] have things we want to do other than join clubs, and some don’t have the physical stamina for regular extracurricular activities. But occupying students’ free time is the quickest, easiest way to keep them from getting into trouble after school, but then that’s not something students themselves are going to agree with.”

In their defense, many of the teachers in the survey who supported compulsory extracurricular activities probably feel that keeping kids out of trouble, as well as introducing them to athletic or cultural activities they wouldn’t have otherwise tried, give the children fuller, more wholesome lives, and thus do, in fact, qualify as benefiting the students themselves. However, @kimamanigo0815 and critics also make a compelling point that you can’t force someone to like something, and trying to do so with extracurricular activities might make students hate school in general.

Source: Twitter/@kimamanigo0815 via Jin
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