Learned everything covered in class? You get 100 percent. Learned more than what was covered in class? Then you get a bonus.

Every couple of months, a parent in Japan will take to social media to vent about their child’s ridiculously rigid-minded teacher. Some of the most aggravating incidents have included teachers telling students that statements like “the rotation of the earth causes shadows to move” and “12 times 25 equals 300” are unacceptable.

Usually, the source of the warped logic is that the teachers, or perhaps the grading systems they’re being forced to use, insist on students answering questions using only information and techniques that have already been covered in class. But doesn’t doing that discourage independent learning and application of outside concepts?

That seems to be the worry of the teacher of Japanese Twitter user @TBRkaori’s son. So rather than stifling young learner’s curiosity and comprehensive way of thinking, the teacher is actively rewarding it.

▼ Photos of @TBRkaori’s son’s recent test for writing Japanese kanji characters

First, a little background about Japanese language tests. In broad terms, Japanese writing is divided into two sets of characters: kana and kanji. Kana, which represent sounds, are simpler to write, and there’re only around 50 of them. On the other hand, kanji, which represent concepts, are much more complex, and there are over 1,800 of them.

Kids pick up kana pretty quickly, but learning kanji is a much lengthier process. So kanji tests in Japanese schools usually have short sentences or phrases written in kana, some of which are underlined and have to be rewritten by the student in kanji. For example, a kanji test question might have the phrase Nihon ni sundeimasu meaning “I live in Japan,” written all in kana, with Nihon/Japan underlined, because the question wants to see if the student can write Nihon in kanji or not.

As we can see, the students have to rewrite the underlined kana in kanji, but they can leave the other kana as they are. However, those other kana could be rewritten in kanji as well, if the student has been learning on their own beyond the material that’s been covered in class. For example, if you write Nihon ni sundeimasu/I live in Japan using not just the kanji for “Japan,” but for “live” too, it looks like this.

Getting back to @TBRkaori’s son’s class, if you go above and beyond like this, writing just the target kana in kanji, but the other kana too, the teacher gives extra credit! Because of that, it’s possible for hard-working kids to score above 100 percent on their tests. On the exam in the photos tweeted above, for example, her son got 103 percent, and his personal best so far this school year is an impressive 112 percent.

Even more heartening is that the teacher’s enlightened attitude isn’t a result of @TBRkaori’s son attending a high-priced, exclusive private school. @TBRkaori says that her son, who’s currently in the sixth grade, simply goes to the public elementary school nearest their home. And it’s not like she’s pressuring her son to outpace the school’s curriculum either. He just likes reading books, she says, and in the course of doing so he’s learned more than the bare minimum of what school forces him to.

In other words, he’s being rewarded for his curiosity and desire to learn useful things, not punished for it, and we have a hunch that’s setting up a positive pattern that’s going to benefit him for the rest of his life,

Source: Twitter/@TBRkaori via Hachima Kiko
Top image: Pakutaso
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