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Preschool in Three Cultures

Preschool in Three Cultures: Japan, China, and the United States

Joseph J. Tobin
David Y. H. Wu
Dana H. Davidson
Copyright Date: 1989
Published by: Yale University Press
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  • Book Info
    Preschool in Three Cultures
    Book Description:

    As the numbers of mothers in the workforce grows, the role of the extended family diminishes, and parents feel under greater pressure to give their children an educational headstart, industrialized societies are increasingly turning to preschools to nurture, educate, and socialize young children. Drawing on their backgrounds in anthropology, human development, and education, Tobin, Wu, and Davidson present a unique comparison of the practices and philosophies of Japanese, Chinese, and American preschool education and discuss how changes in childcare both reflect and affect larger social change.

    The method used is innovative: the authors first videotaped a preschool in each culture, then showed the tapes to preschool staff, parents, and child development experts. Through their vivid descriptions of a day in each country's preschools, photographs made from their videotapes, and Chinese, Japanese, and American evaluations of their own and each other's schools, we are drawn into a multicultural discussion of such issues as freedom, conformity, creativity, and discipline.

    In China, for example, preschools are expected to provide an antidote to the spoiling that Chinese fear is inevitable in an era of singlechild families. Americans look to preschools not only to teach reading and to encourage children to be creative, expressive, and independent but also to provide a stability and richness otherwise missing from many children's lives. Japanese preschools, surprisingly for many Americans, deemphasize discipline and academics and instead stress the teaching of group interaction to a generation of overly sheltered children. In all three nations, preschools, rather than being radical or transforming, function to conserve values believed to be threatened by social change.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-16238-7
    Subjects: Education

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-1)
    Joseph Jay Tobin
  4. Chapter One Introduction
    (pp. 2-11)

    In Japan, China, and the United States preschool is an increasingly common solution to the problem of how to care for, socialize, and educate children between infancy and the start of formal schooling. Approximately 95 percent of the four-year-olds in Tokyo, 80 percent of the four-year-olds in Beijing, and 65 percent of the four-year-olds in New York are enrolled in nursery schools, day-care centers, or group-care homes.

    In other eras most young children in these societies were cared for in settings other than preschools. They were raised in their homes by fulltime mothers, taken to the fields by parents who...

  5. Chapter Two Komatsudani: A Japanese Preschool
    (pp. 12-71)

    Komatsudani Hoikuen, a Buddhist preschool located on the grounds of a three-hundred-year-old temple on a hill on the east side of Kyoto, has 120 students. Twelve of these children are infants, under eighteen months, who are cared for in a nursery by four teachers. Another 20 Komatsudani children are toddlers, under three years of age, who are cared for in two groups of 10 by three teachers and an aide. The rest of the children are divided into three-year-old, four-year-old, and five-year-old classes, each with 25 to 30 students and one teacher. Each class has its own homeroom within the...

  6. Chapter Three Dong-feng: A Chinese Preschool
    (pp. 72-125)

    Dong-feng (East Wind) Kindergarten is a preschool run by a city in southwest China for the children of municipal employees. Occupying the grounds of an old estate, the six red brick one- and two-story buildings of Dong-feng provide space for 270 three- to six-year-old children and sixty staff members. Three-quarters of Dong-feng’s children are day (ri tuo) students, who attend school from about 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Monday through Saturday. The other quarter are boarding (quan tuo—literally, “whole care”) students, who go home only on Wednesday evenings and weekends.

    At 7:45 on a brisk Monday morning in early...

  7. Chapter Four St. Timothy’s: An American Preschool
    (pp. 126-187)

    St. Timothy’s Child Center operates a set of programs including full-day and half-day care for children two through five years old, a kindergarten for five- and six-year-olds, and after-school care for elementary school children. The center, a nonprofit institution affiliated with St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church of Honolulu, is located on the church grounds in a neighborhood of mixed single-family homes, condominiums, and shopping centers. The preschool program, which serves ninety-five children, is housed in five large classrooms bordering a central playground.

    On the day we are videotaping, Linda Rios and Pat McNair, two of St. Timothy’s ten teachers, arrive a...

  8. Chapter Five A Comparative Perspective
    (pp. 188-222)

    Until now we have discussed Japanese, Chinese, and American preschools on their own terms, privileging insiders’ explanations and allowing parents and staff to speak directly about what preschools are meant to do and to be. In this chapter we change our approach, offering an outsider’s explicitly comparative perspective on the most significant differences and similarities in Japanese, Chinese, and American views of the function of preschool. We take the discussion outside the walls of the preschool, as we explore the question of how institutional child care affects and reflects change in the structure of the family.

    We use questionnaire results...

  9. References
    (pp. 223-232)
  10. Index
    (pp. 233-238)