I have recently returned from a 10-day trip to Japan, funded by the Asia New Zealand Foundation. I was part of a group of 10 PE teachers from around the country and we were very privileged to be given the opportunity to learn about Japanese culture and their school system, with a specific focus on Physical Education. The Asia New Zealand Foundation focus is to bridge the gap between Asia and New Zealand, and they offer a lot of support to young people who are looking at taking up some of the many opportunities Asia has to offer.
Japan is about to host three major sporting events in the next two years, the first is one dear to many New Zealanders hearts, the Rugby World Cup! We were very lucky to meet Ross Aitken from World Rugby and his role is RWC Cities and Venues Director. He has a small team working tirelessly with local organisations, from the type of grass to use on the pitch to the corporate lounges, he oversees his team to ensure the venues are ready for the masses of supporters from around the world. Next year Tokyo is the host city for the 2020 Olympics. We visited some of the Olympic venues and saw the main stadium which is beginning to take shape. Finally, Japan will host the World Masters Games in 2021.
School life in Japan is very different for the students; there is a huge focus on academic achievement and a lot of pressure put on students to perform highly if they want to get into good schools and Universities. Physical Education is also very different compared to New Zealand. The thing that stood out most for me was the curriculum. There is almost no separation between Physical Education and sport. All PE lessons are very practical, however, there is a lot of mass practice. This means that students will practice drills and skills continuously for entire periods. Their skill level is very high and watching them train was very impressive however we noticed their game sense was not there and when it didn’t go to plan the wheels feel off very quickly.
Some of the highlights for me from the trip were attending a Sumo match in the heart of Sumo, visiting Atsugi (a host city for some of the New Zealand Olympic team), experiencing traditional Japanese cuisine, visiting the Nippon Sports Science University (this is where PE teachers are trained) and visiting two schools and delivering a traditional Maori games session. I learnt a lot from this experience and I am very grateful to the Asia New Zealand Foundation for the opportunity. I am looking forward to implementing what I have learnt into my own teaching practice.
Cameron Winsloe - Teacher of PE