Wednesday 24 March 2021

Schooling in a Pandemic: How it went down in Japan this school year.

 Phew! The school year is over and what a year it has been! It began roughly but ended quite smoothly with 100% of the content covered, at least in the education system where I work. Here’s how we were able to achieve this year's goals despite the threat of COVID-19.

The school year started in April 2020 right in the middle of the pandemic, with school shut down, amidst lots of fears and uncertainty; but the Board of Education, teachers and all stakeholders involved recalibrated quickly, and work partially continued with students attending classes in batches a couple of hours a week, receiving homework and self-study packs. Those first few weeks were tough, as teachers had to teach the same lesson several times a day, clean and disinfect all the tables and chairs and equipment used after each lesson. There were also Saturday classes twice a month for about six months. 

Masks, of course. Wearing masks was quite easy to achieve because even before the pandemic in Japan, when someone had even a mild cold, they wore masks to prevent spreading their infection. Students were compliant, though in the summer it was quite hard and they took off their masks once in a while. In those moments, I was finally able to see what some of my students looked like. However, some never took off their masks in class so I still do not know what they really look like because I started working here this school year.

Also, temperatures were closely monitored - students were given sheets to record their temperature every day, including weekends. In addition, there were alcohol disinfectant sprays on every floor and in every classroom and we all had to bring personal hand towels to use after hand washing. 

Usually, the Japanese school year is packed with lots of activities like entrance ceremony, sports day, school trips, school festival, chorus festival and graduation ceremony. Well, in my little town where I work (there’s only one Junior high school- just to let you know how small the town is),  ALL of these events took place and students were still able to enjoy school life as usual, even though some pandemic adjustments were made. Normally, during the chorus contests, each class would sing and a winner would be chosen. This year they did sing with face shields on, but it wasn’t a contest because the face shields made it unfair to judge. 

I thought the graduation ceremony held for the third grade students was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen! I might have cried a little. But I was told that they didn’t even do half of what they would usually do because of COVID. For example, the graduating students didn’t sing and parents weren’t allowed into the hall but they stayed in their children’s classroom and watched the ceremony streamed live. 

Of course there were a few cases of COVID-19 infections but they were handled deftly and swiftly to stop the spread of infection. One time, the whole first grade class of one of the elementary schools in the town was shut down for three days because a student tested positive. All the students had to go in for testing immediately and self-isolate with their family members until they received the test results. Lessons continued the following week though some students who sat very close to the infected student had to self-isolate for two weeks even if they tested negative. On a different occasion, a kid in one of the after-school clubs tested positive and the club was shut down for a few days while everyone went in for testing.  My child was a student in the affected class and a member of the after-school club; he tested negative on both occasions and was allowed back to school as normal. 

As we go on to rest and enjoy the few days of spring holiday, I celebrate the educators all over the world who are taking risks to continue to educate children in the midst of the pandemic, you are the real heroes! My heart goes out to people who lost loved ones to COVID-19 this school year, may the souls of the departed find peace. 

Thanks for stopping by, see you next post! 


  1. Thank you for your service. That was an awesome read.


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