Manners Before Knowledge in Japan

Text: Kaycie Gayle
Header photo courtesy: © carlosbarria|

People are created to be social beings hence, we can’t live on our own, for this reason, we must learn how to improve our lives together as a group or being with other people to live in harmony. One selfish act affects others as well, therefore, we must understand our individual duties, responsibilities, and manners which are founded on caring for and respecting each other that is needed for people to live together peacefully. Apparently, many people are educated but not totally mannered. Many of us are taught how to read, write, count numbers, excel academically and trained to always do well in school since the formative years of our life. However, the most important lesson that we must learn early on which is understanding wrong from what is right is oftentimes neglected to be taught.

In Japan, fostering consideration and sympathy is important. Even at a young age, they make children caring people by encouraging kindness and establish a sense of community. For Japanese manners before knowledge is important. The goal for the first three years of school is not to judge the child’s knowledge or learning but is primarily focused on developing their character and cultivate good manners. Hence, students don’t get any exam until they reach Fourth grade in which their age by that time is ten. They are taught good manners such as being courteous and respecting other people while also paying attention to being gentle to both nature and animals. They are also taught how to be compassionate, empathetic and generous. Moreover, the right kind of attitude to succeed in life from having a sense of grit, self-control and justice are introduced to them.

This is taught by means of understanding that kids learn from what they see and realizing that it will be hard for a child to learn good manners without seeing any. Moreover, consistency is important, what is learned at home must be done outside as well. In the same way what is taught and practiced inside the school shall be applied back home or even in other places. Ultimately parents have a crucial role in teaching manners in the formative years of their child, however, teachers are also important in shaping the young minds. Japanese understand that each one of them is responsible for teaching manners, etiquette, and character skills to develop the moral awareness of children.

Focusing on character and manners before knowledge is something to be admired with the Japanese educational system. Hence they are known to be polite people that give significance to the old ways and courtesies which are oftentimes ignored in a competitive world that is driven with information and technology. In a world that is becoming coldhearted and a compassion is slowly being forgotten and taken for granted in order to get ahead, taking a glimpse on some wisdom from Japanese education in shaping the next generation could be of help to remember that achievement should never be a basis for one’s judgment but by its character.

Should this method be implemented in other places as well? Please share if you believe likewise to spread this good practice.