Fear of Fourth Grade

My twins are nearing the final days of third grade.  Whenever I tell someone Japanese that they will be entering fourth grade in April, I get a weird, teeth-sucking response.  “Ahh, fourth grade,” people say.  “That’s when school becomes difficult.”  According to my husband, who is a Japanese public high school teacher, fourth grade is when our children’s futures will be decided.  It’s the year when kids are irrevocably sorted into Those Who Will Attend Good Colleges and Those Who Will Do Manual Labor.  Not that there’s anything wrong with manual labor.  When I say things like “at his/her own pace” or “late bloomer,” I am treated like an idiot.

But this is what I think:  There is huge world beyond Japan.  The possibilities are endless.


6 thoughts on “Fear of Fourth Grade

  1. So do they track kids starting in fourth grade into different academic programs? Or do they all get the same stuff, but it is just imagined that future potential can be determined by how well they do in fourth grade? Either way, ugh. But you’re right, there is a whole world out there, and your kids are lucky that you are there to remind them of it…

  2. It’s imagined. A self-fulfilling prophesy, maybe? I always feel that Japanese educators – and parents – are very rigid about milestones.

  3. My daughter will also be starting the 4th grade here next month. Yes–I’m getting those same comments about how hard it will be!! I’m with you when you say there are more possibilities out in the world.
    When I think back to myself in the 4th grade in the US, I can be sure my future wasn’t decided then. It was developed over my entire life from all sorts of experiences (not JUST school) and is still changing–and I hope that for my kids, too, whether they stay in Japan or move away…

  4. OMG, Suzanne! How are you coping?! I would be freaked out, for my child’s sake. I can only suggest you tell your son that he should do his best, and not get over-wrought – let the American part of him relax a bit! He can go to college here in the states, right?! Wow.

  5. Hi Suzanne–a little late! I agree with you 100%, and now, more than a decade later, my family finally believes it too. Tell your husband therapy (to treat symptoms caused by an overload of fear about the future) is expensive and time consuming. If he believes you right off the bat, you guys can save enough to spend some serious time at a tropical resort and buy a nice car. Lay off your kids until they are capable of making their own decisions. Their decisions (about themselves) are usually better than ours anyway.

  6. It might be pointed out that Japanese colleges for the most part aren’t very good anyway. My wife pretty firmly doesn’t want our sons to go to Japanese colleges, though she’d like them to attend high school for a while.

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