Parenting around the world and approaches to after school activities

In this blog we thought it would be interesting to do a spot of travelling. As you all know, we love our local area and are proud to support many of the fantastic activity providers we are lucky enough to have locally, but we thought we would explore some insights into parenting, education and after school activities around the world.

Focusing on three different countries: Japan, Spain and the USA, we explore parenting in these countries and share our findings on what it means to go school and spend time outside it in these three amazing parts of the world. Along the way, we aim to share with you some interesting stats and facts as well as discuss any differences and similarities, in particular to the way we think about extra curricular activities here at home in the UK.

Parenting and cultural differences

Before we set off on our trip around the world, it’s important to think about how we identify different parenting ‘trends’. Why across different cultures is parenting and child care often considered so different? Sara Harkness is a Professor of Human Development at the University of Connecticut, and has studied parenting and cultural difference for many years. Harkness states that “Parents everywhere love their children and want the best for their children. Everything else, including the way in which they love their children and what the best might mean is subject to variation” (1). Harkness goes on to explain her theory of ‘Parental ethnotheories’ in which every society from every culture has what it intuitively believes to be the right way to raise a child. Interesting enough, these are the choices we make for our children, without even realising that we are making them.

With the help from various sources and with Sara Harkness’ parenting theory in mind, let’s take a short educational parenting trip around the world.


In Japan, parents very much focus on developing independence in their children through their parenting skills and beliefs. From birth, it is common for parents to co-sleep with their babies, to constantly hold, nurture and respond to their cries. In some societies, this could be seen as ‘spoiling’ the child, but for many in Japan, they believe if their babies get their needs met from birth, they will grow to become more independent and confident children. (2) It is therefore not uncommon for parents to allow their children a far greater level of freedom and independence. Children are encouraged to actively do tasks and errands for themselves to cultivate this level of confidence in themselves.

Top 5 Facts - Going to School in Japan

  • Compulsory education in Japan starts at Elementary school from 6 years old.

  • The academic year usually starts in April and ends in March (with a Christmas and Summer vacation in between).

  • Elementary School lasts 6 years from Grades 1 - 6.

  • Junior High School lasts for 3 years from Grades 7 - 9.

  • High School lasts for another 3 years from Grades 10 - 12 (3)

School’s Out - Popular After School Activities

In 2005 a Japanese non-profit organisation called After School was launched. This project has been striving to open more After School activities for Elementary schools aged children, in safe and comfortable spaces at a low cost. Since its launch, the After School programme has offered over 300 activities such as house-building (with an architect), cooking, sports, music and craft. The programme provides this level of support by including local residents and professionals in various fields, as well as teachers to help with childcare during the after school activities. (4)


In this part of Europe, it is often the case that parenting is shared across the generations, with grandparents taking a much larger role in terms of child-rearing and decision making for younger family members. Emma Grenham, creator of commented “it can sometimes feel like you have stepped back a little in time and are watching life as it was for children in the UK a couple of decades ago, before a communal fear of childhood accidents.” (5) In fact attitude to childhood risk is very different, with children being more open to playing out unaccompanied on the street, or running short errands for the family unsupervised. Grenham also explains that it “seems that children grow up more slowly in Spain”.

Top 5 Facts - Going to School in Spain

  • Children start their primary and compulsory education from 6 years of age in Spanish schools.

  • The average Primary School day consists of lessons from 9.00am - 12.00pm, followed by a lunch break until school resumes again from 3.00pm - 5.00pm. Extra curricular activities usually take place during the afternoon.

  • Children continue with their secondary education from the age of 12 - 16 years old. Similar to the UK, the average school day begins at 8.30am/9.00am and finishes at around 3.00pm.

  • On average Spanish children take home 6.5 hours of homework each week.

  • Forget the average 6 weeks Summer holiday here in Britain - most Spanish schools break for 10 - 11 weeks over the Summer months!

School’s Out - Popular After School Activities

Sport is a big after school activity in Spain. Most Spanish children are active outside school and popular sports include: volleyball, football, tennis and table tennis. Other popular activities that are sometimes offered to children via their school include: chess, singing, ballet, music and drama to name but a few. (6)


There are many theories in America on how parenting is or should be conducted. Somewhat controversially Jennifer Senior in her TED Talk said “Americans have no script, we believe we get to invent our future, our opportunities and who are our children are going to be. Which is wonderful, but also very troubling”. (7) This description is somewhat reminiscent of ‘helicopter parenting’ a theory which has also recently been picked up on by the UK parenting press. Giving that impression that the parent is almost ‘hovering’ over their child, having a certain degree of power over their childhood and their future.

Top 5 Facts - Going to School in America

  • Children start school after Kindergarten at the age of 5 or 6 years of age.

  • Children finish their education aged 16, 17, or 18 depending on which state they live in.

  • There are usually four stages of education: Kindergarten; Elementary School; Middle School and Junior High School.

  • In the first year of High School pupils are called ‘Freshmen’, in the second year ‘Sophomore’, in third year ‘Junior’, and in their fourth and final year they are called ‘Senior’

  • Along with the more traditional STEM subjects, extra curricular activities play an important part of the University and College application process in High School. (8)

School’s Out - Popular After School Activities

After school activities are extremely popular in America.

From various sports to the arts and extended learning (languages, spelling, maths clubs etc), there is an activity to suit all personalities and strengths. According to a study carried out in 2015 by Pew Research Center ‘Seven-in-ten parents say their school aged child participated in sports in the past year’ (9) which is quite an impressive statistic. Extra-curricular activities are encouraged in America for ALL school aged children. In fact it is such an important part of American Society that its own organisation - The Afterschool Alliance - was set up to raise awareness of the importance of after school activities. This body in its own right is dedicated to raising investment so that all children can have access to affordable, quality after school activities.

Our final thought

What an interesting journey around the world.

We hope it has given you some interesting insights into some of the different education systems and parenting skills shown around the world.

In conclusion, we tend to agree with Sara Harkness on the point that we highlighted earlier on in our blog: “Parents everywhere love their children and want the best for their children. Everything else, including the way in which they love their children and what the best might mean is subject to variation”. Indeed we are all different in our parenting techniques and styles. Instead of feeling anxious and concerned about parenting difference, Harkness says that “we should be learning from each other and recognising that there are very different successful pathways to raising children.” (7). We couldn’t agree more.

Where to next?

Finally don’t leave all the planning to the last minute. Sign up today to receive tailored options of after school activities right into your inbox. For more information on how we can help visit us here.

Simply sign up, add your requirements and let us do the rest, so you don't have to trawl and sift through 100s of web pages, flyers and magazines. It’s easy and you remain in control at all times. Try us out today!











#Afterschoolactivities #KingstonUponThames #RichmondUponThames #Twickenham #Surbiton #Parenting #Research

Featured Posts
Tag Cloud
No tags yet.