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JAPANESE EDUCATIONAL SYSTEM

After World War II, the Japanese school system was changed to resemble the American school system. Students are in six years of elementary school (shougakkou" 小学校), three years of junior high school (chugakkou" 中学校), three years of senior high school (koukou" 高校), and either 2 years of junior college (tankadaigaku" 単科大学 or "karejji" カレッジ) or 4 years of university (daigaku" 大学). However, in Japan's case, only elementary and junior high school are mandatory. High school and college, both requiring rigorous entrance exams, are optional (however, approximately 95% of junior high students choose to go to high school). The proportion of male students is higher at universities, while the opposite is true of junior colleges.

The most prestigious universities are the national University of Tokyo and University of Kyoto, followed by the best private universities.

Japan also has a "shadow education" which consist of home-tutors, "juku", prep schools, correspondence courses, etc. The most famous are the "juku" or cram schools. These are divided in "enrichment juku", attended by over 75% of elementary school and 25% of junior high school students, and "academic juku" teaching the same curriculum as ordinary schools. These "academic juku" are further divided in "review juku" ("hoshuu juku" 補習塾) and "advancement juku" ("shingaku juku" 進学塾), the latter preparing for the entrance exams (see below).

Students have to take entrance examination for junior high school, high school and university, if they change institution. It is always the case in public schools and universities.

University entrance exams ("juken" 受験) are particularly hard and is often referred to as "exam hell" ("shiken jigoku" 試験地獄). Students who fail the "juken" become "rounin" (浪人), (a term formerly used for masterless samurai), until the examinations are successfully passed the following year. Preparatory schools called "yobikou" (予備校) have for sole task to drill these students for the entrance exams. Yobiko are private schools that help students prepare for college entrance exams. They mainly work with ronin for full-time, year-long preparation classes. The cost of these courses is high, sometimes equal to what a student pays for first-year university expenses and can even be higher than that.They will also give practice exams throughout the year (for a fee, of course).

Some private schools do everything from kindergarten to university. In that case, students will only have to take an entrance examination or interview when they join the school, and are generally exempt afterwards. This is called the "elevator system", meaning that once someone has entered the institution, they automatically go to the next step until graduating from university.

The school year in Japan begins in April, and ends in March of the following year, it is more convenient in many aspects. April is the height of spring when cherry blossom (the most loved flower of the Japanese!) bloom and a most suitable time for a new start in Japan. This difference in the school-year system causes some inconvenience to students who wish to study abroad in the U.S. A half year is wasted waiting to get in and often another year is wasted when coming back to the Japanese university because of having to repeat a year. Classes are held from Monday to either Friday or Saturday, depending on the school. School usually starts at 8:30am and finishes at 3:50pm (Saturday mornings till 12:30 twice a month). Japanese daily education does not end at 3:30. Most of the students will be involved in an activity after school such as tennis, gym, baseball or any of the many clubs each school has. At the end of the school day o shoji, or the cleaning of the school is done. Students will clean the classroom, clean the restrooms and pick up trash. This helps to give the students more of a personal stake in taking care of their schools.

There are no janitors/custodians in public Japanese schools. The cubbies are for outdoor shoes. Each student has a pair of shoes dedicated for indoor use.


Cleaning the slippers.

In elementary school lessons last 45min with a 10min break between them. From junior high school, lessons last 50min. The school year consists of three terms, which are separated by short holidays in spring and winter, and a one month long summer break. They have lessons in the morning and afternoon with a lunch break; typically, high schools do not provide meals so the students often bring box lunches (bento) from home. Elementary and junior high students clean the rooms, halls, and yards of their own school every day.

Vacations are 6 weeks in the summer and about 2 weeks each for winter and spring breaks. There is often homework over these vacations.

Students must wear specific school uniforms (seifuku) and adhere to strict dress code rules, including the length and color of hair. Conformity and obedience are heavily emphasized with little discussion or interaction during lessons. However, students do get the chance to choose their own clubs and extracurricular activities, ranging from sports to science or art clubs. Students also have the opportunity to take class field trips, usually during the last year of junior and senior high school.

Another highlight of the school year is the annual cultural festival (bunkasai) in which each class creates food stands, plays, games and so on to celebrate their culture and show off what they have worked on. For students, this is often a chance to have some fun at school, free from the pressures of exams and uniforms. Often a two-day festival, the public is invited to see what the students have created and partake in the festivities.

The year structure is summarized in the table below:


Japanese School Rules

Kindergarten and Nursery School
Early childhood education begins at home, and there are numerous books and television shows aimed at helping mothers & fathers of preschool children to educate their children and to "parent" more effectively. Much of the home training is devoted to teaching manners, proper social behavior, and structured play, although verbal and number skills are also popular themes. Parents are strongly committed to early education and frequently enroll their children in preschools.

Kindergartens (yochien 幼稚園), predominantly staffed by young female junior college graduates, are supervised by the Ministry of Education, but are not part of the official education system. In addition to kindergartens there exists a well-developed system of government-supervised day-care centers (hoikuen 保育園), supervised by the Ministry of Labor. Whereas kindergartens follow educational aims, preschools are predominately concerned with providing care for infants and toddlers. Same as kindergartens there are public or privately run preschools. Together, these two kinds of institutions enroll well over 90 percent of all preschool-age children prior to their entrance into the formal system at first grade. The Japanese government aims to increase the availability of kindergartens, in part to allow mothers to work if they need or want to. The trend to earlier and earlier education is increasing with special subjects for kindergarten students including English.

Elementary School ~ Shogakko
Shōgakkō (小学校) are elementary schools in Japan.

All children enter first grade at age six, and starting school is considered a very important event in a child's life. For six years from age six to twelve, this is the first stage of compulsory education for Japanese children. Almost all Japanese children enter at this stage, although an increasing number have already experienced kindergarten.



In the schools here in Japan, the students are taught to do things themselves. Not only do they clean their own school, they also make and serve their own lunches - and beacuse they are very concerned with germs here, all the kids serving the food use face masks. Each class is sent to go pick up their own food! It is super cute!

Secondary Education in Japan is split into middle schools (中学校 chūgakkō) which cover the seventh through ninth years, and high schools (高等学校 kōtōgakkō, abbreviated to 高校 kōkō) which mostly cover years ten through twelve. Attendance in upper secondary school is not compulsory, but most students do attend.

Most Japanese upper secondary schools have complicated admissions procedures, similar to university admissions in other countries. Some of the top high schools, however, graduate their students directly into the top universities, such as the University of Tokyo. Students who do not plan to attend university are generally tracked into vocational high schools: very few lower secondary school graduates forgo upper secondary school entirely, although they are free to do so if they wish.

Junior High School ~ Chūgakkō
Lower-secondary school covers grades seven, eight, and nine—children between the ages of roughly twelve and fifteen—with increased focus on academic studies. This is a hugely important phase in the upbringing of the Japanese child. Results at Junior High School can determine entry to a good Senior High School and hence to a good university and career. At this point children usually stay late at school, busy with various clubs and activities as well as studies at a Juku (see below).




High School ~ Kōtōgakkō
The peak of pressure for the student in the Japanese school system from 15 to 18 years old, entry to senior high school is by an entrance exam. Preparation for the exam itself, of course, is usually through attending a good Juku (see below). To get a place at the best university means that a student really needs to go to the right senior high school, so the entrance exam can have a major impact on the future career of Japanese students. As the number of private schools increases (at present over one-quarter of senior high schools are private) and pressure to perform well increases, education ends up costing parents more and more. This pressure is slowly diffusing down the chain as entry to the best senior high schools is increasingly affected by the junior high school attended. Although not compulsory in Japan, over 90% of all children attend Senior High School.



Part-Time Senior High School
In some cases, where students are already working full time, they may attend evening school instead of normal high school. These classes are run in the evening, and instead of the usual three years, it takes four years to complete a senior high school education. Classes usually run until after 9pm or later, so this makes for a busy lifestyle for the working student. Compared to the average senior high school student, students at part-time high school tend to be far more socially mature and attentive students - also perhaps as attending a night school is generally a voluntary action and commitment is needed to complete the program, whereas attending Senior High School is often a matter of parental pressure.

Juku Gakushū juku (Japanese: 学習塾; cram schools) are special private schools (primarily in Japan) that offer lessons conducted after regular school hours and on the weekends.
The pressure of the education system in Japan is great, and so much of a child's future depends on going to the right school and university that from a very young age (in some cases from before ten years old) a child's school day does not end with the school bell. After the piano or violin lessons, the basketball or football, kendo or judo, archery or English, Maths or Art or any of the dozens of other clubs that are organized at school most children also attend cram schools called "Juku". These have extra lessons, which may be used to push bright students further or to help others catch up to the crowd. The classes may run until late, and a 12-hour day is not unusual for the Japanese high school student (before homework).

Half of all compulsory school-age children attend academic juku, which offers instruction in mathematics, Japanese language, science, English and social studies. Many other children, particularly younger children, attend nonacademic juku for piano lessons, art instruction, swimming, and abacus (soroban) lessons. Juku also play a social role, and children in Japan say they like going to juku because they are able to make new friends; many children ask to be sent because their friends attend. Some children seem to like juku because of the closer personal contact they have with their teachers. The higher the grade level, the greater the percentage of students attending juku. They can also be expensive but tend to be within the reach of most households.

While this system has produced one of the most impressive levels of literacy and highest standards education in the world, there are those who now question the impact of such pressure on students from such a young age. There are stories of increasing numbers of young adults and children with stress-related disorders, and tales of children withdrawing from society and school are common in the press and as subject-matter for dramas.

Juku are a common feature of Japanese education, and if you are a parent living in Japan can be a useful supplement to ensure that your child catches up to the rest of their class in Japanese language abilities.

Other Schools
There are plenty of other options available, including Senmon Gakkou (special technical or vocational training schools), Junior Colleges, and so on. Senmon Gakkou offer students the chance to combine Senior High School studies with a vocational subject - common ones include motor mechanics, hairdressing, architecture and the like. These are generally four-year courses, and start after Junior High School. Some Senmon Gakkou are highly competitive. Junior colleges offer two year university-style degrees, but leading to the title of "Associate" as opposed to a bachelor's degree. Nearly 90% of students at Junior colleges are female, while only about 40% of university students are female, one of several imbalances in the Japanese education system.

Japanese School Uniform
Japan introduced school uniforms in the late 19th century. Today, school uniforms are almost universal in the public and private school systems. They are also used in some women's colleges. The Japanese word for uniform is seifuku (制服).




Bunkasai ~ Undoukai ~ Japanese School Festival
Probably the best time in a Japanese school year - School Festival!
The Japanese Cultural Festival (文化祭, bunkasai) (pronounced boon-ka-sai) is an annual event held by most schools in Japan, from junior high schools to universities at which their students display their everyday achievements. People who want to enter the school themselves or who are interested in the school may come to see what the schoolwork and atmosphere are like. Parents may also want to see what kind of work their children have been doing.

However, many people who visit the cultural festivals come just for fun. Food is served, and often classrooms or gymnasiums are transformed into temporary restaurants or cafés. Dances, concerts and plays may be performed by individual volunteers or by various school "clubs" such as the dance club, the orchestra club, the band club and the drama club.


The Cultural Festival is intended to be a fun event, but it is also the only opportunity each year for students to see what life is like in other schools. It is also intended to enrich people's lives by increasing social interaction.

The festival takes place over three days. The first day is the school only culture performance day, where any student with musical talent (but also comedic or martial arts talent) displays it before the school. On the second day every club and team do something - selling food, performances, games - it is like a true festival. The students run the school, decorate it any way they wish, and plan everything. Students from other schools, parents, old staff members, local people alumni, all come to enjoy the day. The third day is the sports festival.


Bunkasai has to be the best day of high school for students. So much time and effort goes into the bunkasai, and the results are phenomenal. Each homeroom is responsible for something. All the third year homerooms make food booths and each booth has a different theme. The students all wear matching t-shirts as well. The second and first years do a class project- it can be some type of artwork, something to show, or a game that other students can play throughout the day. All the school clubs perform or have an activity as well (including English club!). As well as having the whole school involved, people from the neighborhood come, and old students that graduated the previous years.

Health and Sports Day or Sports Day (undoukai) is a national holiday in Japan held annually on the second Monday of October. It was established to commemorate the opening of the 1964 Summer Olympics Games being held in Tokyo (October 10-24). It’s a day to promote physical and mental health of the people through the enjoyment of sports and one of the best opportunities in Japan to see children and their families up close. Usually the parents, grandparents and many people from the neighbourhoods go along to watch and enjoy a community experience.

Many sports events and fun games are held on this day. The first thing after the official opening speeches is a warm up. This is usually rajio-taisou. Radio taisō (also known as rajio taisō, radio physical exercises; Japanese: ラジオ体操) refers to the warm-up exercises popular in Japan, along with the music broadcast on public NHKradio early in the morning. Everyone in the school will stretch and bounce in time to a count of 1, 2, 3, 4 a bit to work out the kinks. There is generally some kind of dance performance by the children. They may perform local dances, folk dances, or ones they've made up especially for the day. The students will practice for all of their events for weeks beforehand. A good deal of class time is put into putting on a good performance. Smaller children may do events like tama-ire (trying to get as many beanbags into a basket as possible within a given time), tug-of-war, human pyramids, team jump-rope, and even small scale battles where the children ride on each other and attempt to push their opponents to the ground. The most looked forward to events are the relay races, the biggest one of which is often left as the last event. For older students, sports day typically consist of a range of physical events ranging from more traditional track-and-field events such as the 100 metres , 200m running, 4 x 100 metres relay match, rope pulling (tsunahiki), and a lot of recreation games competing two or three groups. as the tug of war and the mock cavalry battle (kibasen,) and a lot of recreation games competing two or three groups,the reversible red and white caps which allow pupils to play for either side. As the autumn weather is particularly conducive to sport, a number of other national and regional contests are held at this time. The winning team is decided based on the efforts of the team as a whole. Individuals are not specifically identified.


The students compete in classes or teams and the winning group is announced at the end of all the events. The principal will then present the winners with a trophy and/or certificate.




"windsurfing" - A boy runs across the backs of his teammates, who in turn keep running to the front of the line to continue the "wave" for as long as possible. Needless to say, these games are just not played back home!

Lunch is a traditional handmade bento (lunchbox) and the children eat with their relatives on a picnic blanket.

ijime いじめ ~ bullying Although translated as "bullying," ijime is really collective bullying and may include everything from name-calling to extortion or physical violence. What constitutes bullying is interesting in that it covers a wide range of behaviors. These include verbal threats, ridicule and/or name calling, hiding property, shunning by the group, "silent treatment" by the group, meddling, physical violence and coercion to obtain money. Usually an individual student is targeted relating to his or her appearance, behavior or some other aspect of their personality. For girls, the targets are generally dress and hairstyle-related.
An ijimekko is a child who bullies other children. An ijimerarekko, on the other hand, is a child who is the victim of bullies.
the following 3 spoilers are tragic cases of ijime.



forum&blog with further discussion on issue:
http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/bbs/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?p=448517
http://www.gaijinsmash.net/archives/bullying.phtml

Sensei ~ Teacher Japanese teachers are respected members of the community and are respected within the schools; they are seen as also as mentor, counselor and sports coach.


40 Fun Facts About Japanese Schools http://www.rubymoon.org/school/




verbage courtesy Wikipedia / pics flickr
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Posted 2/27/10


nice nice!!!!i like it!!
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23 / F / Estonia
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Posted 2/28/10
Can't believe, I read it all Well written!!
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27 / F / IN MY ROOM ALL AL...
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Posted 3/15/10
I read the information about tis was nice to learnt a bit more about the japaneses skools i only knew some stuff on how japanese skools are how they work
Posted 3/21/10
good info, i was born in japan, but this still helps a lot since ive only attended a japanese school for a few months
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Posted 3/29/10
Nice information!!

I learn alot about the japenese school culture thanks to u.

I was amazed
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Posted 4/13/10
May I ask something? What about free-school. I heard sometimes in manga though...
They said, free-school (as it said no school fee), do school's activities (cleaning-study-experience-have fun by yourselves), if you want to study there teacher going to teach you, if you want to play music there music room to practice, anything you want to do just do as you want, no special rule.

Is there any in Japan? Or.. that's only fiction-side from manga (comic) I read?
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Posted 4/15/10

ti-chan wrote:
May I ask something? What about free-school. I heard sometimes in manga though...
They said, free-school (as it said no school fee), do school's activities (cleaning-study-experience-have fun by yourselves), if you want to study there teacher going to teach you, if you want to play music there music room to practice, anything you want to do just do as you want, no special rule.

Is there any in Japan? Or.. that's only fiction-side from manga (comic) I read?


ti-chan!! u bring up a great question!!
there's actually a j-drama called Cat Street where they have 1 of these skools!!
i'm gonna look into it ok!! give me a lil time!!

arigatou 4 pointing this out!!

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Posted 4/16/10

ti-chan wrote:

May I ask something? What about free-school. I heard sometimes in manga though...
They said, free-school (as it said no school fee), do school's activities (cleaning-study-experience-have fun by yourselves), if you want to study there teacher going to teach you, if you want to play music there music room to practice, anything you want to do just do as you want, no special rule.

Is there any in Japan? Or.. that's only fiction-side from manga (comic) I read?


ti-chan!!! i look but no can find much!! anything on!!
gomenasai ti-chan!!



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Posted 9/25/10
Hi! The write-up on Japanese edu system was really informative! Thanks for that! Oh and the 7th picture (the slipper cleaning pic)... Was it taken in Okinawa Koyo senior high(向陽高校)? The girls look familiar. One of them look like my relative but I can't be sure.. =P
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Posted 10/1/10

yu_sama wrote:

Hi! The write-up on Japanese edu system was really informative! Thanks for that! Oh and the 7th picture (the slipper cleaning pic)... Was it taken in Okinawa Koyo senior high(向陽高校)? The girls look familiar. One of them look like my relative but I can't be sure.. =P


hey yu!! i "borrowed" many pics courtesy flickr & that was 1 of em. so i can't say...
glad u enjoyed the topic though!!


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Posted 11/26/11
I love the uniforms and do high school romances really happen like in the mangas???
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Posted 12/2/11

bleachXVI wrote:

I love the uniforms and do high school romances really happen like in the mangas???


bleach-chan!! i'm not sure but i don't see why not!!

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Posted 12/2/11

snow_san wrote:


bleachXVI wrote:

I love the uniforms and do high school romances really happen like in the mangas???


bleach-chan!! i'm not sure but i don't see why not!!



Wish i was in a Japan
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Posted 1/14/12 , edited 8/30/12
Why am I am so happy that they actually wear sailor uniforms?
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