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The Japanese Education System - School Life in Japan

School System
The Japanese educational system was reformed after World War II. The old 6-5-3-3 system was changed to a 6-3-34 system (6 years of elementary school, 3 years of junior high school, 3 years of senior high school and 4 years
of University) with reference to the American system. The gimukyoiku (compulsory education) time period is 9 years,
6 in shougakkou (elementary school) and 3 in chuugakkou
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Japanese Language School
(junior high school).
Japan has one of the world's best-educated populations, with 100% enrollment in compulsory grades and zero
illiteracy. While not compulsory, high school (koukou) enrollment is over 96% nationwide and nearly 100% in the
cities. The high school drop out rate is about 2% and has been increasing.About 46% of all high school graduates
go on to university or junior college.
The Ministry of Education closely supervises curriculum, textbooks, classes and maintains a uniform level of
education throughout the country. As a result, a high standard of education is possible.
Student Life
Most schools operate on a three-term system with the new year starting in April. The modern educational system
started in 1872, and is modeled after the French school system, which begins in April. The fiscal year in Japan also
begins in April and ends in March of the following year, which is more convenient in many aspects.
April is the height of spring when cherry blossom (the most loved flower
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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 system and having to repeat a year.
Except for the lower grades of elementary school, the average school day on weekdays is 6 hours, which makes it
one of the longest school days in the world. Even after school lets out, the children have drills and other homework to

keep them busy. Vacations are 6 weeks in the summer and about 2 weeks each for winter and spring breaks. There
is often homework over these vacations.
Every class has its own fixed classroom where its students take all the courses, except for practical trainings and
laboratory work. During elementary education, in most cases, one teacher teaches all the subjects in each class. As
a result of the rapid population growth after World War II, the numbers of students in a typical elementary or junior
high school class once exceeded 50 students, but now it is kept under 40. At public elementary and junior high
school, school lunch (kyuushoku) is provided on a standardized menu, and it is eaten in the classroom. Nearly all
junior high schools require their students to wear a school uniform (seifuku).
A big difference between the Japanese school system and the American School system is that Americans respect
individuality while the Japanese control the individual by observing group rules. This helps to explains the Japanese
characteristic of group behavior.
The chart below shows the Japanese education system according to age, grade, and available
educational facilities.

Children who have their 6th birthday on or before April 1 enter the first grade of elementary school of
that year.
School year starts in April and ends in March.
For Japanese nationals, six years at elementary school and three years at junior high school (total nine
years) are compulsory.
Although foreign nationals are not subject to Japanese compulsory education, they may enter local
elementary/junior high schools if they wish.
Some public elementary, junior high or high schools have developed an environment to accept foreign
nationals and/or Japanese children returning from abroad. Contact the municipal office in the ward (or
city, town or village) where you reside for more information.
After graduating from junior high school, children may choose to continue their education to high
school and then to university or to find employment.
Elementary schools, junior high schools, high schools, technology colleges, junior colleges, universities
and graduate schools in Japan are national, public or private institutes.
Special schools are available for physically/mentally-challenged children who may have difficulty in
studying at general schools.
Since education at elementary school and junior high school is compulsory for Japanese nationals,
households with a child who starts school in the coming April receive a notice regarding school
enrollment from the municipal office (city hall) of their area of residence by the end of January. After

receiving the notice, they should begin necessary preparation for enrollment according to the notice.
Non-Japanese nationals living in Japan may not always receive this notice, however, since they are not
subject to Japanese compulsory education. If you are a foreign resident and wish to have your child
educated at a Japanese public school, you need to apply for permission to enroll your child. If you
make an application for permission in advance, you should receive the above notice so that you can
take it along with the child's resident card to the municipal office as part of the necessary paperwork.
Public compulsory schools require no tuition fees in principle. Additional expenses such as lunch
money may, however, be necessary.
Most public elementary/junior high schools require no admission exam.
Several public junior high schools offer evening classes for aged 16 or older living or working in Tokyo,
who could not graduate from elementary schools and junior high schools at home. The foreign
nationals can enter the schools regardless of previous schooling, without the need to worry so much
about tuition fees and other expenses.
Junior high school graduates may continue their education to high school or Technological colleges (kosen),
which, however, is not compulsory and therefore requires the passing of an admission exam to enter. High
schools generally offer a three-year program, which Evening high schools and correspondence courses offer
programs for more them three years. There are several types of high schools.
General academic high school
Specialized high school that targets future employment in a specific job area (such as agricultural high school,
industrial high school, commercial high school, etc.)
Technological colleges (kosen)
Combined with college-level education, technological colleges in Japan offer a five-year program to students who
wish to gain greater technology-related skills. The specialized areas of technological colleges include industry,
merchant marine-related studies, electronic/information engineering and aviation (At present, there are no
technological colleges in Tokyo for merchant marine-related studies or electronic/information engineering).
Graduates of technological colleges go directly into employment or continue their education at university.
Evening classes/correspondence courses
Some high schools offer evening classes or home correspondence courses for those who work during the
daytime and vice versa, and wish to receive a high school diploma. The classes and courses allow once-truant
students and dropouts to learn at his/her own pace.
High school graduates are entitled to take admission exams to junior colleges and universities.
Those who do not hold a high school diploma need to take and pass a qualification test (commonly known
asdaiken) to be eligible for universities' admission exams.
Junior colleges offer a two-year program, while universities offer a four-year program. Junior college/technology
college graduates may transfer to a four-year university course as a junior student. University graduates who
wish to further study in their specialized area may choose to continue their education to graduate school.
Master's programs offered at graduate schools are usually a two-year course.

The following information and links to related groups/organizations may help your education plans in
Scholarship programs
For children from households with financial needs, a variety of scholarship programs are available
mainly for college/graduate school tuition, including both grant and loan programs. The programs are
sponsored by scholarship institutes, business corporations and local governments. Many
colleges/universities also offer their own scholarship program. If necessary, contact the
colleges/universities for more information.
Some scholarship programs are also available for high school education. Eligible applicants for the
scholarship program should be able to prove their academic ability, will to study, and financial needs.
The conditions for application may vary according to each program.
Aside from the scholarship programs, some local governments may offer other types of financial
support for households with children who are going to enter or are already enrolled in
elementary/junior high schools to cover school-related expenses such as school equipment fees and
school lunch money. Applying households should be the recipient of welfare benefits and should also
meet other conditions. The amount of allowance and other details may vary from city to city; contact
the municipal office (city hall) in the ward (or city, town or village) where you reside for more
Japan Student Services Organization (JASSO): Information about scholarships (Japanese)

Metropolitan Foundation for Private Schools: Tokyo Metropolitan Ikuei Scholarship (Japanese only)