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Japan: Japan Education Profile 2012

2012/03/14

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Japan Education Profile 2012

Japan is known for its well-maintained educational system and excellent achievement. In successive international tests of mathematics, Japanese children consistently rank at or near the top (see TIMSS). The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) is responsible for educational administration.

Structure

Kindergarten and Nursery school

Early childhood education begins at home, and there are numerous books and television shows aimed at helping mothers 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. The 58 percent of kindergartens that are private accounted for 77 % of all children enrolled. 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 % of all preschoolage children prior to their entrance into the formal system at first grade. The Ministry of Education's 1990 Course of Study for Preschools, which applies to both kinds of institutions, covers such areas as human relationships, environment, words (language), and expression. Starting from March 2008 the new revision of curriculum guidelines for kindergartens as well as for preschools came into effect.

Elementary school

More than 99% of children are enrolled in elementary school. All children enter first grade at age six, and starting school is considered a very important event in a child's life.

Virtually all elementary education takes place in public schools; less than 1% of the schools are private. Private schools tended to be costly, although the rate of cost increases in tuition for these schools had slowed in the 1980s. Some private elementary schools are prestigious, and they serve as a first step to higher-level private schools with which they are affiliated, and thence to a university.

Junior high school

Lower secondary school covers grades seven, eight, and nine, children between the ages of roughly 12 and 15, with increased focus on academic studies. Although it is still possible to leave the formal education system after completing kinender garden and find employment, fewer than 37% did so by the late 1980s.

Like elementary schools, most lower-secondary schools in the 1980s were public, but 5 % were private. Private schools were costly, averaging 558,592 yen (US$3,989) per student in 1988, about four times more than the 130,828 yen (US$934) that the ministry estimated as the cost for students enrolled in public lowersecondary schools. Teachers often majored in the subjects they taught, and more than 80 % graduated from a four-year college. Classes are large, with thirty-eight students per class on average, and each class is assigned a homeroom teacher who doubles as counselor. Unlike elementary students, lower-secondary school students have different teachers for different subjects. The teacher, however, rather than the students, moves to a new room for each fifty-minute period.

Instruction in lower-secondary schools tends to rely on the lecture method. Teachers also use other media, such as television and radio, and there is some laboratory work. By 1989 about 45 % of all public lower secondary schools had computers, including schools that used them only for administrative purposes. Classroom organization is still based on small work groups, although no longer for reasons of discipline.

All course contents are specified in the Course of Study for Lower-Secondary Schools. Some subjects, such as Japanese language and mathematics, are coordinated with the elementary curriculum. Others, such as foreign-language study, usually English, begin at this level. The curriculum covers Japanese language, social studies, mathematics, science, music, fine arts, health, and physical education. All students also are exposed to either industrial arts or homemaking. Moral education and special activities continue to receive attention. Many students also participate in after-school sport clubs that occupy them until around 6pm most weekdays.

A growing number of JHS students also attend Juku, private extra-curricular study schools, in the evenings and weekends. A focus by students upon these other studies and the increasingly structured demands upon students' time have been criticised by teachers and in the media for contributing to a decline in classroom standards and student performance in recent years.

The ministry recognizes a need to improve the teaching of all foreign languages, especially English. To improve instruction in spoken English, the government invites many young native speakers of English to Japan to serve as assistants to school boards and prefectures under its Japan Exchange and Teaching Program. By 1988 participants numbered over 1,000. This program seems to being phased out in larger cities such as Tokyo, Osaka and Sakai where the supply of foreign native speakers facilitates their employment through less expensive private English tuition providers.

High school

Even though upper secondary school is not compulsory in Japan, 99% of all lower secondary school graduates entered upper secondary schools as of 2005[2]. Private upper-secondary schools account for about 55 % of all upper-secondary schools, and neither public nor private schools are free . The Ministry of education estimated that annual family expenses for the education of a child in a public upper-secondary school were about 300,000 yen (US$2,142) in both 1980s and that private upper-secondary schools were about twice as expensive.

The most common type of upper-secondary schools has a fulltime, general program that offered academic courses for students preparing for higher education and also technical and vocational courses for students expecting to find employment after graduation. More than 70 % of upper-secondary school students were enrolled in the general academic program in the late 1980s. A small number of schools offer part-time or evening courses or correspondence education.

The first-year programs for students in both academic and commercial courses are similar. They include basic academic courses, such as Japanese language, English, mathematics, and science. In upper-secondary school, differences in ability are first publicly acknowledged, and course content and course selection are far more individualized in the second year. However, there is a core of academic material throughout all programs.

Vocational-technical programs includes several hundred specialized courses, such as information processing, navigation, fish farming, business English, and ceramics. Business and industrial courses are the most popular, accounting for 72 % of all students in full-time vocational programs in 1989.

Most upper-secondary teachers are university graduates. Uppersecondary schools are organized into departments, and teachers specialize in their major fields although they teach a variety of courses within their disciplines. Teaching depends largely on the lecture system, with the main goal of covering the very demanding curriculum in the time allotted. Approach and subject coverage tends to be uniform, at least in the public schools.

Training of disabled students, particularly at the uppersecondary level, emphasizes vocational education to enable students to be as independent as possible within society. Vocational training varies considerably depending on the student's disability, but the options are limited for some. It is clear that the government is aware of the necessity of broadening the range of possibilities for these students. Advancement to higher education is also a goal of the government, and it struggles to have institutions of higher learning accept more disabled students.

Universities and colleges

As of 1991, more than 2.1 million students were enrolled in 507 universities. At the top of the higher education structure, these institutions provide four-year training leading to a bachelor's degree, and some offer six-year programs leading to a professional degree. There are two types of public four-year colleges: the ninety-six national universities (including the University of the Air) and the thirty-nine local public universities, founded by prefectures and municipalities. The 372 remaining four-year colleges in 1991 were private.

The overwhelming majority of college students attend full-time day programs. In 1990 the most popular courses, enrolling almost 40 %of all undergraduate students, were in the social sciences, including business, law, and accounting. Other popular subjects were engineering (19 %), the humanities (15 %), and education (7 %).

The average costs (tuition, fees, and living expenses) for a year of higher education in 1986 were 1.4 million yen (US$10,000). To help defray expenses, students frequently work part-time or borrow money through the government-supported Japan Scholarship Association. Assistance also is offered by local governments, nonprofit corporations, and other institutions.

According to The Times Higher Education Supplement, the two top-ranking universities in Japan are the University of Tokyo and Kyoto University.

Main article: Higher education in Japan
Main article: Secondary education in Japan
Main article: Elementary schools in Japan
Main article: History of education in Japan
# uku
# Yutori education
# JET Programme
# Japanese University Entrance Examinations
# Japanese school uniform