Japanese Education Systems

I would like to introduce Japanese education systems today. We have kindergartens, elementary schools, middle schools, high schools, colleges ( two year collages and four year collages) and graduated schools in Japan.

Basically we go to kindergarten for two to three years. In my daughter’s case she went to there for three years when she turned three years old. Our school starts on April. That is the most different part from America. After that we go to elementary school for six years. This part is also different from America. We also go to middle school for three years. We have to go to from elementary school to middle school regally. On the other hand, we can chose we start to work or keep on going to school after we graduate from middle school. When I was a middle school student, there were two to three students who started to work in each class. However, most of middle school students go to high school since my days.  We go to high school for three years. It is also different. When we graduate from high school, most of  us turn eighteen years old. After graduation, some of them enroll in college, and the others start to work.

As I already mentioned that high school is kind of option for us, so, high schools have various courses. We have various high schools. For instance; high schools that focus on learning agriculture, business, art, languages, music and so on. Of course, we also have some high schools that focus on studying and preparing to enroll in college. Each prefecture has such kinds of high schools.

We also have public schools, private schools and national schools. Basically everyone can enroll in public kindergarten, elementary school, middle school without taking an entrance exams. If students would like to go to private school or national school, they have to take an entrance exams. So, there are some children who go to kind of cram schools even though they are just two or three years old. In their case, they prepare to take the entrance exams of kindergarten. You might not be able to believe that, but in some major cities like Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, Kanagawa, Kobe, Hakata, Nagoya, we have super high level private schools. Most of the case, they have kindergarten school to college. After they can enroll in the kindergarten, it will be much easier for them to go to the elementary, middle, high school and the college without taking any entrance exam. That is why many parents who are enthusiastic to their children’s education make their children go to cram schools when they turn two to three years old.

Each prefecture has a national school. The school also have from kindergarten to college. However, most of the case, students have to take the entrance exams after they graduate from each kindergarten, elementary, middle and high school. Compared to public schools, in both private schools and national schools, since there are good students and parents who are enthusiastic to their children’s education, many students would like to go to the schools if they think about they are planning to go to high level college.

In Japan high schools and colleges are option, and we do not need to go to there. So, no matter what private, national, public both high schools and colleges have each level from low to high. Of course, high level high schools and colleges are difficult for students to enroll in. If the students would like to go to high level high school or college, they have to study hard to pass the entrance exams. Most of middle school and high school students who want to go to such high school and college go to cram school after school.

I have heard that many American people say that in Japanese college it is the hardest to pass the exam, but it is easy to graduation. I think it is a stereo type opinion. It is not easy for Japanese students to graduate from college. Especially when they major in science, compared to majoring in art, it is much more difficult. Even if they major in art, if their grades were not good, it would be difficult to get a good job. So, I guess that Japanese college students study hard as well as American students. ( I am not sure because I have no experience to go to American college, so I can not compare.) However, compared to entrance exams, graduation exams are not so difficult for students.

I think Japanese students have to think about their future since they are young. At lease when they turn middle school students, they have to start to think about their future. I think preparing and thinking about our future is good for us.

After you read this blog entry, you might think that Japanese education systems do not have free. Of course, some students study hard, but we really enjoy our school life. In addition to that, we choose our schools by ourselves. Before we enroll in college, we already decide our major, and after we enroll in college, we can not cancel and change our major. If we would like to change our major, we have to take entrance exams again.
In addition, when I was a high school student, two year colleges were quite popular among female students. Although I went to four year college, some of my friends went to the schools. There were lots of private two year colleges. However, right now two year colleges are getting down and down. Although each prefecture has a public two year college, right now they changed, and they have become public four year colleges.

20 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. ilovenihongo
    Jan 26, 2011 @ 12:12:36

    Hi. My apologies. I only heard that it’s easy to graduate from Japanese colleges from my Japanese friends. But I do understand stereotypes, and I hate stereotypes. Just like many think that Americans are lazy and that is entirely not true.

    No country is better than another country. There are advantages and disadvantages to living in every country in the world. It all boils down to what your taste is, and what works for you.

    I must understand that there are several factors that weigh into the ease or difficulty of graduating from Japanese colleges.

    Please accept my apology. I hope that I didn’t offend you in any way. I do realize that hearsay does not cover all opinions but only of those who opine.

    You write so well and so beautifully. I admire your zest for English!


    • yumi
      Jan 26, 2011 @ 12:33:03

      Hi, Karen. You really don’t need to apologize me!!!!! I never think that you are stereotype.
      At the time, I really enjoyed exchanging our opinions. After that I thought if I would update this blog entry, it would help you to expand your knowledge of Japanese education.
      If my this blog entry made you feel bad, I also would like to apologize you.

      My opinion also never covered everything. I think after Japanese people read it, they might have another opinions.

      However, I am one of Japanese people who got Japanese education. I am also a mom of a 16 year old daughter who have been getting Japanese education. She went to private kindergarten. She graduated both a national elementary and middle school. Actually it is not correct because she had to change her middle school at her last semester because of my husband business moving. However, most of the time ( she went to a public school only for three months, but regally she graduated from the public school.) she spent her school life in a national middle school. Right now she goes to private school. So, through my experiences I wrote my this blog entry.


  2. Jan 26, 2011 @ 19:16:51

    German school system differs a lot. And it’s not the same everywhere in Germany … our equivalent to your prefecture, our federal states, handle them independantly and to their individual liking.
    This leads to unpredictable quality of education from a parent’s POV. My elder son for example speaks English as if he started 3 months ago. I’d like to strangle his English teachers. But it can’t be helped.


    • yumi
      Jan 26, 2011 @ 22:40:29

      Thanks for the comment. Our education quality is also different from prefectures. When we live in the suburbs, we can not get enough education. There are lots of good schools in cities. So, I do not expect anything to Japanese public schools in country sides. I have chosen my daughter’s education environment as possible as I could. I prefer national schools and private schools from kindergarten to high school. However, there are good national and public colleges in Japan. So, I’m supporting national and public colleges.


  3. Matthew
    Jan 26, 2011 @ 20:01:44

    Wow, it’s good to hear that Japanese schools aren’t as scary as most of us think in America. I think most of us in the West imagine a sensei hitting their students with a whip as the poor children draw the same kanji 10,000 times. Well maybe that’s a little exaggerated, but American teachers always tell American students who complain about too much work, “do you know how much Japanese students have to study?” They want us to imagine that Japanese students have no life outside of school, but it’s good to hear Japanese students aren’t all slaves to their school. I’m still glad though that I didn’t have the same pressures to do well in school that Japanese students go through.


    • yumi
      Jan 26, 2011 @ 23:16:18

      Hahaha, thanks for the comment, Matt. I really enjoyed reading it. It might be right……. Compared to American students, we might have too many schoolwork to have to do. Even after school, we have to go to cram school to keep on studying. Yours is be able to create ideas, but on the other hand ours is to put lots of knowledege into out brains. I don’t know which education is good or not. However, thanks to our education even if we lose the World War Two, and at the time our country was one of the poorest countries, we could come back, and we could become one of the most richest countries. Compared to my days, my daughter’s generations’ education is different from ours. When I was a students, I think around 20 % of female students went to 4 year college. However, right now over 50 % of female students go to 4 year college. My daughter goes to private school where is focusing on studying. Since she is belong to the top class in her school, I really think it is very stressful for her to spend her school life. All her classmates will go to top level universities in Japan.
      If students would like to go to good universities, we have to go to cram school and improve techniques to solve the entrance exam. If we depend on only Japanese school education and do only schoolwork, we never succeed to pass the exam.


  4. ilovenihongo
    Jan 26, 2011 @ 20:17:05

    Your blog didn’t make me feel bad at all Yumi-chan! I love your blog and anything I can learn about Japan makes me happy.

    No worries! =(^-^)=


    • yumi
      Jan 26, 2011 @ 23:17:16

      Thansk for the warm comment, Karen. I’m very happy to read it!!! Your comment motivated me a lot. I keep on blogging for you.


  5. ilovenihongo
    Jan 27, 2011 @ 00:06:31

    Our education differs from state to state too. Not that it makes anything better. lol


  6. ilovenihongo
    Jan 27, 2011 @ 04:24:39

    I’m not sure what it means given the context?


    • yumi
      Jan 27, 2011 @ 09:54:56

      The Mencius is a Chinese wiseman. His mom was also very smart. To get good education to her son, she moved to new places three times. So, her son became a wiseman thanks to his mon. That is a very famous story. I always thought about my daughter’s education when I knew that we had to move to a new place because of my husband’s business moving. I could not become like Mencius’ mother, but I tried to be close to her. If we realize that we can’t get good education in our region, I really think that we should react something for our children. Even if we complain about it, we can’t solve the problem. I wanted to say like that.


  7. ilovenihongo
    Jan 27, 2011 @ 10:11:18

    Oh I see! I

    I was very fortunate growing up because I was born into a middle class family and my parents afforded me the ability to go to a private school where the education is actually quite good and very strict. However, I feel very sorry for those people who grow into homes that are poverty stricken. They cannot do anything about the situation. You need money and the right circumstances to move. Also, the mother and father must work (for the most part) in many western countries and must drive everywhere (in the US).

    With that said, I feel very lucky and also that I grew up in the era that I did. Thank you for teaching me that expression. 🙂


    • yumi
      Jan 27, 2011 @ 13:06:05

      As your mention, we need money to raise our children. That is the point. I think it relates to our population’s decreasing strongly. In my case if I had two to three kids, I couldn’t make my daughter go to a private school. I had to keep on working as a math teacher after I moved to different places. Many educated Japanese people think that to get good education for kids is too expensive. So, they tend not to have many children. That is really bad. I’m one of them. You realized me that I have to write about our population next time. Thank you so much!


  8. ilovenihongo
    Jan 27, 2011 @ 14:02:58

    Ah so many interesting topics to which I thirst for more information about Japan. 🙂

    As for the US, we have the opposite problem. Some are reproducing at such high rates that they need to rely on others to care for their children while both parents are at work, and some wind up on welfare as they cannot afford basic things like diapers and clothes for their kids. Children, these days, don’t get to see their parents as they did in the past. This isn’t the case with everyone, naturally. But when Americans reproduce, we are like rabbits and have a tendency to not take responsibility for our decisions. 🙂 Teen pregnancy is also at an all time high too. Ugh.

    I prefer Japan!! So much more civilized!


    • yumi
      Jan 27, 2011 @ 18:07:26

      I think that is “The grass always seems greener on the other side of the fence”. We also have the similar problems: teen pregnancy, careless about their kids, laking of responsibilities of parenty and so on.
      However, compared to your country, ours’ rate might be lower, I guess. I really think American kids’ growing speed is faster than Japanese kids’ in mentally. Although I had been long for American society before I became close friends with American people, I realized that I also prefer Japanese society because we are really polite and my society is really comfortable for me. Since I have been not used to American culture, I always feel kind of awkward feelings from American people even if the American person is one of my conversational partners, and I have met the person in person. I still can’t get used to them. I often think American people’s relationship to others is much more drier than ours. I guess these factors make me feel awkward to them. So, I would like to hang out with them with an American way from now on.

      I’m sorry I forgot you are also an “American”! If my comment sounds rude to you, please forgive me!!! I never offence American people.


  9. ilovenihongo
    Jan 28, 2011 @ 00:11:02

    Yumi, if it makes you feel any better, I feel awkward around everybody. 🙂 I just pretend I’m not, but deep down inside I am.

    By the way, do you feel more comfortable around …say Australians or those from other western countries aside from the US?


    • yumi
      Jan 28, 2011 @ 04:17:03

      Hi, Karen. Thanks as always for the comments. As I thought about it, and I think I feel the feeling from young western people a lot. When I chat with you, I don’t feel such feelings. I think that western adults can addjust themselves to different culture, and I can feel comfortable to them. However, when I chat with young people, I always feel kind of awkward feelings. However, I guess it is normal. I don’t chat with Japanese young people normally. So, no matter western or Japanese, I just feel the feelings from young people.


  10. ilovenihongo
    Jan 28, 2011 @ 00:43:03

    I don’t know if this will provide helpful or not, but being that communication can already be difficult between two people of the same language, when you are ever in doubt about anyone’s intentions, confused, or feel ambiguity by someone’s words, you should always ask. It’s really hard to do – I know that it’s hard for me to do. But I do know that most friendships die due to misunderstandings.


    • yumi
      Jan 28, 2011 @ 04:23:15

      I agree with you. I also sometimes misunderstand even Japanese conversations. Communication with another language is of course difficult. However, if we can understand each other, it is extremely fun for me. That’s why I can’t stop speaking in English! I also can’t stop communicating with people in English!!


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