Education in Japan

In Japan education is a very big deal. Teachers are well-paid and highly respected members of society and the government is extremely supportive of spending lots of money on the nation’s school system. Japanese parents do what they can to ensure their child has the best education possible, resulting in a school system that is highly competitive.

Education in Japan is compulsory and follows a similar system to that found in the United States. The basic structure is;

6 years at primary school or (shogakkou).

3 years junior secondary school (chugakkou).

3 years at senior secondary school (koutougakkou).

4 years at university.

Nearly all Japanese children attend kindergarten or day-care centres to help them prepare for entry into the school system. There are very few private schools in Japan with the vast majority of students attending public schools. Foreign nationals can send their children to attend Japanese schools, but this option may be best for young children only as it will be easier for them to pick up the language. For older children there are a number of international English speaking schools.

There are a large number of international schools in all of the main cities that follow the either the American or British educational styles. These schools however cost a lot of money, but it is possible for some canny expats to have these fees included in their employment contracts.

Unfortunately there are very few English-language preschools but some of the international schools have facilities for pre-schoolers attached.

A typical school day begins at 8am with lunch served in the classroom at midday. Lunches are not free but the government does subsidise much of the cost.

Japan was once infamous for the way its education system was run and was known for the brutally rigid curriculum that pushed students to breaking point. Today’s system is nowhere near as unforgiving as it once was but Education is still linked with competitiveness. Students are often put under immense pressure to attend university and to have any chance of getting into the best ones a student must excel from the very moment they begin their education.   In Japan, being a student is a full-time job they very rarely hit the town like they do in the UK.

Japanese University

As an expat you will have to take a different approach to applying for university than a native Japanese student. In fact as a foreigner you will have an easier time of getting in. A native student has to sit a series of tough exams. To be accepted you will still need to pass an entrance exam called the Examination for Japanese University Admission for International Students. Once admitted your university will assist you in acquiring a student’s VISA. Typically tuition fees in Japan range from ¥500,000 to a million ¥. This may sound like a lot but in fact the figure is only around the £3500 or £7000 mark, still cheaper than UK university fees.