What makes the Japanese school system distinctive?
Do you ever wonder why Japan remains among the countries in the world with students who are best performers in Mathematics, Sciences and Reading? According to a study, Japan also has zero illiteracy and 100% enrollment rate during the compulsory grades.
Let’s go beyond seifuku (school uniform), which Japanese high school students are also famous for, and explore some more interesting things and facts about the Japanese educational system that could blow your mind.
1. In Japan, there is what they call the compulsory education or the gimukyoiku period of nine (9) years – 6 in shougakkou (elementary) and 3 in chuugakkou (junior high school). The Japanese school system consist of 6 years of elementary school, 3 years of junior high school, 3 years of senior high school and 4 years of University.
2. The new school year usually starts in April in time for the cherry blossoms season or the spring season, and most schools are following the three-term system. Most classes, except in lower grades, lasts for about six hours a day. The Summer vacation lasts for six weeks, and the winter and spring breaks last for two weeks.
3. Japanese students study mathematics, science, social studies, music, physical education, crafts, home economics, information technology, the japanese language itself, as well as English, especially in most schools nowadays. They are also encouraged to learn traditional Japanese calligraphy (shodo) and poetry (haiku). The Japanese education system is also a good mixture of sciences and the arts.
4. Japanese children leave primary school knowing more than one thousand kanji characters already. After they finish junior and senior high school, they will know additional one thousand more characters, along with Hiragana (used with Kanji to write ordinary Japanese words) and Katakana (used to write foreign words) scripts. Does it sound complicated just yet?
5. Japanese students approach Math as if it’s a language and students spend on average 235 minutes per week on regular math classes. Japan is now ranked second in mathematics performance and first in both reading and science performance, according to a study by the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA).
6. According to the same study, 85 percent of students in Japan actually feel happy in school and have a strong sense of belonging while at school. Most students neither skip classes nor arrive late for school. As time management is a very important and essential integration of the average japanese habit and lifestyle standards.
7. Aside from their regular school schedule, a high percentage of Japanese students also attend after-school classes and workshops. Some go to cram schools to learn more specialized subjects, especially when preparing for an entrance exam to a university.
8. Many Japanese parents believe that pre-primary education is important; especially that research has shown that students who attended pre-school are performing better than those who didn’t.
9. In most Japanese schools, students are divided into small groups assigned to perform tasks like cleaning the classrooms, toilets and cafeterias, among others. It is one way of teaching Japanese kids to respect working with a team and working for the self and for others. They are obliged to look after themselves and one another. They are also taught to cook and prepare their meals by themselves so that they will learn to appreciate and value basic necessities.
10. Japanese students, especially in public schools, have healthy and balanced meals. Lunch is subsidized by its government and is well-taken cared of by health professionals. The students and teachers, most of the time, eat together.
11. Another good thing about the japanese education system aside from being globally competitive is due to its exceptional practical trainings and laboratory work. Students are encouraged, if not obliged to join clubs of their own choosing during their university days and are immersed in multiple activities that compels them to make a contribution to the society. University students can also start working through internship programs as early as they want to. They can even start part-time jobs on their sophomore years going forward. This makes them more well-rounded and exposed to the reality of life moreover.
Aside from Japan’s successful standard curriculum and student-engagement centered approach in teaching, other factors that determine its thriving education system are its admirable strategy in allocating its financial resources, as well as maintaining the students’ interest in learning.