Education in Japan: Learning to change

Education in Japan: Learning to change

What do you know about the most mysterious and exciting country for the Western people, the Land of the Rising Sun? Japan is a very beautiful country with a fantastic nature. Over 70% of the territory of this country is covered with mountains which create magnificent, picturesque views, but, unfortunately, cause more than 1,000 earthquakes each year. Japan has a long and very rich culture and a rather healthy nation: the statistics show that over 50,000 Japanese people are over 100 years old. This is quite impressive. The Land of the Rising Sun, as Western people call it, is definitely one of the most attractive places on earth that every person wants to visit to feel at least a tiny part of this unique culture.

What is also very exciting about Japan is that it has one of the highest literacy levels in the world. Ninety nine percent of children over 15 years old are literate in Japan. How do they achieve these high results? How does Japanese education system look like? Today we would like to pay closer attention to Japanese schools.

School Structure

The structure of Japanese schools looks very standard: when children are four years old, they can start to go to kindergartens. Kindergartens in Japan are optional. The school is divided into three levels: primary, secondary, and high school. The first two levels are compulsory. Children begin to attend primary school at the age of six and secondary school at the age of twelve. When students are fifteen years old, they finish secondary school and have an opportunity to decide where they want to study after. Either they can go to high school or to some specialized institutions or vocational schools. After high school children can get enrolled into universities or other higher education institutions.

Japanese Kindeegartens

All Japanese kindergartens are private, and some of them have an elite reputation because they are affiliated with prestigious universities. If a child goes to such a kindergarten, he/she then goes to the school which is also affiliated with one of the universities. The beauty of this system is that these children are automatically enrolled to the university without exams. This ability to become a university student straight from school is extremely valuable because for Japanese people it is crucial to have a university diploma to be hired to a good company and get a prestigious position. This is why these prestigious kindergartens are very expensive, and children have to pass a difficult examination in order to be enrolled.

From Primary to High School

The schools education lasts rather long – for 12 years. An interesting feature of Japanese schools is that children are constantly transferred from one class to another which gives them an opportunity to study with different people and become more sociable and open. In case a child does not get along with his/her classmates well, it is easier for this child because at some point he/she will be transferred to another class with a different group of people.

Each class in Japanese school has an assigned classroom, and teachers come to this classroom to give students a 40 minute lesson. Up to 40 children study in one class, and most of them do not leave school after the secondary level. At the primary school level children study the Japanese language, mathematics, chemistry, biology and physics, and history, art and music. Physical education also plays an important role. In secondary school they study the same subjects and also begin to study English and can choose other subjects of their interest.

However, these are not the only classes that Japanese children need to attend. In order to get admitted to the university, children also need to attend additional sessions with tutors where they can improve the knowledge acquired in school. These additional classes are very helpful because tutors have an individual approach to every child. This is why students in Japanese school do not stay for a second year – every student manages to solve his/her problems and become successful.

A lot of attention is paid to students’ personalities. They are taught to be contributing members to society and to always consider interests of the bigger community first. They are taught to love people and animals, everything that surrounds them; to be compassionate and sympathetic; to make the world a better place, etc. Students sing together and often participate in various sports games – this way they learn to be a part of the group.

The compulsory (primary and secondary) education in Japan is free, whereas high school and higher education institutions always have tuition fees (public schools are usually less expensive than private ones). When the secondary school is over, a student gets a list of the high school where he/she can be enrolled on the basis of his/her performance. Then, students need to take an exam, and depending on the exam grade and other school grades they can choose a high school. Those ones who successfully pass exams can go to prestigious schools that lead to good universities. Students who do not plan to study at the university go to less prestigious schools where they can specialize in agriculture, household management, etc. Vocational institutions also require very good grades because professionals in these areas are extremely valuable, this is why the competition in these schools is so high.

The reason why Japan has achieved such high results is that Japanese children know from the very childhood that education is extremely important for a successful life and try hard to show the best results.

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