Similarities And Differences Between The Japanese And Western Education Systems 2022.
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Table of Contents
Growing up in Japan is unlike growing up anywhere else on the planet, and this is especially true in the classroom.
A Japanese schoolchild’s experience is considerably different from that of an American or Western European comparable.
The school system, like most areas of life in Japan, is equal parts rigid and pleasantly distinctive.
It instils in kids the principles of Japanese society at a young age, while simultaneously retaining the basic culture that makes Japan what it is.
That isn’t to suggest that the Japanese educational system is without its detractors; many feel that it places too much stress on children’s shoulders, with catastrophic repercussions.
Let’s look at some of the most often asked questions regarding going to school in Japan.
Grade Levels In Japan
The Japanese school system is divided into grade levels in the same way as it is in the United States.
Nurseries And Kindergartens
Then there’s preschool.
Before starting school, Japanese children attend either youchien (kindergarten) or hoikujo (nursery).
Children as young as two months can enrol in a nursery, which is essentially childcare.
Kindergarten is a more structured educational setting for children aged three to six years.
Both public and private preschools are available; but, due to Japan’s low birth rate, private preschools that rely on fees to stay open have significant hurdles.
International preschools are run on a private basis and are a popular choice for children of expats in Japan, as tuition is usually bilingual.
Kindergarten attendance is not required in Japan, yet it is immensely popular.
A Primary School
The following step is elementary school, which children will begin the first April after they become six years old.
Elementary school is a six-year programme with mandatory attendance.
Elementary schools, like preschool, provide both public and private alternatives, however about 1% of elementary schools are private.
It can be tough to get into high-performing primary schools in some situations.
Many schools have admission exams in place to ensure that only the best students are admitted to the classroom.
High School (Junior) And Senior High School (Senior High School)
Junior high school, which takes place between the ages of 13 and 15, is also compulsory in Japan.
At this level, entrance exams are required and will determine which school a student will attend.
Following that comes senior high school (ages 16 to 18).
Although senior high school is not required, 98 percent of students complete it.
According to April 2019 statistics, 53.7 percent of Japanese students continue their studies at the university level.
There are a variety of university alternatives available, including private, public, national, and vocational colleges.
University admissions in Japan are notoriously competitive — but more on that later.
Facts About Japanese Schools
According to statistics, Japan has a literacy rate of 100%, which is astounding and a credit to the Japanese educational system.
In addition, it is estimated that the attendance rate in Japanese schools is near to 100 percent; skipping school or arriving late is not a typical occurrence in Japan.
Japan’s pioneering school cleaning policies have earned it international acclaim.
There is no cleaning staff, thus students are responsible for cleaning their classrooms and the school as a whole.
Each day, time is given aside for these responsibilities in order to instil in students a sense of independence and responsibility.
This policy has been praised all throughout the world.
Most schools serve a cooked lunch to the entire class (including the instructor) — it’s usually a good and nutritious meal made by onsite staff and served by a rotating roster of pupils.
This is meant to teach children about the value of good eating as well as community service.
School Rules And Uniforms
Uniform regulations are enforced in Japanese schools.
The style of uniform is according to the particular school, but the most prevalent is a military-style uniform for males and a sailor-style uniform for ladies.
Blazers and ties in the traditional British style are becoming increasingly popular in Japanese schools.
Students keep their clean school shoes in lockers on campus to change into when they arrive; they are only worn inside.
This guarantees that the classroom floors are kept clean, as well as that the shoes themselves are in excellent shape.
There are also strict grooming restrictions in place, with natural hair colours and no visible make-up being two of the most typical rules.
This is excellent practise for the Japanese workplace, where tidy and modest attire is required.
Personal electronics in the classroom is also strictly regulated in Japanese schools.
As one of the world’s most technologically advanced countries, many Japanese teenagers have a plethora of pocket gadgets at their disposal.
Phones are generally prohibited on school grounds, though there may be certain exceptions in individual schools for usage of phones during recess.
If a Japanese student is caught using a phone during class, they can expect their teacher to seize it right away.
In Japan, there are no TikToks in the classroom!
Respect for one’s elders is an important part of Japanese culture, and this is represented in Japanese schools.
As a sign of respect, first-year students are obliged to bow to older pupils.
As soon as the instructor enters the classroom, the students stand and greet them with a ceremonial bow.
Academic performance is not a factor in Japanese school progression; you will never be ordered to repeat a year.
Regardless of their end-of-year test scores, students will graduate from high school.
Academic ability does, however, have a significant impact on pupils’ prospects, as admission exams determine which schools and universities they are entitled to attend.
Commute For Students
In Japan, private school transportation, such as school buses, is uncommon.
The majority of youngsters will take public transportation, cycle, or walk to school if it is accessible.
This level of independence is, once again, excellent preparation for the working world.
Many students have a long journey each morning since entrance tests, rather than catchment areas, determine student placement in schools.
It’s not uncommon for children to commute to school for two hours each morning on public transportation.
Students usually have one major homeroom where they stay during the school day rather than transferring from classroom to classroom.
Rather than the other way around, teachers for various disciplines will come to them.
As a result, homeroom groups are particularly close; these students will spend every hour of the school day together.
It’s not uncommon for Japanese students to fall asleep in class due to their hectic schedules.
In Japanese schools, this is not a punishable infraction because napping during the day is considered differently in Japanese society.
Sleeping during class or at work is seen as a sign of dedication, not of laziness or disinterest. It shows that the individual is so dedicated to their studies that they don’t get a full night’s sleep.
The Hensachi Debate
Hensachi is a contentious feature of the Japanese educational system.
This is a statistical assessment of a person’s academic intelligence that determines a large part of their educational trajectory in Japan.
The completion of fact-based tests accounts for nearly all of this score.
Students are placed in high schools according on their hensachi scores on entrance exams.
advice on a career
High school teachers in Japan should encourage students to apply to institutions that they believe are most suited to their academic abilities based on hensachi.
Staff members may face repercussions if they overestimate a student’s abilities in this area, therefore estimates are often conservative.
One could argue that this approach restricts pupils’ future opportunities while highlighting existing economic disparities.
Kids whose parents can afford intense cram school classes, for example, will automatically learn superior exam strategies, ensuring admission to academically performing universities, whereas students without these supports will fall behind.
According to WHO statistics, the suicide rate among Japanese teenagers is the highest in the world, with many observers pointing to a possible link between this and the tremendous pressures of hensachi.
Because of these critiques, the standardised national entrance tests for universities are in the process of being redesigned – more on this later in the article.
School Year In Japan
The school year in Japan is divided into three periods.
The first term begins in April and runs until towards the end of July.
The students then had a great time during their summer break.
The second term begins in April and continues until late December, when a winter break is observed.
The last term runs from the beginning of January to the end of March.
In Japan, students are required to attend school for a minimum of 210 days.
This is higher than the required minimum in the United States, which is 180.
What Do Japanese Schoolchildren Learn
The Japanese government dictates the curriculum; each school must meet minimum hours in each mandatory topic.
Every ten years, the curriculum is altered, and a new curriculum is now being brought in for 2020.
Kindergarten is largely concerned with the development of positive habits and manners.
Respect for others and self-control are major themes in the curriculum.
These are defining characteristics of Japanese social culture.
In primary school, pupils split their time between mandatory studies, moral education, and extracurricular activities.
Mathematics, Japanese, social sciences, craft, music, science, programming, and physical education are currently required subjects.
In elementary school, English is now taught as a mandatory but non-graded subject; however, starting in 2020, it will be graded.
Traditional Japanese art forms such as calligraphy and haiku composition are taught in order to maintain Japanese culture.
Moral education in Japan emphasises the necessity of adhering to societal rules.
Field trips and ceremonies are examples of unique activities.
Students continue to take all mandatory subjects in lower high school, with the addition of fine arts and foreign languages.
Students can now begin to tailor their education to their interests by choosing from a variety of electives.
During upper high school, this path is followed.
School Calendar In Japan
Japanese school takes place only five days a week, from Monday to Friday.
Previously, classes were held Monday through Saturday, but between 1992 and 2002, Saturday sessions were gradually phased out across Japan.
Most institutions, in practise, offer “optional” Saturday classes that students are strongly encouraged to attend.
In the next years, there is talk of restoring the six-day school week on a more formal basis.
A typical Japanese school day is divided into six class periods.
Class periods last 45 minutes for primary school students.
Each class period lasts 50 minutes from high school onwards.
Lunch is usually served after the fourth class session of the day, which takes around 45 minutes.
Students may play outside during the lunch break if they desire, but there is no formal “recess” in the Japanese school day.
After-school activities are where most children obtain their formal exercise.
Following lunch, the famous “cleaning time” (soji) will be held for 10-20 minutes before the final two class periods of the day begin.
Many students stay beyond formal lessons to participate in extracurricular activities, which can add an extra 2-3 hours to their school day.
Depending on the student’s preferences, these extracurricular activities can range from sports practise to tea ceremony.
After that, the student may travel to a “cram school” for further studies before eventually making the trek home.
What Is The Length Of A Japanese School Day
The bell for first class rings at 8:45 a.m., and the Japanese school day officially begins.
For homeroom, students may be expected to arrive a few minutes earlier.
School ends about 4 p.m., but the work is far from done at this time.
Most Japanese students participate in a variety of extracurricular activities after school, and many often attend “cram schools” (juku) after school to help with test preparation.
While neither of these activities are legally compulsory, it would be unusual for a Japanese schoolchild to not engage in some form of after-school activity.
When you add all of these responsibilities to the daily journey, it’s not uncommon for Japanese students to be out of the house from 6.30 a.m. until 10 p.m. on school days.
Some Japanese schools offer pupils a half-day schedule one day per week – Wednesday is a prominent example.
Final Exams In Japan’s High Schools
Take, for example, the American SATs or the Irish Leaving Certificate, both of which have a standardised school-leaving exam system.
In Japan, there is no system of standardised final exams when students graduate from high school.
Students can graduate regardless of their academic performance, as previously stated.
You may imagine that because of this, Japanese students are under less pressure to excel academically, yet the opposite is true.
While high schools may not have an end-of-year exam, university admission exams are held at the end of the school year and are a major source of concern for students.
University entrance tests are exceedingly competitive, particularly for the seven main national universities (the Japanese equivalent of Ivy League colleges).
Students can then seek to take additional admission exams after taking standardised national entrance exams.
National entrance exams used to be multiple choice till 2020.
The system is now undergoing revisions in preparation for January 2021.
While the actual format of the new examinations has yet to be determined, it is expected to incorporate a discussion of open-ended written questions on the test paper in order to accommodate diverse types of intelligence.
While this is a step in the right direction, the new assessment format’s ambiguity will undoubtedly cause chaos with cram school courses in the short run.
Cram schools in Japan are so skilled at preparing students for a specific type of entrance exam that the graduating class of 2021 is likely to be concerned about the changes.
The inability to learn off answers for the new admission exams, on the other hand, may create a more fair playing field for those who cannot afford further evening lessons.
Individual universities can still set their own admittance requirements, allowing candidates their choice of written tests and interviews.
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