Education in Japan


Education in Japan

In successive international tests of mathematics, Japanese children consistently rank at or near the top (see TIMSS) [ [http://www.apa.org/monitor/mar05/scores.html PISA scores for 15 year olds in Japan, 2005: ] ] . The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) is responsible for educational administration.

History

Formal education in Japan began with the adoption of Chinese culture in the 6th century. Buddhist and Confucian teachings as well as sciences, calligraphy, divination and literature were taught at the courts of Asuka, Nara and Heian. Scholar officials were chosen through an Imperial examination system. But contrary to China, the system never fully took hold and titles and posts at the court remained hereditary family possessions. The rise of the "bushi", the military class, during the Kamakura period ended the influence of scholar officials, but Buddhist monasteries remained influential centers of learning.

During the Edo period (1603-1867), the daimyō vied for power in the largely pacified country. Since their influence could not be raised through war, they competed on the economic field. Their warrior-turned-bureaucrat Samurai elite had to be educated not only in military strategy and the martial arts, but also agriculture and accounting. Likewise, the wealthy merchant class needed education for their daily business, and their wealth allowed them to be patrons of arts and science. But temple schools (terakoya) educated peasants too, and it is estimated that at the end of the Edo period 50% of the male and 20% of the female population possessed some degree of literacy. Even though contact with foreign countries was restricted, books from China and Europe were eagerly imported and Rangaku ("Dutch studies") became a popular area of scholarly interest.

After the Meiji Restoration of 1868, the methods and structures of Western learning were adopted as a means to make Japan a strong, modern nation. Students and even high-ranking government officials were sent abroad to study, such as the Iwakura mission. Foreign scholars, the so-called o-yatoi gaikokujin, were invited to teach at newly founded universities and military academies. Compulsory education was introduced, mainly after the Prussian model. By 1890, only 20 years after the resumption of full international relations, Japan discontinued employment of the foreign consultants.

The rise of militarism led to the use of the education system to prepare the nation for war. The military even sent its own instructors to schools. After the defeat in World War II, the allied occupation government set an education reform as one of its primary goals, to eradicate militarist teachings and "democratize" Japan. The education system was rebuilt after the American model.

The end of the 1960s were a time of student protests around the world, and also in Japan. The main subject of protest was the Japan-U.S. security treaty. A number of reforms were carried out in the post-war period until today. They aimed at easing the burden of entrance examinations, promoting internationalization and information technologies, diversifying education and supporting lifelong learning.

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Kindergarten and Nursery school

Early childhood education begins at home, and there are numerous books and television shows aimed at helping mothers of preschool children to educate their children and to "parent" more effectively. Much of the home training is devoted to teaching manners, proper social behavior, and structured play, although verbal and number skills are also popular themes. Parents are strongly committed to early education and frequently enroll their children in preschools.

Kindergartens ("yochien" 幼稚園), predominantly staffed by young female junior college graduates, are supervised by the Ministry of Education, but are not part of the official education system. The 58 percent of kindergartens that are private accounted for 77 percent of all children enrolled. In addition to kindergartens there exists a well-developed system of government-supervised day-care centers ("hoikuen" 保育園), supervised by the Ministry of Labor. Where as kindergartens follow educational aims, preschools are predominately concerned with providing care for infants and toddlers. Same as kindergartens there are public or privately run preschools. Together, these two kinds of institutions enroll well over 90 percent of all preschoolage children prior to their entrance into the formal system at first grade. The Ministry of Education's 1990 Course of Study for Preschools, which applies to both kinds of institutions, covers such areas as human relationships, environment, words (language), and expression. Starting from March 2008 the new revision of curriculum guidelines for kindergartens as well as for preschools came into effect.

Elementary school

More than 99% of children are enrolled in elementary school. All children enter first grade at age six, and starting school is considered a very important event in a child's life.

Virtually all elementary education takes place in public schools; less than 1% of the schools are private. Private schools tended to be costly, although the rate of cost increases in tuition for these schools had slowed in the 1980s. Some private elementary schools are prestigious, and they serve as a first step to higher-level private schools with which they are affiliated, and thence to a university.

Junior high school

Lower secondary school covers grades seven, eight, and nine, children between the ages of roughly 12 and 15, with increased focus on academic studies. Although it is still possible to leave the formal education system after completing lower secondary school and find employment, fewer than 4% did so by the late 1980s.

Like elementary schools, most lower-secondary schools in the 1980s were public, but 5% were private. Private schools were costly, averaging 558,592 yen (US$3,989) per student in 1988, about four times more than the 130,828 yen (US$934) that the ministry estimated as the cost for students enrolled in public lower secondary schools. Teachers often majored in the subjects they taught, and more than 80 % graduated from a four-year college. Classes are large, with thirty-eight students per class on average, and each class is assigned a homeroom teacher who doubles as counselor. Unlike elementary students, lower-secondary school students have different teachers for different subjects. The teacher, however, rather than the students, moves to a new room for each fifty-minute period.

Instruction in lower-secondary schools tends to rely on the lecture method. Teachers also use other media, such as television and radio, and there is some laboratory work. By 1989 about 45 % of all public lower secondary schools had computers, including schools that used them only for administrative purposes. Classroom organization is still based on small work groups, although no longer for reasons of discipline.

All course contents are specified in the Course of Study for Lower-Secondary Schools. Some subjects, such as Japanese language and mathematics, are coordinated with the elementary curriculum. Others, such as foreign-language study, usually English, begin at this level. The curriculum covers Japanese language, social studies, mathematics, science, music, fine arts, health, and physical education. All students also are exposed to either industrial arts or homemaking. Moral education and special activities continue to receive attention. Many students also participate in after-school sport clubs that occupy them until around 6pm most weekdays.

A growing number of JHS students also attend Juku, private extracurricular study schools, in the evenings and weekends. A focus by students upon these other studies and the increasingly structured demands upon students' time have been criticised by teachers and in the media for contributing to a decline in classroom standards and student performance in recent years.

The ministry recognizes a need to improve the teaching of all foreign languages, especially English. To improve instruction in spoken English, the government invites many young native speakers of English to Japan to serve as assistants to school boards and prefectures under its Japan Exchange and Teaching Program. By 1988 participants numbered over 1,000. This program seems to be being phased out in many areas where the supply of foreign native speakers facilitates their employment through less expensive private agencies.

High school

Even though upper secondary school is not compulsory in Japan, 99% of all lower secondary school graduates entered upper secondary schools as of 2005 [STATISTICAL ABSTRACT 2006 edition(http://www.mext.go.jp/english/statist/index.htm)] . Private upper-secondary schools account for about 55 % of all upper-secondary schools, and neither public nor private schools are free . The Ministry of education estimated that annual family expenses for the education of a child in a public upper-secondary school were about 300,000 yen (US$2,142) in both 1980s and that private upper-secondary schools were about twice as expensive.

The most common type of upper-secondary schools has a fulltime, general program that offered academic courses for students preparing for higher education and also technical and vocational courses for students expecting to find employment after graduation. More than 70 % of upper-secondary school students were enrolled in the general academic program in the late 1980s. A small number of schools offer part-time or evening courses or correspondence education.

The first-year programs for students in both academic and commercial courses are similar. They include basic academic courses, such as Japanese language, English, mathematics, and science. In upper-secondary school, differences in ability are first publicly acknowledged, and course content and course selection are far more individualized in the second year. However, there is a core of academic material throughout all programs.

Vocational-technical programs includes several hundred specialized courses, such as information processing, navigation, fish farming, business English, and ceramics. Business and industrial courses are the most popular, accounting for 72 % of all students in full-time vocational programs in 1989.

Most upper-secondary teachers are university graduates. Uppersecondary schools are organized into departments, and teachers specialize in their major fields although they teach a variety of courses within their disciplines. Teaching depends largely on the lecture system, with the main goal of covering the very demanding curriculum in the time allotted. Approach and subject coverage tends to be uniform, at least in the public schools.

Training of disabled students, particularly at the uppersecondary level, emphasizes vocational education to enable students to be as independent as possible within society. Vocational training varies considerably depending on the student's disability, but the options are limited for some. It is clear that the government is aware of the necessity of broadening the range of possibilities for these students. Advancement to higher education is also a goal of the government, and it struggles to have institutions of higher learning accept more disabled students.

Universities and colleges

As of 1991, more than 2.1 million students were enrolled in 507 universities. At the top of the higher education structure, these institutions provide four-year training leading to a bachelor's degree, and some offer six-year programs leading to a professional degree. There are two types of public four-year colleges: the ninety-six national universities (including the Open University of Japan) and the thirty-nine local public universities, founded by prefectures and municipalities. The 372 remaining four-year colleges in 1991 were private.

The overwhelming majority of college students attend full-time day programs. In 1990 the most popular courses, enrolling almost 40 percent of all undergraduate students, were in the social sciences, including business, law, and accounting. Other popular subjects were engineering (19 percent), the humanities (15 percent), and education (7 percent).

The average costs (tuition, fees, and living expenses) for a year of higher education in 1986 were 1.4 million yen (US$10,000). To help defray expenses, students frequently work part-time or borrow money through the government-supported Japan Scholarship Association. Assistance also is offered by local governments, nonprofit corporations, and other institutions.

According to The Times Higher Education Supplement, the two top-ranking universities in Japan are the University of Tokyo and Kyoto University. [cite web |url=http://www.alnaja7.org/success/Education/times_world_ranking_2005.pdf |title=The Times Higher Education Supplement World University Rankings |date=2005-10-28 |publisher= TSL Education Ltd. |format = PDF | accessdate=2007-03-27]

See also

*Juku
*Yutori education
*JET Programme
*Japanese University Entrance Examinations
*Japanese school uniform
*Eikaiwa
*Curriculum guideline

References

Further reading

*Christopher P. Hood, "Japanese Education Reform: Nakasone's Legacy", 2001, London: Routledge, ISBN 0-415-23283-X."'

*David G. Hebert (2005). Music Competition, Cooperation, and Community: An Ethnography of a Japanese School Band. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Washington. Ann Arbor: Proquest/UMI.

*Kathleen S. Uno (1999). Passages to Modernity: Motherhood, Childhood, and Social Reform in Early Twentieth Century Japan. Hawai: University of Hawai'i Press.

External links

* [http://www.mext.go.jp/english/index.htm Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology]


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