Japan is considered to be one of the most intelligent, polite and healthy nations in the modern world. One of the reasons why Japanese people are so unique is explained by their system of education and school system in particular. This article is created to tell you everything you need to know about the Japanese school system and its distinctive features. We do hope you will enjoy it!

Japanese School System

The Japanese school system is quite similar to the American one, though it is quite more intense and, maybe, even more effective. It was created in an early post-war period when Japan was occupied by Americans. That is probably why these two systems of school education are quite similar and quite often are compared to each other.

Japanese school system is mainly described as a 6-3-3-4 system, based on the number of years a student has to spend in each school. Schools in Japan are subdivided into pre-school, elementary school which takes 6 years, junior high school which takes 3 years and high school which takes 3 more years. 4 more years are for those who study in university.

The compulsory study includes attending elementary school and junior high school. It means that the compulsory study in Japan takes 9 years. One of the most interesting a fact about the Japanese school system is that there is no practice requiring children to repeat a year. Furthermore, it is impossible to fail an exam. It is also worth to note, that compulsory education in Japan is free. Still, the country provides the ability to choose between public and private schools.

Though education in Japan is highly valued and there are nearly no students who face learning problems, there is also a dark side of it. Many students say that it school education is too intense and that parents along with teachers put too much pressure on children, even in their early childhood.


1 - preschool in Japan

There are two main types of preschools in Japan: hoiku-en and yochi-en. The first one is created for children from two months of age. The second one is aimed at those who reached three years. It is exactly yochi-en where studying of hiragana, a Japanese syllabic script, starts. Though preschools are not compulsory and not free, more than 90% of Japanese students attend them.

Elementary School

2 - elementary school in Japan

Compulsory school in Japan begins when a child reaches six years. Though there are both private and public schools in Japan, when it comes to elementary schools, there is only 1% of private ones. It means that Japanese students usually attend a public elementary school that lasts for six years.

Junior-High School

3 - Junior-High School Students

Official compulsory schooling ends when students graduate from Junior-High schools. It lasts for 3 years and starts when a child reaches 12 years. Nearly all junior-high schools in Japan require students to wear an individually designed for each school uniform.

If a student wants to enter a highly-regarded junior-high school, it is necessary to pass an entrance examination. As we mentioned before, it is impossible to fail one. Still, your mark will define if you can enter this or that school. When it comes to private junior-high schools, there are just a few of them. So generally students attend public ones.

High School

4 - High School in Japan

Attendance of high school is not compulsory in Japan. Furthermore, it is not free and requires passing an exam. Still, there are about 97% of students who attend high schools in Japan. The process of studying takes 3 more years and prepares students who want to enter a university to pass an entrance exam.

About 25% of high school students in Japan attend private schools. The cost of high school education, as well as the difficulty of entrance examinations, varies widely across the country. Usually, schools with a high reputation are among the top-priced.

Generally, the attendants of high schools are those students who want to continue their education and to enter this or that university. Still, as they graduate from a high school, there are no final examinations.

High schools in Japan provide general education for those who want to continue their study. Still, there are also technical high schools in Japan, where a student can get a specific technical education.

Distinctive Features of Japanese School System

One of the most distinctive features of the Japanese school system is the beginning of a school year that starts in April. In Japan, a school year consists of trimesters with four weeks summer vacation, two weeks winter vacation and two more weeks of spring vacation. As you can see, students in Japan do not have any autumn vacations. School holidays are uniform throughout schools of the country.

It is worth to mention, that attendance rate in Japanese schools is close to 100%.  They do not skip classes and do not get late for school.

Though education in Japan is one of the most intense one in the world, students do not have any exams until they reach the age of ten. Still, there are various small tests. For the first three years of their study, Japanese students are taught good manners and respect for people and nature. Also, the Japanese believe that it is important to dedicate these years to developing student’s character, self-control, and justice, to teach them how to be generous and compassionate.

Also, Japanese students study calligraphy at school. In Japan, it is called Shodo, the art that is as popular in Japan as painting. There are also lessons on Haiku, a simple expression with a deep meaning behind created in the form of poetry. Both Haiku and Shodo are taught to teach students to respect their culture and traditions.

When it comes to uniforms, rules are very strict. Traditional Japanese school uniform for boys is designed in a military style, while a uniform for girls reminds of sailors. Still, there are some schools that use individually designed uniforms. The main aim is to teach students equality and collectivism.

When it comes to collectivism, there is no better example than cleaning held in Japanese schools. Students make them by themselves and generally, the process includes cleaning of their classroom, cafeterias, and even toilets. Such approach is used to teach children to help each other.

School system in Japan wants its students to remain healthy. That is why their meals are always balanced thanks to the hard work of chefs who cook food in accordance with menus created with the help of by health care professionals. It is also worth to mention that students eat together with the teacher to establish better relations inside their collective.

Though Japanese students have one of the longest school days in the world, they also attend extracurricular courses. That is probably why they never repeat school years.