Why is the economy focused on wealth

Education in Japan - the basis for growth and prosperity

The month of April is the first month of the new financial year in Japan. At the same time, however, the new school year or academic year begins with him. And so many schoolchildren and students in Japan begin a new phase of life with fresh vigor at a time when nature is around them and everything is in full bloom.

Japan's education system played a central role in helping the country meet the challenges posed by the need to swiftly absorb Western ideas, science and technology during the Meiji period (1868-1912). At the same time, education was an important factor in Japan's recovery and rapid economic growth in the decades after the end of World War II. However, Japanese society faces a variety of challenges in the early years of the 21st century due to changing cultural norms, advances in science and technology, the globalization of the economy, and a difficult economic environment. The education of young people who can tackle these challenges is therefore an extremely important task for the education system in Japan. The direction that must be taken for this is the subject of extensive discussion within the government, the education sector and Japanese society a total of.


History of education

The teaching of literacy has existed in Japan in various forms since the introduction of Chinese writing and Buddhism in the 6th century. In 701, the Taiho Code stipulated that schools should be taught in both the capital and the provinces Children of nobles are to be established. Beginning with the Kamakura period (1185-1333), samurai children began to receive formal education, but it was not until the 250-year peaceful Edo period (1600-1868) that education spread to both ruling circles within the common population. Education during the Edo period was largely based on Confucian concepts that emphasized memorization and study of the Chinese classics. Two different forms of schools developed: First, the schools in the fiefdoms (hanko), which existed in over 200 fiefdoms towards the end of the Edo period and which primarily provided education for the children of the samurai. The second form were the schools called terakoya, in which children of ordinary people as well as of samurai learned, and which concentrated on teaching ethical values ​​as well as reading, writing and arithmetic. Terakoya were usually supported by a single teacher or a married couple. At the end of the Edo period there were tens of thousands of these schools.
The literacy rate in Japan at the time of the collapse of the Tokugawa shogunate in 1868 is estimated at 40 percent, a level higher than that of many western states at the time. Without these foundations in education, the rapid modernization that was achieved in the years that followed would not have been possible.
The leaders of the Meiji period quickly set about building a new education system, which was the main part of their efforts to catch up with the West and promote national unity. A tripartite system of elementary schools, middle schools and universities has been established and compulsory schooling has been introduced for both boys and girls. After the end of the Second World War, the Basic Law on Education and the School Education Act came into force in 1947 under the guidance of the occupying power. The latter established the system that still exists today: a six-year elementary school, followed by a three-year middle school, a three-year high school and two or four-year university courses. Attending elementary and middle school is compulsory for all children. There are also kindergartens (one to three-year attendance), technical colleges with a five-year duration for graduates from secondary schools, special technical schools for graduates from secondary and high schools, and special schools for the disabled. The universities have courses for undergraduate students, short-term courses and graduate courses.


Schools and curricula

The school year: For most elementary, middle and high schools in Japan, the school year begins on April 1st and is divided into three sections (trimesters): April to July, September to December and January to March. Some schools have also divided the school year into two semesters. The gradual transition from the 6-day school week to the 5-day week was completed in 2002. However, many private schools have kept their Saturday classes and in recent years some public high schools have received permission to reinstate Saturday classes so that they have more time to teach the required subjects.

Curriculum Guidelines: The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology draws up curricula that set out the basics for each subject taught in Japanese schools, as well as the learning objectives and content for each grade. These curricula, which are revised approximately every ten years, are compulsory for all schools in the country.

Textbooks in schools: All elementary, middle and high schools are required to use textbooks that have been reviewed and approved by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. The purpose of this official approval system, which has existed since 1886, is the uniform design of education and the preservation of objectivity and neutrality with regard to political and religious issues. The system of free delivery of textbooks during compulsory schooling was introduced in 1963. The textbooks used in each public school district are selected by the local education committees from government-approved proposals based on a review by the prefecture's education committee. In the case of private schools, the headmaster decides on the selection.

Pre-school education: Upbringing in the run-up to primary school takes place in kindergartens (yochien) and day care centers (hoikuen) instead of. Public and private day-care centers accept children between the ages of one and five; their educational programs for children between the ages of three and five are based on those of kindergartens. Around 60 percent of all kindergartens are run by private providers. The proportion of five-year-olds who attend either a kindergarten or day-care center is over 95 percent. The educational approach in kindergartens covers a broad spectrum, ranging from an unstructured environment with a focus on games, in which there is little formal education, to a highly structured environment, which focuses on intellectual training.

Primary schools (1st to 6th grade): Attending the six-year primary school is compulsory. 99 percent of all primary schools are public institutions in which boys and girls are taught together. Each class is assigned a teacher who teaches most subjects; Music and art are usually excluded. In 2008, the highest number of students in a class was 40, while the average class size was 25.6. Typically, students in a class are not divided according to their ability, but for teaching specific subjects, students can be divided into different groups according to their ability. The curriculum includes the following subjects: Japanese, social studies, arithmetic, science, environmental studies, music, arts and crafts, sports, and home economics. There are also activities outside the curriculum, an ethics course and integrated studies that can cover a wide range of topics (international understanding, environmental issues, voluntary activities, etc.). Learning to read and write are arguably the most important parts of the primary school curriculum. In addition to the two Japanese syllable alphabets, students must be able to master at least 1006 Chinese characters by the end of the sixth grade.

Middle schools (7th to 9th grade): Attending a three-year middle school is also compulsory for all students. More than 90 percent of middle schools are public institutions where boys and girls are taught together. Students are assigned to a class each year, which can be up to 40 students (the average class size in 2008 was 30.0 students). There is no skill breakdown for most of the lessons, although some schools have introduced selection courses in English and math. The standard curriculum includes the following mandatory subjects: Japanese, social studies, math, science, a foreign language (almost always English), music, visual arts, health and physical education, and engineering or home economics. Ethics and integrated studies are also taught outside the curriculum.

Secondary schools (10th to 12th grade): Attending high school is voluntary. In 2008, 97.8 percent of all middle school graduates attended secondary school. 75 percent of the secondary schools are publicly owned. Entry into high school is through an entrance exam, and popular schools are highly competitive. Students attending a combined middle and high school can avoid exam pressure to enter high school, but there are currently few combined schools of this type in public schools. The core high school curricula include the following mandatory subjects: Japanese, Geography and history, social studies, math, science, health and sport, art, a foreign language, home economics and computer science. Off-curriculum activities and integrated studies are also required. Students in vocational programs also receive lessons in their respective areas of specialization (e.g. economics, technology or agriculture), while the lessons are somewhat reduced in accordance with the core curricula.
Since nowadays almost all middle school students attend secondary school regardless of their will or willingness to learn, the high schools are looking for new ways to increase the motivation of the students and thus reduce the number of dropouts. As part of this effort, new, more diverse learning models have been introduced to better suit the different skills and interests of each student. Examples of such new models are secondary schools, which award credits (learning points) rather than grades, so that the school leaving certificate depends more on the learning points collected than on the completion of a fixed number of school years. There are also schools with integrated learning programs, where students are offered a wider range of different subjects according to their personal interests and abilities.

Universities: The percentage of Japanese high school graduates who attend either a two-year junior college or a four-year university topped 41 percent in 1993 and reached 52.8 percent in 2008. the percentage for the four-year universities and colleges alone was around 41 percent. The vast majority of students at short-term universities are women. 77 percent of all universities and 92.6 percent of all short-term universities are private. In 2008, 12.1 percent of those who completed a four-year course subsequently began a graduate course. With regard to the higher education system, a number of reforms have recently been carried out in Japan, with major changes in the state universities in particular. In 2004, the 99 state universities that had existed until then were reorganized into 87 institutions. In addition, the state universities, which until then had been internal organs of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sport, Science and Technology, were transformed into independent administrative bodies. This served the aim of creating a more competitive and independent environment within which universities can introduce management methods from the private sector and develop their own strengths in research and teaching. In addition, many universities have introduced new specialized graduate programs in business and law to develop human resources with a broad spectrum of expertise that society needs. The number of foreign students at Japanese universities continues to grow. In May 2007 their number was 118,000; this included students in short-term universities, colleges, and graduate programs. Around 90 percent of foreign students come from Asia.

Tutoring schools and drumming schools: Even if they are not part of the actual core of the education system, there are still tutoring schools (gakushujuku) and so-called drumming schools (yobiko) an important role in education in Japan. The cramming schools focus solely on preparing students for the university entrance exams. The tutoring schools, on the other hand, pursue a more general goal in that they help the students to keep up with the lessons at the regular schools or to learn other material beyond that. But even in these schools, preparation for exams is regularly emphasized. The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology estimated that 39.0 percent of all students in public elementary schools, 75.0 percent of students in public middle schools, and 54.9 percent of students in public high schools attended these schools for the 2001 financial year .


The challenge of reform

The Japanese education system places great emphasis on cooperative behavior, group discipline and compliance with standards. It did the country a good service in providing the talented industrial workforce that made Japan a global economic power in the 20th century. The success of this system is also illustrated by the fact that a large majority of people in Japan feel they belong to the middle class and see education as the path that leads their children to prosperity. In recent years, however, there has been a heated discussion and contradicting proposals as to which direction the education system should take in order to meet the challenges of the 21st century. New curricula were introduced in 2002 that sought to shift the emphasis away from "uniformity and passivity" to "independence and creativity". For example, the number of hours has been reduced in order to create an environment that enables relaxed learning “with less pressure”. As a result, however, the performance of Japanese students in international performance comparisons declined, which led to calls for a return to the basics and an increase in the number of hours in certain subjects.
In 2006, for the first time ever, the government passed an amendment to the Basic Education Act of 1947. These amendments included provisions relating to an education that promotes the vitality of society, respect for Japanese traditions and culture, and love for one's own country. Established in 2006, the Education Reorganization Committee prepares reports containing concrete proposals to incorporate the amendments to the Fundamental Law on Education into educational policy measures. This is intended to address issues such as bullying that lead to a decline in student performance.


© Web Japan, 2009



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