Japan has one of the world’s best-educated populations, with 100% enrollment in compulsory grades and zero illiteracy. While not compulsory, high school (koukou) enrollment is over 96% nationwide and nearly 100% in the cities. The high school dropout rate is about 2% and has been increasing. About 46% of all high school graduates go on to university or junior college. The Japanese educational system was reformed after World War II. The old 6-5-3-3 system was changed to a 6-3-3-4 system (6 years of elementary school, 3 years of junior high school, 3 years of senior high school and 4 years of University) with reference to the American system. The gimukyoiku (compulsory education) time period is 9 years, 6 in shougakkou (elementary school) and 3 in chuugakkou (junior high school).
The Ministry of Education closely supervises curriculum, textbooks, classes and maintains a uniform level of education throughout the country. As a result, a high standard of education is possible. Most schools operate on a three-term system with the new year starting in April. The modern educational system started in 1872, and is modeled after the French school system, which begins in April. The fiscal year in Japan also begins in April and ends in March of the following year, which is more convenient in many aspects.
April is the height of spring when cherry blossom (the most loved flower of the Japanese!) bloom and a most suitable time for a new start in Japan. This difference in the school-year system causes some inconvenience to students who wish to study abroad in the U.S. A half year is wasted waiting to get in and often another year is wasted when coming back to the Japanese university system and having to repeat a year.
Except for the lower grades of elementary school, the average school day on weekdays is 6 hours, which makes it one of the longest school days in the world. Even after school lets out, the children have drills and other homework to keep them busy. Vacations are 6 weeks in the summer and about 2 weeks each for winter and spring breaks. There is often homework over these vacations.
Every class has its own fixed classroom where its students take all the courses, except for practical trainings and laboratory work. During elementary education, in most cases, one teacher teaches all the subjects in each class. As a result of the rapid population growth after World War II, the numbers of students in a typical elementary or junior high school class once exceeded 50 students, but now it is kept under 40. At public elementary and junior high school, school lunch (kyuushoku) is provided on a standardized menu, and it is eaten in the classroom. Nearly all junior high schools require their students to wear a school uniform (seifuku). A big difference between the Japanese school system and the American School system is that Americans respect individuality while the Japanese control the individual by observing group rules. This helps to explains the Japanese characteristic of group behavior.
The longer you study in Japan, the more influent your Japanese will be and the better you will learn Japanese thinking and custom. However, it also cost more tuition and money for living. So please adjust your period of studying to your purpose reasonably. Let’s divide study abroad term into 3 parts. Short term: from several months to one year. Middle term: two to three years. Long term: over three years.
If you choose short term, you could make use of the communication agreement among universities. If you are university student in your own country, it is recommendable for you to take part in this program. If you have graduated from university, you could study in Japanese graduate school for six months or one year as research student. Depending on your major, Japanese ability may not be necessary.
If you were not college students in your own country, it is better for you to focus the purpose of your short term study abroad planning on Japanese Learning. By learning Japanese in the special course of the university for one year, it is possible for you to undergo the life in Japan. Much shorter program will be learning Japanese in Japanese school for six months or participating Japanese lecture in summer to master basic Japanese. In addition, to the applicants who have high Japanese ability, six month or one year major study in graduate school as auditors is possible.
About middle term studying in Japan. After one year study in Japanese school, there are ways to entering vocational school or college school. It is better to set your goal of one year study in Japanese School, like pass the second level of Japanese Language Proficiency Test. Search the Japanese school with such kind of curriculum. There are master courses using English. If you could understand lectures in English, it is no need for you to learn Japanese in order to require master degree.
There are lots of ways for applicants who could study in Japan for long term. To those university undergraduates in their own country, after studying in Japanese school for one or two years, they could enter into master course or graduate schools as research student. To those with high English ability, they could enter into master course or doctoral course (where lecture could be taught in English) directly. On the other hand, to those who did not graduate from universities, after studying in Japanese schools for one or two years, they could enter into undergraduate course, spending four years there to get the bachelor degree. Otherwise, they also have the choice to study two years in vocational schools to acquire the specialist qualification.