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School life in Japan

The Japanese school system has long been designed to promote a sense of belonging and solidarity. As a result, it has many characteristics that set it apart from other countries.

School Year Schedule

In Japan, the school year begins in April as a new academic year. There is also a summer vacation from the middle of July to the beginning of September. In the second semester from September to December, many schools have memorable events for students, such as sports festivals and cultural festivals. Then, after the winter break, students spend the final semester until the end of March before starting a new school year.

Amazingly, each long vacation, there is a lot of homework to be done, and the students have to do it!

In Japan, grades are divided as follows: elementary school is six years, junior high school is three years, and high school is three years.

School lunch

Especially in elementary schools, where school lunches are often available, students work together to prepare lunch. Through these activities, students acquire the ability to fulfill their roles while cooperating with others.

In addition, Japanese school lunches are well balanced in terms of nutrition, and students learn about local traditional foods and eating manners while enjoying a delicious meal!


School lunch with traditional Shiga Prefecture ingredients

Photo: https://www.maff.go.jp/j/pr/aff/2009/food02.html

Photo: https://kyusyoku-kosien.net/

Special Events

School festival

Many junior high and high schools hold school festivals in the fall. Although they vary slightly from school to school, students participate there by working together to set up food stalls and run cafes. A few years ago, it was all over the news in Japan that some students made a roller coaster by themselves at a school festival!

This is an event that many students look forward to because it is something that they spend the whole year creating under their own leadership. That is why it is an event that is easily memorable for the students.


Sports festival

The Sports Festival is a festival in which classes compete against each other in various events to determine the winner, with students playing a central role in designing the event.

The Sports Festival is a festival in which classes compete against each other in various events to determine the winner, with students playing a central role in designing the event.

Photo: https://foreignlang.ecc.co.jp/know/k00055d/

Study Curriculum

The Japanese curriculum is characterized by the following three features:

1. there is no grade-skipping system and few retention years
2. the level of subjects, especially in science and mathematics, is very high
3. lecture-based learning rather than discussion-based learning

1. There is no grade-skipping system and few retention years

In Japan, there is no grade-skipping system and all students receive a uniformly equal education. Similarly, it is rare for a student to fail a grade and remain in school, and grades are basically moved up one grade per year for 12 years. Students do not choose the classes they want to take, so the teachers go around to each classroom to give classes. Therefore, class ties are often strong.

2. The level of subjects, especially in science and mathematics, is very high

Since there is no grade-skipping system and everyone follows the same curriculum uniformly, it is said that, on average, the level of education in Japan is very high.
In particular, in Japan, when students are in high school, they decide whether they will focus on science courses or liberal arts courses, and in science courses, all students learn mathematics at the same level of difficulty as the AP Calculus class.

The main focus of English learning in Japan is reading and writing, and the emphasis is on reading, understanding, and learning grammatically correct English rather than actually using it.

3. Lecture-based learning rather than discussion-based learning

Because of the large amount of Japanese learning objectives, classes basically proceed in the form of one-way lectures by teachers who emphasize efficiency. It is said that Japanese people are shy and not good at expressing their opinions, which may be a problem with this type of class format!

Problems in school education in Japan

1. Education that ignores differences in students' abilities

The equal education for each age group, which is a characteristic of Japanese school education, seems at first glance to be a fair and equal system, but it means that the most able students have to take boring classes every day, while the less able students have to take classes that are too difficult for them to keep up with.
Therefore, there is an opinion that the system should be designed to allow students to take classes that match their abilities and interests. However, it is difficult to change the old idea that all students should be treated the same.

2. College entrance examination system

In Japan, university entrance examinations tend to measure students solely on the basis of their academic ability, and society tends to place more importance on the university from which they graduated than on what they have learned. This leads many students to study subjects they are not interested in in order to get into universities, rather than pursuing extracurricular activities in the areas they are interested in during high school.
While academic achievement is very important, many people also believe that students should have a variety of experiences while in high school in order to prepare for their future.
Nowadays, the number of entrance exam systems that are not based solely on academic ability is gradually increasing, so it is possible that a more diverse range of students will be admitted.

3. English education in Japan

In Japan, English education focuses mainly on reading and writing, which are easy to score in the form of tests for university entrance examinations. In addition, since Japan is an island nation and has long been inhabited exclusively by Japanese, there have been few opportunities to speak English.
However, the world has become more internationalized, and people from all over the world are working together and visiting other countries more often. Therefore, there are more and more opportunities to communicate in English. However, Japanese people who have not practiced speaking English and who have studied in an environment in which they will lose points on a test if they use incorrect English will not be able to speak English well.

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