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Elementary schools in Japan

list of public elementary schools in japan, catholic elementary schools in japan
Elementary school 小学校, Shōgakkō in Japan is compulsory1 All children begin first grade in the April after they turn six1--kindergarten is growing increasingly popular, but is not mandatory—and starting school is considered a very important event in a child's life


  • 1 History
  • 2 Courses of Study
  • 3 Daily life
    • 31 Lunch
    • 32 Afternoons
  • 4 Problems
    • 41 Controversies
  • 5 See also
  • 6 References
  • 7 Further reading
  • 8 External links


In the Edo period, some children attended terakoya or temple schools where they learned practical methods of reading, writing, and calculation

In 1886, the modern elementary school system started as compulsory education Until 1947, only elementary schools were compulsory Immediately before and during World War II, state education was used as a propaganda tool by the Japanese fascist government

Today virtually all elementary education takes place in public schools Tuition to these schools is free, although families have to pay for school lunches, supplies, and non-school expenses such as extra books or lessons

Less than 1% of the schools are private,2 partly because of the latter's expense 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 Competition to enter some of these "ladder schools" is quite intense

Elementary school classes are large, typically between thirty and forty students each1 Students are usually organized into small work groups, which have both academic and disciplinary functions1

Courses of Studyedit

The ministry's Course of Study for Elementary Schools is composed of a wide variety of subjects both academic and nonacademic

Academic subjects include Japanese language, social studies, arithmetic, and science1 Japanese language is an emphasized subject due to the complexity of the written language and the diversity of its spoken forms in formal speech to seniors keigo The English Language is taught at some schools especially in the higher grades;1 it is now mandatory at 5th and 6th grade from 2011,3 as in 2002 TOEFL scores in Japan were the worst in Asia after North Korea4

Nonacademic subjects taught include art including Japanese calligraphy and handicrafts, music, haiku or Japanese traditional poetry, homemaking, physical education, and moral education1 Children also take part in "special activities," scheduled time each week to take care of class business, plan for field trips and ceremonies, and similar tasks

"Information technology is increasingly being used to enhance education, and most schools have access to the Internet"1 There is a system of educational television and radio, and almost all elementary schools use programs prepared by the School Education Division of Japan's ex Broadcasting Corporation Nippon Hoso Kyokai—NHK

Daily lifeedit

Both Japanese elementary and middle schools begin around 7:50 AM, with lessons starting at 8:30 AM5 Japanese schools do not have school buses, both because of the small size of most school districts and because of the availability of public transportation6

The first fifteen minutes of each day is set aside for either a schoolwide assembly on Monday mornings or attendance and announcements in homeroom5

Classes are between 40 and 45 minutes each, with a break of 5 to 10 minutes in-between5


See also: School lunch § Japan

After four morning classes, at about 12:30 PM, students are sent to pick up their homeroom's lunches from the school kitchens5 Lunches are typically served in obento boxes, with small portions of a variety of freshly prepared foods

These include "a whole range of meats, fishes, vegetables, and sea plants A typical meal consists of stew or curry, boiled vegetables, a sandwich, and salad Milk is served with each meal Usually, there is also dessert, such as gelatin, ice cream, and fruit"7

Because there are relatively few cafeterias in elementary schools, meals are taken in the classroom with the teacher, providing another informal opportunity for teaching nutrition, health, good eating habits and social behavior All students eat the same lunch, and are assigned to shifts for serving lunch to their homeroom5 Lunch lasts about 40 minutes5


In some lower elementary school, classes are over after lunch and children are allowed to go home5 Upper elementary students in those schools have one more class after lunch5 However, other schools have a 5 or 6 classes per day, with only the youngest students not having a sixth period Some schools allow for a 20-minute recess in-between, which is sometimes used for cleaning the classrooms: sweeping, mopping, throwing away trash, etc Students then usually leave school around three o'clock5

After-school clubs like sports and English club are offered at elementary schools, but unlike middle and high school clubs these usually meet only once a week5


Japanese elementary schooling is seenwho as effective, but not without some problems, notably increasing absenteeism and school refusal and a troublesome amount of bullying 77,630 reported cases in 2010 throughout the school system8 In addition, special provision for the young children returning to Japan from long periods spent overseas is an issue The government also is concerned with the education of Japanese children residing abroad However, in most urban centers there are at least private international schools which can accommodate such returnees


A new course of study was established in 1989, partly as a result of the education reform movement of the 1980s and partly because of ongoing curriculum review Important changes scheduled were an increased number of hours devoted to Japanese language, the replacement of the social sciences course with a daily life course- -instruction for children on proper interaction with the society and environment around them—and an increased emphasis on moral education New emphasis also was to be given in the curriculum to the national flag and the Japanese national anthem The ministry suggested that the flag be flown and the national anthem sung at important school ceremonies Because neither the flag nor the anthem had been legally designated as national symbols, and because of the nationalistic wartime associations the two had in the minds of some citizens, this suggestion was greeted with opposition

See alsoedit

  • Sports Day
  • Fushūgaku
  • Juku
  • Terakoya
  • Education in Japan
  • History of education in Japan
  • Education in the Empire of Japan


  •  This article incorporates public domain material from the Library of Congress Country Studies website http://lcweb2locgov/frd/cs/ - Japan
  1. ^ a b c d e f g h "Schools - Explore Japan - Kids" Web Japan Retrieved 2015-02-20 
  2. ^ "私立学校の振興" Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology in Japanese 
  3. ^ Tang, Warren M 2008-04-05 "Japanese primary schools to teach 285 English words in 2011 – Warren M Tang" Corporawordpresscom Retrieved 2015-02-20 
  4. ^ "Japan" Atimescom 2002-06-27 Retrieved 2015-02-20 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "A Day at School - Schools - Explore Japan - Kids" Web Japan Retrieved 2015-02-20 
  6. ^ "Ways to School - Schools - Explore Japan - Kids" Web Japan Retrieved 2015-02-20 
  7. ^ "Lunches - Schools - Explore Japan - Kids" Web Japan Retrieved 2015-02-20 
  8. ^ Japan Today

Further readingedit

  • Stevenson, Harold, 1994, Learning Gap: Why Our Schools Are Failing and What We Can Learn from Japanese and Chinese Education Simon & Schuster
  • James W and James Hiebert Stigler, 2009, reprint, The Teaching Gap: Best Ideas from the World's Teachers for Improving Education in the Classroom Free Press
  • Xenophobia and the effects of education in Japan

External linksedit

  • Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology MEXT
  • List of Elementary and Middle Schools in Japan

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