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Part I: Educational Development in Japan

Presented in this part of this report are a general view of the Japanese school system and some of the indicators showing the development of Japanese education in recent decades. Although these are not necessarily based on ‘Core EFA Indicators’, they cover the major points of educational development in Japan, particularly in the post-war period.

I. Development of Modern Education in Japan

The foundation of the current Japanese education system was established after World War II. In the late 1940s, education reform was formalized through legislation: in 1947, the Fundamental Law of Education and the School Education Law were enacted. Under these laws, a formal educational system (the so-called 6-3-3-4 system) was established on the basis of the principle of equal educational opportunity.

Even before the 1950s, Japanese society enjoyed a high literacy rate and a high enrollment percentage of children in elementary and lower secondary schools, the stages that comprise compulsory education in Japan. Thus the post-war Japan has seen the quantitative development of post-compulsory education (Figure 1 and Table 1). Upper secondary schools started in 1948 with full-time and part-time courses, and the proportion of lower secondary school leavers going on to upper secondary education increased from 42.5% to 90% within a quarter of a century. A new system of university education also started in 1949, and 1950 saw the launch of a provisional system of junior colleges. The proportion of upper secondary school leavers going on to higher education, which stood at only 10% in the 1950s, rose to nearly 50% by 1998.

Figure 1: Trends in the enrollment rate at each educational level and the proportion of students going on to higher levels of education (Source: MONBUSHO)

Table1: Enrollment Rates at each educational level and the proportion of students going on to upper secondary and higher education (%)

Year

1950

1955

1960

1965

1970

1975

1980

1985

1990

1995

1998

1) kindergartens

8.9

20.1

28.7

41.3

53.8

63.5

64.4

63.7

64.0

63.2

62.3

2) elementary schools

99.64

99.77

99.82

99.81

99.83

99.91

99.98

99.99

99.99

99.99

99.98

3) lower secondary schools

99.20

99.92

99.93

99.91

99.89

99.91

99.98

99.99

99.99

99.99

99.98

4) upper secondary schools

42.5

51.5

57.7

70.7

82.1

91.9

94.2

93.8

94.4

95.8

95.9

5) higher education institutions

-

10.1

10.3

17.0

23.6

37.8

37.4

37.6

36.3

45.2

48.2

  1. Enrollment rates for kindergartens
  2. Enrollment rates for primary schools
  3. Enrollment rates for lower secondary schools
  4. Proportion of lower secondary school leavers going on to upper secondary schools
  5. Proportion of the age group going on to universities and junior colleges

(Source: Mounbu Tokei Yoran)

II. The School System

The formal educational system is divided into four stages, namely pre-elementary, elementary, secondary and higher or tertiary. Each stage corresponds to a different age range. Compulsory schooling lasts nine years, meaning that all children are required to attend elementary school for six years and lower secondary school for three years (Figure 2).

The following are the major characteristics of the different stages of formal education:

1) Elementary Schools

All children who have attained the age of six are required to attend a six-year elementary school. This is intended to provide children between the ages of 6 and 12 with elementary general education suited to the appropriate stage of their mental and physical development.

2) Lower Secondary Schools

All children who have completed elementary school are required to go on to a three-year lower secondary school. This aims to build on the education provided in elementary school and to provide children between the ages of 12 and 15 with general education suited to the level of their mental and physical development.

3) Upper Secondary Schools

Upper secondary schools aim to build on the basis of the education provided in lower secondary schools and to provide children who have completed the lower secondary stage with general and specialized secondary education suited to their level of mental and physical development. There are three types of secondary school courses: full-time, part-time and correspondence. The full-time course lasts three years, while both the part-time and the correspondence courses last three years or more. Part-time courses are of two types: day courses and evening courses. The majority of such courses are offered in the evenings.

4) Six-year Secondary Education Schools

In 1999, a new optional system of secondary education was introduced. Under this system, which was introduced in order to broaden the range of options for secondary education, it will be possible to select "continuous, six-year education from lower through upper secondary school". This newly established system will be further enriched in the coming century.

Other institutions have been added since 1960, and the current system is as shown in Figure 2. In 1961, a correspondence course was added so as to provide an additional way of taking upper secondary school courses. In 1962, colleges of technology were started with the aim of offering to lower secondary school leavers a five-year course of technologically oriented education. In addition, special training colleges and miscellaneous schools offer vocational, technical or other courses adapted to the practical needs of life.

Figure 2: Organization of the present school system (Source: MONBUSHO)

Special education is provided for handicapped children, either in special schools or in special classes in ordinary elementary and lower secondary schools. In these schools and classes, the education is adapted to the needs of the children in accordance with the type and degree of their disability.

In addition, pre-school children attend kindergartens as a non-compulsory stage of education. The enrollment rate in kindergartens increased from 8.9% in 1950 to 62.3% in 1998 (see also the remarks below on pre-school education).

Figure 3: Structure of national and local government administration of education, science, sports and culture (Source: MONBUSHO)

III. Mechanisms

Educational administration in Japan is the responsibility of different bodies at national, prefectural and municipal levels. At national level, the central organ of educational administration is the Ministry of Education, Science, Sports and Culture. Its responsibilities include the promotion and dissemination of educational, academic, scientific, cultural and sporting activities.

Each prefecture has a board of education with primary responsibility for the administration and implementation of educational, academic, scientific, cultural and sporting activities within the prefectural boundaries (Figure 3). Similarly, municipalities also have boards of education with designated responsibilities within the municipality. Apart from the boards of education, prefectural governors also have certain fixed powers and responsibilities regarding educational administration.

IV. Main Educational Statistics

1. Gross enrollment in early childhood development programs

At the pre-school stage of education, we have seen the development of non-compulsory kindergartens designed to help develop the minds and bodies of infants. There are now 49 national kindergartens, 6,030 public (local government) kindergartens and 8,524 private kindergartens located throughout Japan. Nearly 1.8 million children aged three or older are enrolled in these, and the enrollment rates since 1950 are shown in Figure 4.

The enrollment level in Figure 4 represents the percentage of 3-5 year olds enrolled in kindergartens. Apart from kindergartens, there are public and private day nurseries, another popular type of pre-school education, found all over Japan. Nowadays, there are 22,439 day nurseries (as of 1998) catering for children from 0 to 5. Since the number of working mothers is increasing year by year, the role of day nurseries in Japanese society is becoming more and more important. In 1997, the total number of children of pre-school age (0 to 6) was 7,769,000, of which 21.2% were enrolled in day nurseries, while 23.0% were enrolled in kindergartens. Of families in which only the fathers have full-time jobs, 9.5% send their children of pre-school age to day nurseries, while 24.6% send their children to kindergartens. On the other hand, of families in which both the father and the mother have full-time jobs, 48.3% send their children to day nurseries, while 16.3% send their children to kindergartens. These figures show that day nurseries cater for larger number of children than kindergartens and are still in great demand among dual-income families.

2. Apparent intake rates at secondary and tertiary levels

Both elementary and lower secondary education had already reached an enrollment rate of more than 99% by the 1950s and have kept nearly the same rate up to the present time (see Table 1). With regard to apparent intake rate, rather than dealing with new entrants in the first grade of elementary education, this paper focuses on new entrants to upper secondary schools and to higher education institutions as a proportion of the corresponding population.

While in 1950 the number of students going on to upper secondary education was nearly 674,300, this figure grew to more than 1.5 million in 1990s. As shown in Table 2, the proportion of lower secondary school leavers going on to upper secondary schools was 42.5% in 1950, but gradually increased to 95.9% in 1998.

Table 2: Enrolment percentages and the proportion of students going on to upper secondary schools and higher education institutions (%)

Year

1950

1955

1960

1965

1970

1975

1980

1985

1990

1995

1998

Percentage A

99.6

99.8

99.8

99.8

99.8

99.9

100

100

100

100

99.9

Percentage B

99.2

99.9

99.9

99.9

99.9

99.9

100

100

100

100

99.9

Percentage C

42.5

51.5

57.7

70.7

82.1

91.9

94.2

93.8

94.4

95.8

95.9

Percentage D

30.3

18.4

17.2

25.4

24.2

34.2

31.9

30.5

30.5

37.5

42.4

Note: Percentage A: Percentage of school age children enrolled in elementary schools.

Percentage B: Percentage of school age children enrolled in lower secondary schools.

Percentage C: The proportion of lower secondary leavers in March of each year going on to upper secondary schools excluding correspondence course for 1984 and thereafter and colleges of technology.

Percentage D: The proportion of upper secondary leavers in March of each year who, in April of the same year, entered universities, junior colleges or advanced courses at upper secondary schools.

(Source: Monbu Tokei Yoran; Outline of Education in Japan)

The number of students going on to colleges or universities reached nearly 600,000 by 1995, while it was only 77,000 in 1950. Indicated in Table 2 is also the percentage of students going on to higher education institutions as a proportion of the corresponding population. The proportion of upper secondary school leavers going on to higher education institutions had been below 35% before 1990, but has risen up to 42.4% by 1998.

3. Pupil-teacher ratio

Before showing the pupil-teacher ratio, we will look at the number of pupils and teachers at each educational level. As indicated in Tables 3 and Figures 5, the number of teachers increased gradually until the 1980s. In the 1990s, however, the number has become smaller except at pre-school level.

Table 3: Number of teachers

Kindergarten

Elementary School

Lower Secondary School

Upper Secondary School

1950

8,028

305,520

182,008

82,932

1955

24,983

340,572

199,062

111,617

1960

31,330

360,660

205,988

131,719

1965

45,193

345,118

237,750

193,524

1970

66,579

367,941

224,546

202,440

1975

85,680

415,071

234,844

222,915

1980

100,958

467,953

251,279

243,592

1985

98,455

461,256

285,123

266,809

1990

100,932

444,218

286,065

286,006

1995

102,992

430,958

271,020

281,117

1998

104,687

415,680

266,729

273,307

(Source: Monbu Tokei Yoran)

As indicated in Table 4 and Figure 6, the number of students also showed a rapid increase up to the 1980s. However, from the early 1980s at elementary school level, the late 1980s at lower secondary school level, and the early 1990s at upper secondary school level, the numbers show a decline.

Table 4: Number of students

Kindergarten

Elementary School

Lower Secondary School

Upper Secondary School

1950

224,653

11,191,401

5,332,515

1,935,118

1955

643,683

12,266,952

5,883,692

2,592,001

1960

742,367

12,590,680

5,899,973

3,239,416

1965

1,137,733

9,775,532

5,956,630

5,073,882

1970

1,674,625

9,493,485

4,716,833

4,231,542

1975

2,292,591

10,364,846

4,762,442

4,333,079

1980

2,407,093

11,826,573

5,094,402

4,621,930

1985

2,067,951

11,095,372

5,990,183

5,177,681

1990

2,007,964

9,373,295

5,369,162

5,623,336

1995

1,808,432

8,370,246

4,570,390

4,724,945

1998

1,786,129

7,663,533

4,380,604

4,258,385

(Source: Monbu Tokei Yoran)

As Figure 7 shows, the pupil-teacher ratios both at elementary and lower secondary school levels, namely the average number of pupils per teacher in elementary and lower secondary education in a given year, have gradually fallen from 36 in the 1950s to below 20 in the 1990s at elementary level, and from 30 in 1955 to 17 in 1997 at lower secondary level. One of the reasons that causes the decline is that the total number of school-age children has been decreasing rapidly. This tendency is expected to continue into the twenty-first century.

  1. Educational Expenditure

4.1. The development of educational expenditure

Educational expenditure has increased rapidly, especially at elementary and lower secondary levels, during the last few decades. As indicated in Figure 8, the total educational expenditure was 315,292 million yen in 1955. However, it increased to 6,134,128 million yen in 1975 and to 14,448,397 million yen in 1996. Table 4 shows educational expenditure for both national and public (local governments’) schools at each educational level.

Table 4: Educational expenditure for national and public schools (million yen)

Kindergarten

Elementary Ed.

Lower Secondary Ed.

Upper Secondary Ed.

Total

1955

2,191

161,836

94,381

56,884

315,292

1960

3,494

251,520

162,130

96,797

513,941

1965

9,792

509,979

312,108

249,373

1,081,252

1970

31,103

1,094,330

584,564

482,439

2,192,436

1975

107,746

3,101,383

1,631,591

1,293,408

6,134,128

1980

179,360

5,097,274

2,613,505

2,057,315

9,947,454

1985

191,320

5,320,978

3,362,829

2,621,925

11,497,052

1990

236,997

6,204,997

3,729,066

3,059,388

13,230,448

1995

261,907

6,759,996

3,918,970

3,414,293

14,355,166

1996

268,660

6,764,201

3,925,886

3,489,650

14,448,397

(Source: Gakko Kihon Chosa Hokokusho)

4.2 Current Educational Budget

The total budget of the national government for the fiscal year 1998 amounted to 77,669.2 billion yen. The budget for the Ministry of Education, Science, Sports and Culture in general accounts for the same fiscal year amounted to 5,790.9 billion yen, accounting for 7.5% of the total government budget. The special account budget for national educational institutions amounted to 2,684.8 billion yen. The budget of the Ministry is spent on various government services for the improvement and promotion of education, culture and sports, including the payment of salaries for teachers and other employees in public educational institutions, the construction of educational buildings, financial assistance to private educational institutions, and financial aid and scholarships to students.

Major policy items in the 1998 budget of the Ministry of Education, Science, Sports and Culture are as follows:

Figure 9 shows the details of the 1998 budget of the Ministry of Education, Science, Sports and Culture.

Figure 9: The budget of Ministry of Education, Science, Sports and Culture (Fiscal 1998)

(Source: MONBUSHO)

Note; "National Treasurys share for compulsory school expenditures" represents the amount of salaries for compulsory school teachers to be paid by the national government. In order to ensure free compulsory education, the government pays half of the teachers total salaries for compulsory schools.

References

MONBUSHO. Monbusho(Ministry of Education, Science, Sports and Culture, Government of Japan). n.d.

Outline of Education in Japan 1997. Monbusho (ed.), The Asia / Pacific Cultural Centre for UNESCO. 1997

Monbu Tokei Yoran 1999. Monbusho. 1999 [Handbook of educational statistics]

Final Report of the International Meeting on Educational Reform and Educational Research: New Challenges in Linking Research, Information and Decision-Making. IBE and NIER. 1995

Japans Modern Educational System: A History of the First Hundred Years. Monbusho, 1980

Hoikuhakusho 1998. Zenkoku-hoiku-dantai-renrakukai & Hoiku-kenkyujo (ed.), Soudo-bunka. 1998 [White paper on day-care nursing]

                                                                                                                            END


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