education in tokyo

Schooling in Japan emphasizes diligence, self-criticism and well organized study habits. The belief is ingrained in children that hard work and perseverance will yield success in life. Much of official school life is devoted to directly and indirectly teaching correct attitudes and moral values and developing character. At the same time, the academic achievement of Japanese students is extremely high by international standards.
The majority of Japanese children begin their education with preschool, although it is not part of the official system. The official structure provides compulsory free schooling and a sound and balanced education to virtually all children from grade one to nine. Upper-secondary school, grades ten through twelve, attracts about ninety-four percent of those who complete lower-secondary school. About one-third of all Japanese upper-secondary school graduates advance to post-secondary education. The types of post-secondary education may vary: four year colleges, junior colleges, special training schools, miscellaneous schools, and technical colleges.
As in the United States, Tokyo\'s children begin their early education in the home. Books, audio tapes, and television are the primary tools used in homes by parents. Preschool education provides the transition from home to formal schooling for nearly all children. Preschool helps the Japanese children to adjust to group oriented life and also to society. The preschools are usually staffed by young female junior college graduates, but are not part of the official school system. In addition to preschools, Japan has a well developed system of daycare centers that provide almost identical instruction to the children.
Education is compulsory and free for all school children from first to ninth grade. The school year begins on April 1st and ends on March 31st of the following year. The school year has a minimum of 210 days; the rest of the days in the school year are devoted to other school and sports activities and vacations. The children go to school five full days a week and one half day on Saturday.
The nationally designed curriculum exposes students to a balanced, basic education. The textbooks are free to all students. Also, almost all pupils have access to health professionals, playgrounds, gymnasiums, and swimming pools. Primary schooling in Japan is known for its equal educational treatment to all students.
More than ninety-nine percent of elementary school age children are enrolled in school. All children enter first grade at the age of six. Starting school in Japan is considered a very important event in a child\'s life. Virtually all elementary education takes place in public schools. Less than one percent of the schools are private. Although public schools are free, parents must pay for certain items: school lunches, supplies, extra books, and private lessons. The elementary school classes are quite large; 31 students on average per classroom. Students are usually organized into small work groups which have both academic and disciplinary functions. Discipline is strictly maintained and a sense of responsibility is encouraged. The teachers in elementary schools are mostly women and are usually responsible for teaching all subjects. Most principals and head teachers, however, are men. Japanese elementary schooling is acknowledged to be excellent, but not without some problems. Increasing absenteeism and bullying are two of the most troubling factors in the elementary school system.
In Japan, lower-secondary school covers grades seven, eight and nine. The children are roughly between the ages of twelve and fifteen. The lower-secondary schools have an increased focus on academic studies. Most of these schools are public; only five percent are private. Teachers in the lower-secondary schools are two thirds male. Each teacher is responsible for teaching only one subject. The average class size is somewhat larger than that of the elementary schools; 38 persons per classroom. Instruction is mostly lecture, with the aide of computers, television, audio and video tapes, and laboratories. Bullying is also a major problem in the lower-secondary schools. It was rampant in the 1980\'s but has decreased mildly in the recent past.
Ninety-four percent of all lower-secondary school graduates enter into upper secondary schools. The majority are still public institutions, however, an increased amount are privatized. At this level, public schooling is no longer free. The most common type of upper-secondary schools have fulltime, general programs that offer academic courses for students preparing for higher education. More than seventy percent of upper-secondary