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Expat Exchange - Educational System in Japan
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Educational System in Japan

By Betsy Burlingame

Universal Tax Professionals
Universal Tax Professionals

Summary: The one tip that you hear expats living in Japan repeatedly sharing with newcomers is not to buy a home when you first move to Japan. Rent for a few months or longer so that you have time to find the right neighborhood. Give yourself time to ensure that Japan is right for you for the long term. If you've already taken time to do those things and are ready to take the plunge and become a property owner, here are tips about buying a home in Japan.

Japan is renowned for its high-quality education system, which is often credited for the country's numerous achievements in science, technology, and the arts. The system is structured to provide a comprehensive and balanced education, instilling both academic knowledge and moral values in students. For expats planning to move to Japan, understanding the country's educational system is crucial to ensure a smooth transition for their children. This guide provides an overview of the main stages of education in Japan, enrollment procedures, language requirements, public bilingual schools, common types of private schools, and the possibilities of homeschooling and online schooling.

What are the main stages of education in Japan?

The Japanese educational system is divided into several stages: pre-primary education (Y?chien), elementary school (Sh?gakk?), lower secondary school or junior high school (Ch?gakk?), upper secondary school or high school (K?t?gakk?), and higher education (Daigaku or Senmongakk?). Each stage is designed to cater to the developmental needs of students at different ages and to prepare them for the next level of education.

Pre-primary Education (Y?chien)

Y?chien, or kindergarten, is for children aged three to five. It is not compulsory but is popular among Japanese families. The curriculum focuses on social interaction, basic Japanese language skills, and creativity through play and activities.

Elementary School (Sh?gakk?)

Sh?gakk?, or elementary school, is for children aged six to twelve. It is the first stage of compulsory education in Japan. The curriculum includes Japanese, mathematics, science, social studies, music, crafts, physical education, and moral education.

Lower Secondary School (Ch?gakk?)

Ch?gakk?, or junior high school, is for students aged twelve to fifteen. This is the second stage of compulsory education. The curriculum is more advanced, with additional subjects like English and technology.

Upper Secondary School (K?t?gakk?)

K?t?gakk?, or high school, is for students aged fifteen to eighteen. It is not compulsory but is attended by most students. High schools may be academic or vocational, and students can choose their courses based on their future career plans.

How does a newcomer from a different country enroll their kids in school?

Expats can enroll their children in Japanese schools by contacting the local municipal office or the school directly. They will need to provide documents such as the child's passport, residence card, and a certificate of alien registration. Some schools may require additional documents like academic records from previous schools.

Can children still learning Japanese enroll in a public school?

Yes, children who are still learning Japanese can enroll in public schools. Many schools offer Japanese language support for non-native speakers. However, the level of support varies from school to school, so it's advisable to check with the school beforehand.

Are there public bilingual schools?

There are a few public bilingual schools in Japan, mainly in major cities like Tokyo and Osaka. Admission procedures vary, but generally, students need to pass an entrance examination and an interview. Some schools may also require a certain level of proficiency in both Japanese and English.

What types of private schools are common in Japan?

Common types of private schools in Japan include international schools, religious schools (such as Christian and Catholic schools), and Montessori schools. International schools follow an international curriculum and are popular among expats. Religious schools focus on moral education based on their respective faiths, while Montessori schools emphasize self-directed learning.

Do expats typically send their children to public or private school?

Many expats in Japan choose to send their children to international schools due to the language barrier and differences in the educational system. However, some expats prefer public schools for their children to fully immerse in the Japanese culture and language.

How expensive are Private schools in Japan?

Private schools in Japan can be quite expensive, with tuition fees ranging from 1 million to 3 million yen per year. International schools tend to be the most expensive, while religious and Montessori schools are slightly more affordable.

Are you allowed to homeschool while living in Japan?

Yes, homeschooling is legal in Japan, although it is not common. Parents who wish to homeschool their children need to notify the local education board and provide a suitable learning environment at home.

May kids attend online school instead of a local school while living in Japan?

Yes, online schooling is an option in Japan, especially amid the COVID-19 pandemic. However, it's important to ensure that the online school is accredited and that the curriculum meets the educational standards in Japan.

About the Author

Betsy Burlingame Betsy Burlingame is the Founder and President of Expat Exchange and is one of the Founders of Digital Nomad Exchange. She launched Expat Exchange in 1997 as her Master's thesis project at NYU. Prior to Expat Exchange, Betsy worked at AT&T in International and Mass Market Marketing. She graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University with a BA in International Business and German.

Some of Betsy's articles include 12 Best Places to Live in Portugal, 7 Best Places to Live in Panama and 12 Things to Know Before Moving to the Dominican Republic. Betsy loves to travel and spend time with her family. Connect with Betsy on LinkedIn.


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