Study in Japan
Japan is known for its well-maintained educational system and excellent achievement. In successive international tests of mathematics, Japanese children consistently rank at or near the top (see TIMSS). The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) is responsible for educational administration.
More than 99% of children are enrolled in elementary school. All children enter first grade at age six, and starting school is considered a very important event in a child's life.
Virtually all elementary education takes place in public schools; less than 1% of the schools are private. Private schools tended to be costly, although the rate of cost increases in tuition for these schools had slowed in the 1980s. 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.
Lower secondary school covers grades seven, eight, and nine, children between the ages of roughly 12 and 15, with increased focus on academic studies. Although it is still possible to leave the formal education system after completing lower secondary school and find employment, fewer than 4% did so by the late 1980s.
Even though upper secondary school is not compulsory in Japan, 99% of all lower secondary school graduates entered upper secondary schools as of 2005. Private upper-secondary schools account for about 55 % of all upper-secondary schools, and neither public nor private schools are free . The Ministry of education estimated that annual family expenses for the education of a child in a public upper-secondary school were about 300,000 yen (US$2,142) in both 1980s and that private upper-secondary schools were about twice as expensive.
As of 1991, more than 2.1 million students were enrolled in 507 universities. At the top of the higher education structure, these institutions provide four-year training leading to a bachelor's degree, and some offer six-year programs leading to a professional degree. There are two types of public four-year colleges: the ninety-six national universities (including the University of the Air) and the thirty-nine local public universities, founded by prefectures and municipalities. The 372 remaining four-year colleges in 1991 were private.
The overwhelming majority of college students attend full-time day programs. In 1990 the most popular courses, enrolling almost 40 percent of all undergraduate students, were in the social sciences, including business, law, and accounting. Other popular subjects were engineering (19 percent), the humanities (15 percent), and education (7 percent).
The average costs (tuition, fees, and living expenses) for a year of higher education in 1986 were 1.4 million yen (US$10,000). To help defray expenses, students frequently work part-time or borrow money through the government-supported Japan Scholarship Association. Assistance also is offered by local governments, nonprofit corporations, and other institutions.
According to The Times Higher Education Supplement, the two top-ranking universities in Japan are the University of Tokyo and Kyoto University.