Japan School System


In Japan, almost all high schools, middle schools, and elementary schools have a three-term school year (trimester system), while most universities and colleges are under the semester system. Secondary Education in Japan is split into middle schools, which cover the seventh through ninth years, and high schools, which mostly cover years ten through twelve.

The school year in Japan begins in April and classes are held from Monday to either Friday or Saturday, depending on the school. Japanese schools usually begin around eight thirty. Each class lasts between 40 and 45 minutes in elementary school and 50 minutes in middle school/high school. Middle school/High School students can have six classes in one day. Students are given a 5- to 10-minute break between consecutive classes. The teachers, not the students, go from class to class.

Japanese students take exams not only to get into college, but also into high school. Japanese students attend heterogeneous elementary and middle schools, but after the ninth grade, they are funneled into senior high schools of varying quality. Middle school grades and teacher recommendations play a role in determining who will get into the best high schools and vocational schools, but the most important element is the student's score on the examinations that each school administers to prospective students.

Elementary school students can choose from a wide variety of after-school clubs, which usually meet once a week. Through club activities the students have the opportunity to receive training in sports, or to deepen their understanding of subjects that interest them. Elementary school students in Japan usually leave school at around three o'clock. Once the students enter middle school, though, extracurricular activities take on a bigger role: Some clubs meet several times a week, or even everyday, and on some days the students won't leave school until around five o'clock.

Most schools with the trimester system have a first term from April 1 to mid-July. The exact date of the beginning of the summer break and its duration vary across regions, but the break lasts for about one or two months. The break originated to avoid the heat in summer, so elementary, middle and high schools in Hokkaidō and Nagano Prefecture tend to have a shorter summer break than the rest of schools in Japan.

A second term lasts from early September to late December with a winter break at the end of the year (the New Year period from December 24 to January 7).

The third term is from early January to early March. The graduation ceremony occurs in March, and the enrollment ceremony in early April, with a brief spring break from the end of March through the beginning of April.

Although schools are on vacation in July and August, high school baseball teams are busy vying for a chance to represent their prefecture at the baseball championship held at Koshien Stadium in Hyogo Prefecture. The event is eagerly followed by the whole country.