American versus Japanese High School

(EDUCATION) Japanese Education System No.1

1.0) Ability Grouping

1.1) There is more ability grouping in the US than in Japan.

Ability grouping, tracking and grouping alternatives

1.2) There is less ability grouping in Japan than in the US.

 2.0) After School

2.1) Many US students work after school.

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2.2) Most Japanese students go to cram school (juke) after school.

 Culture Shock! Cram Schools


3.0) Daily Schedule

3.1) Eight hours a day but less days per year. There are no classes on Saturday and Sunday.

3.2) Six hours a day but more days per year. Many schools still meet on Saturday despite a movement to phase this out starting in 1992.

 Daily Life of an American vs. Japanese High School Student

4.0) Dress

4.1) Student uniforms are not common.

Around 20 percent of all public schools require uniforms.

4.2) All public high school students must wear a uniform. Everyone must remove their shoes at the entrance and change into indoor shoes.

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 5.0) Examinations

5.1) There is no entrance exam for high school. There are more short essay questions than in Japan.

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5.2) Japan has an entrance exam. There are more objective questions such as multiple choice in exams than the US.

School Entrance Exams in Japan

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6.0) Funding

6.1) In the US schools are mostly financed by property taxes.

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6.2) In Japan national government accounts for one third of the school funding.

7.0) Outcomes

7.1) US scores lower on most international math and science tests compared to Japan. There is a perception that the US does better in critical thinking than Japan.

7.2) Japanese students have consistently ranked first in mathematics literacy and second in science literacy.

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8.0) Parents

8.1) The US has the Parent Teacher Association (PTA).

8.2) Homeroom teachers visit parents at their homes.


9.0) Role of the Student

9.1) Students are expected to be more active. Classroom participation is an important. Relationship between teacher and student is more informal.

9.2) Students are expected to be more passive. The relationship between student and teachers is more formal.

School Rules in Japan 日本の校則

10.0) Role of the Teacher

10.1) Teacher is more of a facilitator. Teachers use a more transactional teaching style and encourage discussion.

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10.2) Teacher is more of a director. Teachers see their roles as that of a transmitter of knowledge and students should focus on receiving that knowledge and use more lecture and less discussion.



11.0) School Calendar

11.1) Two Semesters, Schedule varies, Dates are approximate, Less school days per year

5/10 – School Starts

10/12 – Columbus Day Observed

11/11 – Veterans Day

11/26 -27 – Thanksgiving Recess

12/24 -1/1 – Winter Recess

1/18 – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day

2/2 – Spring Term begins

2/15-19 – Midwinter Recess

3/25 – Good Friday

4/25-29 – Spring Recess

5/30 – Memorial Day

Senior Prom

6/28 – Last Day for All Students.




Schedule more standardized

More school days per year

School begins the 2nd in April

5/3 – Constitution Memorial Day

5/5 – Children’s Day

End of July through the end of August- Summer vacation

9/15 – Respect for the Aged Day

9/23 (or 24) – Autumnal Equinox Day

10/10 –Health-Sports Day

11/3 – Culture Day

11/23 – Labor Thanksgiving Day

12/23 – Emperor’s Birthday

12/25 – 1/7- Winter vacation

1/15 – Adults’ Day

2/11 – National Foundation Day

3/21 (or 20) – Vernal Equinox Day

School ends 3rd week in March and Spring Vacation begins


12.0) Student Clubs

12.1) Student clubs are optional. Sports include American football, basketball, baseball and cheerleading.

12.2) Students are strongly urged to join a student club. Sports include baseball, softball, soft tennis, table tennis, volleyball, basketball, track and field, swimming, kendo, and band.

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13.0) Support Services

13.1) US schools have janitors, cafeterias and bus services.

13.2) Japanese schools do not have janitors, cafeterias and bus services.

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Japanese High School Lunch Time!!

Time of the Soji (school cleaning in Japan)


14.0) Tracking

14.1) Comprehensive high schools do not use tracking. Magnet schools are examples of tracking in the US.

Tracking vs. Detracking in Schools

14.2) Starting in high school, Japanese students are tracked into various schools with various academic rankings. Students are also tracked by ability or by educational goals into different classes within a school.

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Worksheet at:

American versus Japanese High School Table

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