#1 There is no grade skipping in any Japanese schools
Skipping grades would only interfere with the education system’s countless rigid rules and regulations. Students who breeze through all of their homework and exams are destined to remain with their “average” classmates. It’s unfortunate that they aren’t allowed to reach their full potential…
#2 Until April of 2002, public schools had a half day of school on Saturdays
Although this rule has now passed, it’s still worth a mention. The combination of Saturday school and cram school spelled complete overkill for students nationwide. Some private schools continue to do so…
#3 All Universities, most high schools, and some middle schools require entrance exams
Ask any Japanese student what they find morbidly distressing and they will instantly reply, “exam preparation”. However, there is good news for those students with filthy rich families; Some schools have an “elevator system” in which students can move up from Elementary School to University without taking exams!
#4 Students who fail entrance exams may study at prep-schools and try again the next year
Students unlucky enough to fail their exams are given the name “ronin” (roughly meaning ‘wanderer with no where to go’). This title is considered to be quite shameful within Japanese society and can be disadvantageous when looking for work after finally passing their exams. Their sole purpose is to study the whole year for the entrance exams.
#5 Some schools have rules saying that students must wear their uniform at all times, on or off campus
All buttons must be buttoned down. No folding or rolling up the sleeves. No extra buttons or decorations on the uniform. No dyed hair. No nail varnish. No short skirts. The list goes on. The reason these rules also apply outside of school is because the students represent their respective schools and mustn’t dishonour them. In reality, most students couldn’t care less…
#6 Children who go to public schools go to the school in their local district
Since most school districts are small, school buses usually aren’t used (except for field trips) and parents don’t drive their children. Instead, they walk to and from school, which takes about 5 to 15 minutes in Tokyo. Seems pretty convenient. Except for when it snows…
#7 The only lockers are for the students’ outside shoes, anything else is kept in the classroom
Children walk to school wearing casual shoes and then change into their school shoes at the building’s entrance. They place their casual shoes in open boxed shelves with no worry that they’ll be tampered with.
#8 Every day students have “Daily Chores”, including cleaning the classrooms, halls, and yards of their schools
“O-souji” (‘honorable cleaning’) is a period of about 15 minutes each day when all activities come to a stop, mops and buckets appears and everyone pitches in cleaning up. Often the teachers get their hands dirty by joining students. During lunchtime, sometimes donning hairnets, students help serve the meals and clear away dishes.
#9 Almost all students take part in an extracurricular club activity
Activities can include a wide range of sports, culture, music, art, science, cooking, tea ceremony, photography, archery, English, computers, cheer leading, manga, theater and so on. It is considered slightly strange to not be involved in a club.
#10 Most schoolyards are covered in dirt, asphalt or crushed limestone
In 2006, a decision was made to put turf on 2,000 primary and middle schools in the Tokyo area over the next ten years. The move was made to improve the environment for children’s outside activities and combat the urban heat island effect.
#11 Asking too many questions in the classroom is regarded as shameful for students
Often when a teacher asks for a raise of hands for an answer or opinion, he or she is greeted with silence. The same can apply when asking questions to teachers. They tend not to ask many questions. This is because students may feel it to be embarrassing or shameful to ask too many questions, as they think their classmates will see them as an incompetent person. This is mainly the case with Junior High students.
#12 Teenagers study all the time and have little time left over for fun
Typical middle or high school students arrive home from school at around 4:00pm, has a quick snack and attends cram school classes, often three times a week from 5:00pm to 10:00pm. Sometimes students attend cram school classes on weekends too! This is all for passing the looming entrance exams and nothing else. So when do they get to have fun?
Which of the above surprised you the most? If you have any facts of your own, then let us know in the comments below!