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Information on Japanese Education
Malaysia-Japan Cultural & Educational Exchange Programme (Program Pertukaran Kebudayaan & Pembelajaran Malaysia-Jepun)


The Ministry of Education, Science, Sports and Culture (Monbusho) is an administrative organization responsible for the promotion and dissemination of education, science, sports and culture. Monbusho functions are integrated with the administration of the central government in these areas.

Monbusho comprises one Minister's Secretariat, six Bureaus and an external Bureau-the Agency for Cultural Affairs.(Minister's Secretariat, Lifelong Learning Bureau, Elementary and Secondary Education Bureau, Local Education Support Bureau, Higher Education Bureau, Science and International Affairs Bureau, Physical Education and Sports Bureau and Agency for Cultural Affairs )

Essentially, the Japanese education system is composed of 6 years of elementary school, 3 years of junior high school, 3 years of senior high school, 4 years of undergraduate and 5 years of post graduate courses. There is also kindergarten prior to elementary school; college of technology of 5 years which students enter after finishing junior high school; and junior colleges of 2 years after senior high school.

Everyone enters elementary school at the age of six ,and 9 years of education up until the end of junior high
school is compulsory.

The academic year starts in April, and ends in March of the following year.

Apart from the educational system mentioned above, there are schools which carry out various kinds of education for the general public. Schools of this kind which meet the required standards are known as special training colleges.

Beside public funded institutions, there is also privately funded.

Insights into the Japanese Educational System

At first glance, the Japanese Education system seems very similar to the traditional western approach that was popular about 30 or 40 years ago. Students sit quietly and take notes while a teacher lectures on a subject, pausing only to take up homework and to mark attendance. Questions are few and discussion is usually passed over in favour of extra lecture time. Lectures are based almost entirely on the textbook and there is little deviation from it.

Knowledge is primarily obtained through memorization and method-based problem solving. One would perhaps be surprised that students are able to stay awake in class at all much less stay motivated enough to learn at a pace that consistently ranks the Japanese in the top ten countries of the world for science and math.

On closer examination one can see that there are other forces at play in the classroom, forces which push students to the almost unbelieveable levels of tolerance and endurance needed to pass the University entrance exams. These forces stem, in part from societal pressures but also from strong reinforcement of traditional Japanese thinking in the educational system itself. Unlike most western approaches, the Japanese system spends a great deal of emphasis and importance in activities outside of the classroom.

Teacher-student interaction, group-structured student groups and classes and school events all serve to build the student with not only a sense of ethics and morality, but also a commitment and responsibility to learn and to excel at school that transcends the needs of the individual themself; a student's performance becomes more than a personal statement as the approval of their teachers, peers and family come to weigh more their own difficulties. It is perhaps this drive, carefully nurtured by the educational system that allows students to accept the 8-hour/day study sessions and continue to face the mounds of homework in face of exhaustion, lack of sleep and sheer stress.

Perhaps the biggest difference between Japanese and Western teachers are in their roles in their respective educational systems. In most western countries, there is little interaction between students and teachers outside of the classroom. Teachers are considered regular government workers who work standard hours and go home when classes are out. They are considered to be "normal" people with no particular qualities to distinguish them from say the civil servant at the tax office, or the accountant who lives down the street.Teaching is just a job.

In Japan, it's something more. Teachers are held with a high degree of respect, being addressed with the honorific "sensei", a title which of all other professions only doctors and politicians also share. They are expected to be "better people" than the average person, adhering to higher codes of conduct and excelling beyond the standard in their respective fields. As education is considered the cornerstone of success in Japanese society, a teacher's role is considered to be one of the main deciding factors in the future of a student; and they are treated accordingly. Teachers often receive gifts from their students' parents as gratitude and as tacit requests to take special care in their child's education. As elevated members of society, they command immediate respect even outside of a classroom and are always addressed with the polite "keigo" language that is reserved only for superiors and elders although a teacher may be much younger than the parents to whom she/he is talking to. There is almost complete trust in a teacher's words and directives by students and parents alike; if a teacher recommends a specific university or vocation, students will usually choose it in difference to their own wishes; if a teacher recommends extra study or practice after school or on weekends, then the parents will arrange to have the child at school during those times, complete with extra lunches and supplies.

Conversely, the responsibilities of a teacher are also great: not only are they required to prepare the students academically, but they are also charged with developing a students' sense of ethics, watching their physical health, counselling, nurturing character growth and their ability to work with others, and making sure they stay out of trouble, both during and out of school times. To this aim, teachers often give out their home numbers and are on call throughout the day and night. Often in case of emergencies, after family members, they are the next in line to be contacted. If a students is sick, the teacher will bring the child's homework to their door. If a student is suspended, the home room teacher will visit the student's house every day of the suspension to talk and counsel the student and speak with the parents. During entrance exam times, teachers will phone their students to make sure that no questions are unanswered and that they know the way to the examination hall. Some teachers, for clubs or practice examinations will come in on weekends and holidays for months on end to research universities or coach their students. Teachers are encouraged to become very close to their students and to know everything that is going on in their lives by conversing and developping friendships with them. It is believed that this communication and bonding are integral to providing the proper learning environment and to head off potential problems in a students life. This commitment by teachers and the trust that society gives them are extremely important to classroom dynamics.

With the acknowledgement that the teacher is the class leader, students give the teacher the mandate to carry out lessons and to direct group-building activities like class projects and cooperative events with little disruption and rebelliousness. Moreover, the tight bond that exists between students and teachers aids to the teacher's credibility both in and out of the classroom, providing receptive listeners who trust the teacher's advice when dealing with problems.
With method-based problem solving and memory based subjects such as math and science, the lecture style teaching method is very efficient. The teacher focuses his/her efforts on covering as much material as they can while not having to worry about classroom disruptions. With every student aware and more importantly, sympathetic to the detrimental consequences of interuptions and poor performance, discipline becomes quite natural in the classroom.

Lessons are set up in standard formats with little variation (presentation, example, practice & homework) between subjects. The burden is on the students to assimilate the information and become used to the rhythm of note-taking and memorization. In the course of a few years, Japanese students are able in this way to cover much material and are equipped to solve much more complex problems by the time they graduate than many of their counterparts in other countries.




Schooling Terms

1st 01-04-2001 to 31-08-2001
2nd 01-09-2001 to 31-12-2001
3rd 01-01-2002 to 31-03-2001

Schools holidays

Summer Vacation
20.07.2001 to 31.08.2001
Winter Vacation
25.12.2001 to 07.01.2002
Spring Vacation
16.03.2002 to 07.04.2002