Mode of education
Japanese schools in Japan are mostly public, less than 5% are privately owned and run. Until junior high school, students study at the school which is in the catchment area of their home. However, for senior high schools, they have overlapping catchment areas meaning that there is competition among schools for the best students in a particular area. Over 1/4 of senior high schools are private. This indicate the extent of the competition in higher level Japanese schooling.
Kindergarten in Japan is an optional education. However, in year 2000, the number of new entrants to kindergarten compared to primary or junior school was over 63%. This indicates that well over half of all Japanese children start their education earlier than the required by the state.
Elementary School (Shogakkou)
Elementary school is the first compulsary education for all Japanese students. They start their elementary education from age of 6 to 12.
Junior High School (Chugakkou)
Junior high school is an important phase in the upbringing of a Japanese child. Age from 12 to 15 years old attends Junior high. It is important as their Junior high results can determine their entry to a good senior high school and hence a good university and career. At this point of time, Japanese children usually stay late in school, always busy with different clubs and activities as well as studies at a Juku (cram school)
Senior High School (Koukou; koutougakkou)
The most pressure put on a student in Japan is from 15 to 18 years old whereby the entry to a senior high school is through an entrance exam. To prepare for the exam itself is usually through attending a good Juku. In order to get into a good university, a student needs to go into the right senior high school. Therfore, the entrance exam can have a huge impact on the future of Japanese students. Although not compulsory in Japan, over 90% of all children attend Senior High School.
Juku (Cram schools)
As the pressure of education in Japan is great and the future of a child depends a lot on going to the right school and university, a child's school day does not end with the school bell. Many children in Japan attend cram schools called "Juku". Juku have extra lessons which may be used to push bright students further or help the slower ones to catch up with the rest. The classes may run late and having a 12-hour day is not unusual for a Japanese high school student (before homework).