Japan is an island chain, surrounded by more than four thousand islands, located between the North Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Japan. The total population is 127 million; among the largest cities are Kyoto, Osaka and Japan's capital city of Tokyo, with a population of over twelve million. The language of instruction is Japanese and the literacy rate is 99 percent. The currency is the Japanese Yen. The religions are Shinto Buddhist and Christian. Japan is a land of rich history with economic strengths in electronics and computing technology. Traditionally valued qualities such as an emphasis on team integration and not standing out, along with conventional lecture-based teaching methods are still the norm. In recent times the younger generation has shown more interest in individuality.
Throughout Japan the education system is highly centralized with clearly defined national standards and a uniform school system. The structure is modeled on the American system of 6+3+3+4: six years of elementary education, three years of lower secondary education, three years of upper secondary education and four years of university education for the bachelor's degree. Documents are issued by the institution in Japanese and English. The central authority on education, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT), maintains strict guidelines and monitors government accreditation. Japan has both public and private schools.
Primary and Secondary Education
The school year for primary and secondary education is April to March; the higher education school year is April to March. Compulsory schooling goes through grade nine (ages six to fifteen). The length of schooling is as follows: elementary - six years, lower secondary - three years and upper secondary - three years.
Upon completion of elementary education, students are awarded the Shoggato Sotsugyo Shosho, required for entrance to the lower secondary level. Upon completion of the lower secondary school, the Chugakko Sotsugyo Shosho is awarded. At the completion of upper secondary school, students receive the Kotogakko Sotsugyo Shosho. This plus the national university entrance examination are required for admission to the tertiary level.
Higher education generally consists of Daigaku (universities), Tanki Daigaku (junior colleges), Koto Senmon Gakko (colleges of technology) and special training schools and colleges. Of the four types of institutions, only universities and junior colleges are strictly postsecondary providers. The first level of university studies is normally four years and awards a Gakushi Shogo or Daigakko Sotsugyo Shosho after completion; six years for earning a Bachelor in medicine or dentistry.
Second and Third Cycles
The second level is generally two years in length and leads to a Master's Degree. The third level is generally a minimum of three additional years and leads to a Doctoral Degree.
Teacher training at all levels of pre-elementary, elementary and secondary school is generally a four-year program taken at national universities. Some teachers also train at two- or four-year colleges at a small number of local and private institutions of higher education.