The ten keys to education in Japan [Infographic]

Japan’s educational model is characterized by its efficiency and is closely related to the cultural and social characteristics of the Asian country, which mixes teamwork and meritocracy. In addition to achieving very good results in international tests such as TIMSS  or PISA , the experts highlight the discipline and high-quality training that their students achieve. In fact, the Japanese Minister of Education has recently announced  that its system will be exported to other countries in Asia, the Middle East and Africa. We explain how education works in Japan and what characteristics are behind its success.


  1. 1. The curriculum is new established at the national level. The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (with the collaboration of university professors and the Central Council of Education) establishes the basic lines of all the subjects that are taught in Japanese schools, their objectives and contents. Unless a significant need is identified, these guidelines to be followed by all schools in the country are reviewed every ten years.
  2. 2. Education legislation is very stable and durable. The Fundamental Law of Education that is in force in the country dates from 1947. The first revision was carried out in 2006 to incorporate provisions that promote civility, respect for new tradition and culture, and love of the country. In order to adapt to the new educational needs, Plans for the Promotion of Education are launched, the last of them in 2013 .
  3. 3. Compulsory education is mostly public and free. Children begin school at 6 years of age and education is compulsory until age 15, although 95 percent continue until age 18. There are four fundamental educational levels: primary ( elementary, from 6 to 12 years), lower secondary ( up to 15), upper secondary, up to 18 years) and university. 99% of primary schools are public, as are 90% of lower secondary schools and 74% of upper secondary schools. The Ministry of Education decides which textbooks are approved for each level and, since 1963, they have been distributed to schools free of charge.
  4. 4. There are subjects and also training in values. In addition to the basic subjects studied at each educational level, students have subjects such as home economics, in which they learn to cook or sew, traditional Japanese arts, such as calligraphy ( shodo ) or poetry ( haiku ), and courses of moral education. It is considered essential that students develop cooperative behavior, group discipline, and respect for rules.
  5. 5. Effort is essential and competitiveness is high. Japanese society believes that success does not depend on skills or intelligence, but is achieved with effort. This also applies to the school environment and students work as children in this system of meritocracy, with two objectives: to achieve good results to have better training and employment opportunities in the future and win the approval of the group and their own family . Competitiveness is high, especially in the exams that allow access to the best upper secondary schools and the most prestigious universities.
  6. 6. The ability to solve problems is a priority. The Japanese educational curriculum is very complete and demanding in terms of content, but it is also fundamentally based on the fact that students master solving problems and situations by themselves. Regardless of the subject or subject, it is intended that the student does not limit himself to following a procedure or memorizing information, but rather that he understands how and why things happen. In this way you will be able to apply the knowledge in any context. The same is also defended in companies: to hire, they value general skills more than knowledge or experience in that specific job, for which they offer the worker the necessary training.
  7. 7. You don’t just study at school. In addition to new attending classes, students have to collaborate in various tasks such as cleaning the center or serving meals taken in the class itself. For this the students divide into groups and work together. The school also organizes a multitude of complementary activities, such as sports tournaments, excursions or cultural outings, and clubs for very varied extracurricular activities: sports, music, art, science, etc. These types of activities are considered to contribute to developing the ability to solve problems, work as a team and collaborate for a common purpose.
  8. 8. You study long hours and homework is common. Both elementary school and junior and senior high school students have to do homework daily. Among other subjects, they must practice the kanji , which makes up the complex Japanese writing system. They also do homework during winter and summer vacations, which usually consist of a project of their choice. The number of class hours is similar to that of other countries, but many hours are invested in extracurricular activities, reinforcement classes and study hours. In addition, the holidays are shorter: from July 20 to August 31 in summer, ten days between December and January and another ten between March and April.
  9. 9. Teachers are highly respected and highly trained. Historically, teachers in Japan came from the Samurai class and were highly regarded in society. Although the profession is no longer elitist, respect for teachers remains intact. In addition, it is one of the highest paid professions in the country, so there are many applicants for each position, the best one wins. For this reason, teachers are usually very prepared and the Ministry requires continuous training of teachers, who must renew their educational certificate every ten years.
  10. 10. Educating is everyone’s job. Teamwork is rewarded in the classroom, where outstanding students help those with more difficulties, and the teacher has at their disposal different tools and possibilities to support students with learning disabilities (from personalized attention in the classroom to extracurricular classes). But, in addition, this involvement of the group transcends the walls of the classroom, since parents have the responsibility and social duty to support their children’s education at home and resort to professional help when necessary. In fact, the child’s failure in school is also considered a failure of his family environment. Communication between teachers and parents is constant and individualized.