Educational System


The Japanese educational system is composed of 6 years of elementary education, 3 years of junior high school education, 3 years of senior high school education, and 4 years of undergraduate and 5 years of graduate education. There are also kindergarten prior to elementary schools, 5-year technical colleges which students enter after finishing junior high schools, and 2-year junior colleges after senior high schools.

Everyone enters elementary school at the age of 6, and the 9 years of education from elementary school through junior high school are compulsory.

Universities in Japan

Japanese universities are classified into three categories, national, public and private, according to their administration. They are all established on the basis of the government standard of education, so that the educational level of each is the same. One or more national universities are located in each prefecture throughout the country. Many universities have characteristics connected with the industries and traditions in their local areas.

Presently the number of universities and colleges totals more than 650. About 74% of them have graduate schools. (You can write to the Japanese embassy or consulate in your country for detailed information concerning universities in Japan.)

Undergraduate Programs

(A) University Structure

Universities are organized into faculties, each of which specializes in a particular broad area of study. The faculties in turn are divided into departments for the study of specific subjects within the broad area.

(B) Qualification for Admission

To be admitted to university, applicants must have successfully completed 12 years of school education in a regular program, or must demonstrate scholastic achievement equal to or better than those who have finished a regular 12-year education.

(C) Academic Year

The academic year starts on April I and ends on March 31 of the following year. Most universities divide the year into two semesters. The curriculum is largely based on 1-semester courses, with a few 2-semester sequences.

(D) Subjects of Instruction

Subjects of instruction in the undergraduate program are divided into subjects for general education and those for the student's major field of study. Some subjects are required and some are elective, according to faculty and department

(E) Units

Except for medical science, dentistry, and veterinary science programs, the undergraduate program makes use of the unit system. To receive course units, students must either pass end-of-course examinations (usual) or complete some comparable task set by the course teacher.

(F) Requirements for Graduation

To graduate from a university, students are required to be in the university for 4 or more years (6 years in medical science, dentistry, and veterinary science) and to obtain at least the required number of units stipulated by the regulations of the university. The number of units slightly differs by university.

(G) Bachelor's Degree

A bachelor's degree is awarded in the major field to those who have successfully completed the prescribed program of studies.

Graduate Schools

(A) Master's and Doctoral Programs

Graduate schools usually offer master's programs of 2 years and doctoral programs of 3 more years succeeding the master's. However, medical science and dentistry have no master's programs but rather doctoral programs of 4 years with few exceptions.

Some universities consider their master's studies the first stage (zenki-katei) and doctoral studies the second stage (koki-katei) of a doctoral program.

(B) Division

Research Students (Non-degree Students)

Besides degree students, non-degree students may enroll in a graduate school. The qualifications for admission are the same as for degree students. Non-degree students are usually calledKenkyu-sei' (Research Students). In principle, Monbusho scholarship students will be enrolled in the beginning as non-degree students.

(Note) Section I has explained the Japanese school system and Japanese universities (undergraduate and graduate program, etc.) in general. Because each university has its own characteristics, the exact time of the entrance examination, academic year, subjects of instruction, units, requirements for graduation, the system for research students, and so on differ somewhat. For particulars, contact the specific university or universities which you are interested in.