— Latest update: March 2022 —
The Japanese education system depends heavily on private funding and, while secondary schools are of a good standard, higher education is losing ground at an international level.
There is a close correlation between family income and academic results, as wealthier families can afford the fees of “cram schools”, or juku, offering after-school classes to improve students’ knowledge. Better test scores mean better chances of passing university and college entrance exams. Having a higher education diploma gives access to regular work and thus a more stable and higher income.
These factors increase disparity in education, making overseas studies more attractive in recent years, especially with government initiatives to internationalise Japan’s baccalaureate qualification and adapt its term dates. For Japan to maintain the competitiveness of its workers in terms of qualifications, the system must be internationalised. Japan is now one of the top host countries for foreign students but still has a low number of outbound students, most of whom travel abroad to learn English.
Japan is ranked as one of the most educated nations in the world. Although the Japanese government's commitment to education was always highly visible, recent years have seen an increase in the fiscal year budget for general primary and lower secondary education in both 2020 and 2021 to support the educational response to COVID-19.
However, universities across Japan are increasingly facing challenges caused by the demographic decline in the number of young people. In response to demographic changes and an identified need for engagement in an increasingly globalised world, the government has taken steps to attract foreign students to Japanese institutions. But this is not without its challenges.