Education Policy in Japan

Building Bridges towards 2030

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Japan’s education system is one of the top performers compared to other OECD countries. International assessments have not only demonstrated students' and adults' high level of achievement, but also the fact that socio-economic status has little bearing on academic results. In a nutshell, Japan combines excellence with equity.

This high performance is based on the priority Japan places on education and on its holistic model of education, which is delivered by highly qualified teachers and supported by the external collaboration of communities and parents. But significant economic, socio-demographic and educational challenges, such as child well-being, teacher workload and the high stakes university exam, question the sustainability of this successful model.

Policy makers in Japan are not complacent, and as Japan starts implementing its Third Basic Plan for the Promotion of Education (2018-22), they are carefully analysing tomorrow’s threats to Japan’s current success.

This report aims to highlight the many strengths of Japan’s education system, as well as the challenges it must address to carry out reforms effectively and preserve its holistic model of education. The ultimate goal is to ensure that the education system delivers the best for all students, and that Japanese learners have the knowledge, skills, attitudes and values they need for the 21st century.



Education in Japan: Strengths and challenges

This chapter provides a brief description of Japan’s education system and the context in which it operates. Since the 1990s, the Japanese economy has been sluggish, and the ratio of debt to GDP has reached uncharted territory. The forecast of sharp demographic decline, the rapidly ageing population and the evolution of the skills required to flourish in a knowledge economy also present new challenges to Japan’s economy, society and educational institutions. Japan’s unique education system relies on the concept of “the whole child” or holistic education, where schools not only develop academic knowledge, but also foster students’ social, emotional and physical development. International standardised assessments highlight the excellence of education and the high level of equity in Japan, but Japanese students exhibit a higher level of anxiety and a lower level of life satisfaction than their counterparts elsewhere in the OECD. Building on its strengths, Japan has started to reform its education system to adapt to the globalised environment of the 21st century, increase well-being, broaden students’ skills and enhance its contribution to the economy and society.



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