The Japanese educational system was reformed after World War II. The old 6-5-3-3 system was changed to a 6-3-3-4 system (6 years of elementary school, 3 years of junior high school, 3 years of senior high school and 4 years of university with reference to the American system. The gimukyoiku (compulsory education) time period is 9 years, 6 in shougakkou (elementary school) and 3 in chuugakkou (junior high school). With 100% enrollment in compulsory grades and zero illiteracy, Japan has one of the world's best-educated populations.  High school (koukou) enrollment is over 96% nationwide and nearly 100% in the cities while not compulsory. The high school drop out rate is about 2% and has been increasing. About 46% of all high school graduates go on to university or junior college. The Ministry of Education closely supervises curriculum, textbooks, classes and maintains a uniform level of education throughout the country. A high standard of education is possible as a result. Most schools operate on a three-term system with the new year starting in April. The modern educational system started in 1872, and is modeled after the French school system, which begins in April. The fiscal year in Japan also begins in April and ends in March of the following year, which is more convenient in many aspects.

School life in Japan

This difference in the school-year system causes some inconvenience to students who wish to study abroad in the U.S. A half year is wasted waiting to get in and often another year is wasted when coming back to the Japanese university system and having to repeat a year. Except for the lower grades of elementary school, the average school day on weekdays is 6 hours, which makes it one of the longest school days in the world.  The children have drills and other homework to keep them busy even after the school lets out. Vacations are 6 weeks in the summer and about 2 weeks each for winter and spring breaks. There is often homework over these vacations. Every class has its own fixed classroom where its students take all the courses, except for practical trainings and laboratory work.  One teacher teaches all the subjects in each class during elementary education, in most cases. The numbers of students in a typical elementary or junior high school class once exceeded 50 students, but now it is kept under 40 as a result of the rapid population growth after World War II.  School lunch (kyuushoku) is provided on a standardized menu, and it is eaten in the classroom at public elementary and junior high school. While the Japanese control the individual by observing group rules, a big difference between the Japanese school system and the American School system is that Americans respect individuality.