Japan’s academic year is quite different from those that we are used to. This can be challenging if you are looking to immigrate with your children or looking to further your studies in Japan, as there are many differences to the system. So, when does Japan’s academic year generally start?

Japan’s academic year begins in April and then ends the following year in March. They have a summer break, winter break, and spring break in between their three-semester schooling year. Their schooling consists of six-year elementary school, three years junior high, then three years of high school.

Japan’s schooling year can be difficult to make if you are new to it, but this schedule makes the most sense for the Japanese. But why does the Japanese academic year begin in April? Do some Japanese schools have classes on a Saturday?  We will go through these questions in more detail in this article. 

When Does The School Year Start In Japan?

Japan’s schooling year is quite different from a lot of schools around the world. Japan’s academic year begins in April when the cherry blossoms bloom and ends the following year in March. 

This seems to suit the Japanese people and culture better than other academic year schedules as it lines up with other important schedules and timelines throughout the country. 

The non-calendar year schooling system is not unique to Japan, and many other countries worldwide use similar school year structures that cross between two calendar years.

This has implications for children from countries that follow different school year calendars and may require them to repeat certain grades to fit in with the Japanese schooling calendar.

Why Does The School Year Begin In April? 

Japan school kids

The modern educational system used in Japan today began in 1872 and was modeled after the French educational system that had its school year begin in April. There was a time, however, where the school year began in September. This was during the Taisho period, which was from 1912 to 1926. 

But this September school year start did not work out for the Japanese people and was deemed too inconvenient. This led the educational system to find an alternative school year. They decided that the school year will then mimic the fiscal year in Japan, which begins in April and ends the following year in March. 

The Japanese population accepted this new school year as it was deemed more convenient to follow and allowed schools to fit the books and accounts within the Japanese fiscal year structure.

This school year was changed to also correlate with the Japanese beliefs around spring. This is because April is in the height of spring, right when the cherry blossoms bloom, which for the Japanese is the most suitable time for a new start, or to start something new. 

Thus, choosing this time of year to start the school year also has a symbolic meaning in line with their cultural heritage.

So, in summary, having their schooling year begin in April is perfect for the Japanese as it aligns with their beliefs of a new start, with the convenience of following the fiscal year. This means that most of the important things in the country line up with each other and are easier to keep track of.

Unfortunately, differences in the school year systems around the world do pose some challenges for Japanese students that wish to study in other countries like the United States. 

This is because half a year is wasted while the student is waiting to get into the school they chose abroad, and then another year is wasted in their studies when they get back to Japan as they may need to repeat a year due to the different school-year systems. 

And for students wanting to go and study in Japan, this can cause the same challenges for them, which can get frustrating. 

For this reason, many people in Japan are advocating for the academic year to go back to the beginning in September. Still, as spring is so closely related to new beginnings in Japan, the academic year will probably continue to begin in April. 

Let us look closer at the Japanese schooling system so that we have a better understanding of how the entire system works. 

About The Japanese Schooling System

The Japanese schooling system primarily consists of a six-years of elementary school, then three years of junior high school, then three years of high school, which is then usually followed by two or three years of junior college or four years of college. 

In Japan, compulsory education is the first nine years of education, from the elementary school level to the junior high school level. After which, the student can choose whether to continue or not, but over 90% of the students do continue with their studies. 

The school education travel exchanges in Japanese schools occur during the junior high and high school periods. Some schools cater to physically or mentally challenged children to help them get their full education to best suit their particular needs.

Public schools in Japan usually have classes five days per week, with some schools also including classes on a Saturday. There are usually six classes per day in junior high schools, each class lasting about 50 minutes. After their classes, the students clean their classrooms before they move on to their club activities.

The schools generally work on a three-semester system. The first semester is from April and ends in August; the next one is from September to December, with the last semester going from January through March. 

Their holidays are a summer break which is from the end of July until the end of August, then a winter break from the end of December until the beginning of January, and then their spring break is a short break at the end of March, going into the beginning of April. 

Japan does have some public holidays throughout the year, too, which the children are allowed to participate in, as the schools will be closed on these days. 

The standard of education in Japanese schools is considered to be of a high level, even compared to the world standard. The students in Japan are exceptional, with a high level of achievement, especially in science-related areas. 

Japan is a big believer in foreign language education in their schools, and English is a compulsory subject in their junior high and high schools. English education is also sometimes included at an intermediate grade in elementary schools. Apart from the English language, students can also learn Chinese, French, Korean, and German in some high schools. 

Conclusion

Japan’s academic year begins in April and ends in the following year in March, this has some important ties to their beliefs, and it is easier for the Japanese to keep track of as most of their important schedules line up with it. They also get some good holidays in the schedule, which helps keep the students fresh and focused on their schoolwork. 

The start of the Japanese school year may pose some problems for families emigrating to Japan with children. There may be some adjustments that will need to be made to fit into the new school structure and timing schedule.

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