Terms related to how the Japanese school organizes student activity and life

Are you a newbie to Japanese elementary school?

Many parents have asked for a glossary of educational terms that might be encountered in daily school life in Japan. Today, we list the terms encountered in Japanese elementary schools that are related to the organization of classrooms and student activity.

The han

In Japanese schools, each class is divided into several han (groups or teams usually comprised of 5 or 6 people), and the students function in these groups for class activities. These may consist of group-study during classes, cleaning duties, serving school lunches, etc.

The han is the subject of some commentary and study as it impacts upon the social behavioral characteristics of the Japanese.

Read more about the han at work here.

Inside the human “bee-hive”:

Kakari and iinkai organization

In addition, nitchoku (class day-leaders) or shuban (class week-leaders) are in charge of specific class tasks such as roll call, chairing the discussion during homeroom period, making daily announcements and keeping the gakkyu nisshi (class journal) for a given day or week.
Each kakari (person in charge/”duty officer”) is assigned a specific task essential to the smooth implementation of class activities. Types of kakari include kokuban-gakari (blackboard duty), gakkyu shinbun-gakari (class newspaper duty), hoken-gakari (health duty) as well as one or more kakari for each subject who are responsible for distributing handouts, getting videos ready, and otherwise helping prepare for lessons.
All fifth and sixth graders belong to a committee (iinkai) through which they participate in school-wide activities.
There are engei iinkai (care of school flowerbeds), hoso iinkai (in charge of announcements over the school public address system), seibi iinkai (care of lost-and-found items), hoken iinkai (in charge of health promotion activities), undo iinkai (planning for annual field day), tosho iinkai (management of school library related activities), shukai iinkai (leadership of school-wide meetings), shiiku iinkai (care of the animals and the animal shed), shimbun iinkai (editing and printing of the school newspaper), kyushoku iinkai (student duties related to school lunches), keikaku iinkai (plans for school-wide events) and daihyo iinkai committees (student council; deliberating matters that concern the school as a whole) as well as many others.

To know more about the general educational system of Japan, including the culture of schooling, click here.

Sources and references:

The definitions of the terms above are adapted from or based on “The lives of Japanese elementary school students” as well as the EIJ blogsite’s “The Japanese educational system” page.

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