Costs of education in Japan – based on Aera with Kids’ data

As part of my never-ending obsession about what to do about middle school/high school I am reading this Aera with Kids magazine  that has done a special on the 70 most common questions (in Japanese – nayami) about schooling choices. The answers are given by various experts and are usually just a couple paragraphs long so no deep reasoning provided. A few of the answers sounded really daft and it is definitely at odds with the book I posted (はじめての中学受験 これだけは知っておきたい12の常識 by 宮本 毅) about before  on the best time to start juku.

The Aera magazine assumes kids will start from grade 4, while the book specifically says don’t start too early and that from grade 5 is perfectly fine. But there is useful information/advice in there and as this is a bit of a hot topic for me and some of my friends, I thought I would summarise some of the questions/answers.
> > Q. How much does private middle school cost and how much income should you
> > have?

A. If you have one child, household income should be at least about 7 million yen — though this takes into account housing costs. A general rule of thumb is that education and housing costs should be no greater than 40 percent of household income. So if household income is 7 million yen, then 40 percent of that would be 2.8 million yen, 1 million of which would be spent on private school fees and 1.8 million would then be spent on housing.
If you have 2 children, you really want household income of 10 million yen, though it is doable on 8.5 to 9 million yen. *When looking at private schools don’t forget to calculate commuting costs — this can be huge — as well as afterschool clubs costs and trips abroad.
> > Q. Does my kid have to go to juku to get into private school?

A. If you are aiming for a mid-level to upper-level private school, then getting in without going to juku is close to impossible as exam questions are increasingly becoming more difficult and are not necessarily related to what they learn in primary school. This is particularly so for schools that aim to groom future science and med-school students.

> > Q. How much does juku cost?
A. It’s generally said that that juku during grade four costs 600,000 to 800,000 yen, during grade five, 700,000-1 million yen and during grade 6, 1 to 1.5 million yen. That said, there is much variety among fees for juku. Be careful not to needlessly take up options on offer by juku and hiring a private tutor on top of juku means expenses will skyrocket.
> > Q. How much does a public ikkanko (schools where middle/high are combined) school cost?

A. School fees are the same as regular public schools — ie free, hence their popularity — except there is the cost of uniforms, trips and school materials.

> > Q. If your kid goes through public high school and then onto public  university, how much are you saving?

A. Costs for public universities are on the rise and generally cost around 2.4 million yen for four years. For private universities, humanities courses tend to cost 4.4 million yen a year and science courses (non-medical) cost 6.5 million yen.


Public high school for 6 years costs about 1.5 million yen, add on the cheapest university courses and it is possible to educate your child through university for a total 3.9 million yen. If you choose a private university (humanities course), then 5.9 million yen. If you opt for the private route from middle school through university, you are looking at around 9.6 million yen if you kid does humanities and 11.7 million yen for science. So if you do public all the way, you would be saving anything from 5.7 million yen to 7.8 million yen.


> > Q. What are the main merits of private school?

A. 1. They have many more classes. For the five main subjects, Japanese, maths, English, science, social studies, combined, private schools will have 1.4 times as many classes as public schools and the biggest difference is usually the amount of time they spend on English.
2. There are usually no exams for high school, and so private schools can be more innovative with their curriculum.
3. There is extra support for kids that lag and for kids that are advanced.
4. They do a lot of interesting activities/lectures that kids at public schools don’t get.

> > Q. Why did you choose to have your kid sit for middle school exams? (These are responses to a survey of 300 people and includes public ikkanko, just listing the top answers)

A. – Was not satisfied with the local high school – 39 pct – Wanted my kid to have a more relaxed educational path -39 pct

– Thought it would help them get into a good university – 27.7 pct

– Family tradition – 20.7 pct

– Wanted my kid to learn to study well – 16 pct

– I wanted my kid to go to a school whose educational philosophy I agree with – 15.7 pct

– I didn’t want my kid to go through exams to get into high school – 13.7 pct
> > Q. At what age did you start sending your kid to juku? (the survey again)
A. – From grade 3 – 10.3 pct

– From grade 4 – 27 pct

– From grade 5 – 24.3 pct

– From grade 6 – 26.3 pct

>> Q. Is it possible to be a working mother and put your kid through middle school exams?

A. Yes, but you need to take 3-4 days off around the actual exam period to take them to the exams and just to fill out the forms you need to fill out.

The survey showed that 11 pct of mothers were working full time, 26.7 pct were working part-time and 59 pct were stay-at-home mums.

> > Q. How many schools did your kid sit for? (the survey)
A. 1 school – 36.7 pct
2 schools – 20 pct
3 schools – 17.3 pct
4 schools – 14 pct

> > Q. Why are public ikkanko schools so popular?

A. They tend to have bairitsu of about 7 times because they have high educational standards with good track records of getting into good universities. They also tend to have more classes than a regular public school. Many people believe their kids are getting an education equivalent to a private school education but at a public school price.

> > Q. What sort of kids get into public ikkanko?

A. Ikkanko have different tests — called aptitude tests – so kids with good critical thinking skills and essay writing skills, kids who have had a rich childhood with lots of different experiences, who tend to know a lot about nature etc. Kids that pass tend to be able to speak naturally with adults about a wide variety of topics, are interested in many topics and are widely read. They also tend to be very much on top of their primary school work.

When ikkanko first started, it was said that kids could get in without going to juku but this is increasingly difficult. It is still possible though if the parent puts in a lot of effort into preparing the child.

> > Q. Was sitting for middle school exams a good experience for your kid? (the survey)

A. – Very good -58.7 pct

    – On balance I think so – 25.7 pct

– Hard to say – 11.7 pct

– Not really – 3 pct

– Not at all -1 pct

Hope this helps


Other readings:

MEXT statistics and figures: Parental Contributions to Children’s Educational Costs

The cost of studying in Japan (Study in Japan):

  • Estimated living expenses – JPY150,000 – JPY 180,000 per month in Tokyo. Possibly less expensive in other cities.
  • Undergraduate course fees are on average 802,800 JPY per year
  • Graduate course fees are on average 802,800 JPY per year
  • College course fees are on average 548,400 JPY per year
  • Course duration is generally 4 years for undergraduate courses and 1+ years for postgraduate courses
  • Cost calculator – our useful tool can help you calculate your study abroad costs

*Please note that courses in medicine and some engineering programs may be more expensive than the costs given. See the course descriptions on this site for the most up-to-date course costs.

The cost of educating a child in Japan | EDUCATION IN JAPAN

Cost for educating a child in Japan | All In Japan

Japan Acts: Cost of Education in Japan

Costs of Education in Japan – Boing Boing

Average cost of higher education in Japan | Studyinjapan

The High Cost of Kids – :: Terrie’s Job Tips

Educational Cost in Japan | Lang-8 Toshiyuki blogpost

Japan’s Education Costs – YouTube

Japan’s public education system is one of the most cost-effective in terms of student performance, a senior official of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development said Tuesday.

Do you agree with the above statement? 

Japan’s education system cost-effective: OECD | The Japan Times (Sep 10, 2008) by Natsuko Fukue

Japan’s public education system is one of the most cost-effective in terms of student performance, a senior official of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development said Tuesday.

According to the organization’s latest annual survey of 29 OECD countries, Japan is fifth in average number of students per classroom, a key factor in cost performance.

Although Japan is often criticized for its high student-to-teacher ratios, Andreas Schleicher, deputy head of the OECD statistics division, citing the example of Italy, said the data show that smaller class sizes do not necessarily translate into better academic performance.

Schleicher said large class sizes allow a government to invest in other facets of education, such as employing good teachers and providing a better working environment.

Japan’s relatively high rate of spending on private education also contributes to the better cost performance of public education.

In 2005, the public share of spending on education was 68.6 percent, well below the OECD average of 85.5 percent, according to the 2008 edition of the annual report Education at a Glance.

However, Japan’s private expenditures on postsecondary education is remarkably high at 66.3 percent, while the OECD average is 26.9 percent, according to the survey.

This means Japanese university students benefit less from the government compared to their counterparts in European countries, where tuition is subsidized.

The U.S. invested almost twice as much as Japan in postsecondary institutions in both public and private expenditures in 2005 but was ranked the second highest in the proportion of students who enter a postsecondary program but leave without a degree.


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