Japanese cramming schools leave little time for play. David H. Ahl.
More than 60 percent of Japanes junior high school students attended juku (cramming schools) last summer rather than having a good, relaxing vaction. Why?
Japan is geared to entrance examinations for kindergarten through the university level. Thus, children study day and night to enter the "right" school. Graduation from a prestigious university generally means attractive job offers from blue chip companies.
Normal government and private schools provide a good, standard education, but juku give students an extra edge in the great education examination race. This has resulted in a juku boom to help elementary and junior high students prepare for entrace exams to big name schools.
There are also hundreds of yobiko (prep schools for senior high students) to help prepare students for university entrance exams. These schools are perhaps more understandable than the juku as much emphasis is placed on the university one attands in Japan. Since entrance to a university is based entirely upon a single exam-given only once a year-it is vital to be well prepared.
Most serious high school students would like to attend Tokyo University (Todai), considered to be the school for the future elite. Naturally, Todai can't possibly accommodate all those who want to attend. Thus, certain yobiko specialize in preparing students for Todai's exam.
Nearly one-third of all students who attend a university each year have attended a yobiko. Students who fail the university exam and enroll in yobiko to help them try again the following year are called ronin (masterless samurai).
Passing key examinations is the focus of an ambitious student's life. Recently, junior high students in one juku rebelled against teachers in their school because they were being taught "irrelevant" subjects such as music and art. The rebels demanded instruction to enable them to pass high school entrance exams, and only that. Music and art were considered "wasteful."
Some concerned Japanese say that there is something wrong with the regular education system if millions of kids must attend juku every day after their regular school lets out or during summer vaction. However, one high-ranking Japanese education official put it this way, "Juku are necessary in order to get the best out of people."