L‘child is a jewel’, it was these same words that we used in a previous article. We put the table back and we continue with the rest: elementary school this time. In both countries: France and Japan.

Credits: France Culture and Tony Cassidy / Flickr

This is arguably the most crucial and longest stage in a child’s journey through education. Elementary school is not called that for nothing. However, as the school program strongly depends on the history of the country where it is applied, it will first of all be one of the differences between the two systems in this France Vs. Japan. It is also said that sometimes the little things make the biggest differences. This is the case in the land of the rising sun. As a reminder, in 2017 the decision was taken to make some alterations to the French school system. Even if, overall, he is similar to his “colleague”, he becomes as follows: Cycle 2, in other words: Fundamental learning cycle consists of the preparatory course (CP), the first year (CE1) and finally the second year (CE2). Next comes cycle 3 (formerly called the deepening cycle). This is the Consolidation Cycle and it also consists of 3 courses: The first year average (CM1), the second year average (CM2) and finally the sixth grade (6th).

Make way for the least boring part. The one that deals, among other things, with common points. To begin with, in Japan also the primary school will be the daily life of the cherubim for 6 years, only the name of the courses differs (1st year, 2nd year, 3rd year, 4th year… etc.). The hours are also the same, although the duration of a lesson for the little French is longer (1 hour against 45 minutes for the Japanese). On the other hand, we will add a few minutes per week in Japan and additional students per class. Indeed, statistics for 2013 show that the average number of pupils per class is 32.5 compared to 22.9 in the European country. Another point in common? Yes there are but not in terms of percentage. There are schools in both countries for disabled children. With ordinary schools that they mix with, these children do not feel left out, because they too are jewels that make society shine if they are valued. Of course, it depends on the diagnosis made by specialists. In this regard, the best integrated category in 2005 in France is that of visually impaired children with 45.8%. Nevertheless, only 67.5% of these pupils receive a complete education, while in the archipelago the incredible figure of 70% is reached. Technological advance? Not only, political too …

We don’t just leaf through notebooks in schools …

Other interesting and equally relevant little details, the complexity of the Japanese language. With three syllabaries there is enough to fill the hours spent at school, just at the written level! This is why there is a course called the Shosha. The list of differences grows a little longer. It will lengthen further by examining certain peculiarities of the primary education of these Asians, for example, the exercises preparing young individuals for earthquakes in a country where there are thousands of them per year. Most are without noticeable damage. Fortunately. Unfortunately, in France a drop in the level of pupils in mathematics lessons has been noted in recent years. At a time when Japan continues to progress in this field, no doubt due to the material provided in schools which is more… well more numerous.
As you have noticed it is the little differences that create the big changes. Among them, the re-entry which takes place in September in France and in April in Japan. The holidays are certainly shorter for a little Japanese boy, the fact remains that he can visit his French friend since the two holidays take place during the same period except for those in the summer which are a little shorter. . Slightly offset by the “ Golden Week ” in May. There are also the uniforms, the fees… etc. What does not change too much is compulsory education for children aged 6 to 16 in France; at 15 in Japan. A year of difference. Added to this, the music lesson with the recorder; childhood nightmare for some, career launcher for others.

The advances are therefore much more numerous in Japan which wins this match and as if that were not enough here is a surprising fact which floods the web for several months: in Japan the children clean their school themselves. This should not be seen as exploitation but rather as beneficial: team spirit, reinforcement of manual skills, responsibility vis-à-vis the environment frequented, etc.

SE Tiar



Anne-Lise Mithout, ” Inclusive education in the age of ICT: Franco-Japanese perspective




MENJVA-MESR DEPP, MEXT (Japan), Ministry of Education (France)

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