With a high rate of compulsory education and high school attendance, the education system has succeeded in bringing adult literacy to almost 100%. And this is not trivial considering the complexity of the Japanese language.
Great importance given to language
Thus the written Japanese language is made up of two syllabaries (the kana) and a system of ideograms of Chinese origin (the kanji). At the end of their schooling, the pupils thus know nearly 2000 kanji. All students are required to master these traits to complete their schooling and must even learn more if they continue their studies in higher education.
This learning of kanji is very controlled by the state which fixes the number of characters to know for each level as well as the time necessary for their teaching. Knowledge of the language is therefore not limited to a brief knowledge of the everyday language, which has the effect of reducing disparities between social classes or origins. There is thus no single literate elite as is or often was the case in Asia.
A rich education system
The place given to general culture is considerable and the rest even in high school. Thus the teaching of world history as well as of Japan, geography or economics, all grouped together under the term of social studies, constitutes one of the most important schedules with the teaching of the Japanese language. The teaching of Japanese is not limited to learning the language, which already requires a substantial amount of work, but also includes courses devoted to literature and expression. All this has the effect of giving the pupils an openness to the world and to society which encourages them later to constantly inform themselves about current events.
In addition, and unlike in many countries, the teaching of the arts (music or visual arts) remains compulsory throughout schooling and education is generally provided in very well equipped premises. This further strengthens the general culture of the students. This can be seen by the enormous success of plastic art exhibitions or the significant figures achieved in the sale of records or musical instruments.
A strict education system
Discipline is very strict during secondary education and the demands of teachers have the effect of preparing students for the world of work. Indeed, if the goal of competition was to give everyone the same chances of success regardless of their situation, it also had the effect of pushing students to always do more. It is this state of mind that prepares them for the world of work where the same rivalry reigns and where the demands are much more important than those of the school system. Thus no error is tolerated in the professional environment. We thus obtain workers whose quality and reliability are complimented by all Western countries.
However, it is wise not to idealize too much and also to know how to raise the limits of this educational system …