The Setting

The Two Sides of the Japanese Schooling System


The specific features of any regular schooling system affect whether and in what ways parents and students develop a demand for shadow education. Addressing the question how the formal and informal Japanese education sectors are connected, the main focus of this chapter lies on the identification of the factors driving the high dependence on shadow education and the possible implications of such a dependence for social inequality formation in contemporary Japan. Based on a literature review and secondary analyses drawing primarily on ministerial data, first, the basic structure of the regular schooling system in Japan, its postwar historical developments, and the general role of private schools are outlined. Second, the role of shadow education in contemporary Japan and its possible impact on social inequality formation is evaluated. Based on the author’s fieldwork, the following findings are presented:
  1. (1)

    Shadow education in Japan has to be understood as one major outcome of postwar educational expansion.

  2. (2)

    The high stratification of the upper secondary and tertiary education levels as caused by the entrance examination system introduced heavy educational competition into Japanese education. This caused families’ extraordinarily high demand for private supplementary lessons as a means to achieve competitive advantages in the educational race or simply avoid falling behind.

  3. (3)

    Gaps in the regular schooling system’s provision of education further justify the existence of this vast market.

  4. (4)

    The participation of most students in such lessons and the diversity of supply imply that shadow education in Japan provides disadvantaged students with numerous educational opportunities.



Shadow education Juku Private tutoring Supplementary education Social inequality Educational opportunities Educational competition Educational expansion Credentialist society Entrance exams National Education Development Theory JSTS 2013 Japan 


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© Springer International Publishing AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department for Education, Social Science Educational ResearchUniversity of PotsdamPotsdamGermany

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