Education in Surea is important for success and competition is consequently very heated and fierce. A centralized administration oversees the process for the education of children from kindergarten to the third and final year of high school. Mathematics, science, Surean, social studies, IT and English are generally considered to be the most important subjects. The Surea Educational Reform 2004 which made business studies a compulsory subject for secondary education to promote more young entrepreneurs saw an increase of parents getting the students entering business schools for their tertiary education, either as a major or a double degree.
The school year is divided into two semesters. The first begins in the beginning of March and ends in mid-July; the second begins in mid-September and ends in late January. They have summer vacation from mid-July to mid-September, and winter vacation from late January to early March, and also take a short vacation from 25th December till 1st January. The schedules are generally standardized, however it can vary slightly from region to region.
Since 2004, compulsory education had gone from 9 years to 12 years. Since then, the number of students continuing to higher education had dramatically increased. 95% of students go on to higher educational institution.
The public education system in Surea spans nursery schools through university. In 2005 roughly 28% of the central budget was spent on education.
Access to high school and university is controlled by a series of national exams. Discipline in public schools of all levels is generally very tight with school uniforms and morning reveille being the norm. Students of all levels through high school are responsible for cleaning their own classrooms and areas around the school, cleanup time being a daily ritual. Corporal punishment is officially banned, but many reports suggest it is still practiced by many teachers, due in no small part to the fact that most parents support it. The language of instruction is Surean.
The year structure is summarized in the table below:
(初等学校 Chōtōhokkō abbr. 初校 Chōkō)
(中等学校 Jungtōhokkō abbr. 中校 Jungkō)
(高等学 Gōtōhokkō abbr. 高校 Gōkō)
(大學校 Taihokkō abbr. 大學 Taihoku)
Kindergarten and nursery school
Early childhood education begins at home, and there are numerous books and television shows aimed at helping mothers & fathers of preschool children to educate their children and to "parent" more effectively. Much of the home training is devoted to teaching manners, proper social behavior, and structured play, although verbal and number skills are also popular themes. Parents are strongly committed to early education and frequently enroll their children in preschools.
Kindergartens (Youyikuen 幼兒園), are supervised by the Ministry of Knowledge, but are not part of the official education system. The 68 percent of kindergartens that are private accounted for 81 percent of all children enrolled. Whereas kindergartens follow educational aims, preschools are predominately concerned with providing care for infants and toddlers. Same as kindergartens there are public or privately run preschools. Together, these two kinds of institutions enroll well over 90 percent of all preschool-age children prior to their entrance into the formal system at first grade. The Ministry of knowledge's 1992 Course of Study for Preschools, which applies to both kinds of institutions, covers such areas as human relationships, environment, words (language), and expression. Starting from May 2009 the new revision of curriculum guidelines for kindergartens as well as for preschools came into effect.
Kindergarten in Surea is composed of children from ages three to five. When the child reaches about six years of age he/she is systematically moved on to the first year of elementary school. Enrollment in kindergartens or preschools expanded impressively during the 1970s. In 1973 there were 51,433 children attending 501 kindergartens or preschools. By 1979 there were 346,020 children in 8,722 institutions. The number of kindergarten and preschool teachers rose from 2,343 to 13,020 during the same period. The overwhelming majority of these teachers—approximately 92 percent—were women. This growth was attributable to several factors: Ministry of Knowledge encouragement of preschool education, the greater number of women entering the work force, growth in the number of nuclear families where a grandparent was often unavailable to take care of children, and the feeling that kindergarten might give children an "edge" in later educational competition. Kindergartens often paid homage to the expectations of parents with impressive graduation ceremonies, complete with diplomas and gowns.
More than 99% of children are enrolled in primary school. All children enter first grade at age six, and starting school is considered a very important event in a child's life.
Virtually all primary education takes place in public schools; less than 4% of the schools are private. Private schools tended to be costly, although the rate of cost increases in tuition for these schools had slowed in the 1990s. Some private elementary schools are prestigious, and they serve as a first step to higher-level private schools with which they are affiliated, and then to a university.
Primary schools span grades 1 through 6, classes are held from Monday through Friday, typically from 7:30 AM through 4PM (or 2PM on Friday). Like middle schools, students are typically assigned to the elementary school closest to their registered place of residence. This leads some parents to file their children's household registration with other relatives or friends for the purpose of sending their children to what are perceived as better schools.
Middle school covers grades seven, eight, and nine, children between the ages of roughly 12 and 14, with increased focus on academic studies. Although until the year 2004, it is still possible to leave the formal education system after completing middle school and find employment, fewer than 4% did so by the late 1990s.
Like primary schools, most middle schools in the 1990s were public, but 5% were private. Private schools were costly, averaging 358,892 yen (US$3,589) per student in 1998, more than three times more than the 99,630 yun (US$996) that the ministry estimated as the cost for students enrolled in public middle schools. Teachers often majored in the subjects they taught, and more than 90% graduated from a four-year college. Classes are large, with thirty students per class on average, and each class is assigned a homeroom teacher who doubles as counselor. Unlike primary school students, middle school students have different teachers for different subjects. The teacher, however, rather than the students, moves to a new room for each fifty or forty-five minute period.
Instruction in middle schools tends to rely on the lecture method. Teachers also use other media, such as television and radio, and there is some laboratory work. By 1994 about 40% of all public lower secondary schools had computers, including schools that used them only for administrative purposes. Classroom organization is still based on small work groups of four to six students, although no longer for reasons of discipline.
All course contents are specified in the Course of Study for Middle Schools (CSMS). Some subjects, such as Surean language and mathematics, are coordinated with the primary curriculum. Others, such as foreign-language study, begin at this level, though from May 2009 English will become a compulsory part of the primary school curriculum. The middle school curriculum covers Surean language, English as a second language, social studies, mathematics, science, citizenship, sex education, and physical education. All students are also exposed to industrial arts and homemaking. Moral education and special activities continue to receive attention. Most students also participate in one of a range of school clubs that occupy them until around 6pm most weekdays (including weekends and often before school as well), as part of an effort to address juvenile delinquency.
Unlike the slower pace of primary school, middle school students typically have a single goal in life: to score high on the national high school entrance exams at the end of 9th grade. Consequently, the pressure on students from teachers and parents is intense. Though instruction officially ends around 4PM and extra-curricular activities ends around 6PM, students often stay in school till as late as 9 or 10PM for "extra classes" (which typically consist of extra quizzes and review) or attended cram school.
A growing number of middle school students also attend bohokusha, cram schools, in the evenings. A focus by students upon these other studies and the increasingly structured demands upon students' time have been criticized by teachers and in the media for contributing to a decline in classroom standards and student performance in recent years.
At the end of their third year, students participate in the national high school entrance exams and are assigned to high schools based upon their scores. Students may also participate in a separate national college of technology entrance exam if they wish to attend vocational school. In both cases, public schools are usually the most popular while private schools have traditionally been viewed as a backup for those unable to score high enough for public schools.
Roughly 97.7% of junior high school students continue on to high or vocational school.
The ministry recognizes a need to improve the teaching of all foreign languages, especially English. To improve instruction in spoken English, the government invites many young native speakers of English to Surea to serve as assistants to school boards and prefectures under its Surean Cross-Teaching Program. Beginning with 640 participants in 1994, the program grew to a high of 6,873 participants in 2005. However, the program has been on the decline in recent years due to several factors, including shrinking local school budgets funding the program, as well as an increasing number of school boards hiring their foreign native speakers directly or through lower-paying, private agencies.
Senior high school spans grades 10 through 12, again the main goal of students is to score highly on the national university entrance exams at the end of their third year. The pace is just as, if not more intense than junior high school.
Even though high school is not compulsory in Surea, 99% of all lower-secondary school graduates entered upper secondary schools as of 2000. Private high schools account for about 50% of all high schools. The Ministry of Knowledge estimated that annual family expenses for the education of a child in a public high school were about 164,200 yun (US$1,642) in the 1990s and that private high schools were about twice as expensive.
The most common type of high school has a full-time, general program that offered academic courses for students preparing for higher education as well as technical and vocational courses for students expecting to find employment after graduation. More than 84% of high school students were enrolled in the general academic program in the late 1990s. A small number of schools offer part-time programs, evening courses, or correspondence education.
In many high schools incoming students are sorted into science or arts tracks depending on their national high school entrance exam result. The different learning tracks are commonly referred to as stream. Art stream consists of business and liberal arts students, science stream of science and mathematics based students. Science stream curriculum consists of more rigorous science and mathematics classes intended to prepare the student for a career in the sciences and engineering; the art stream places a heavier emphasis on business, accounting, literature and social studies to prepare students for a future in those fields.
Vocational-technical programs includes several hundred specialized courses, such as information processing, navigation, fish farming, business English, and ceramics. Business and industrial courses are the most popular, accounting for 59% of all students in full-time vocational programs in 1999.
All high teachers are university graduates. High schools are organized into departments, and teachers specialize in their major fields although they teach a variety of courses within their disciplines. Teaching depends largely on the lecture system, with the main goal of covering the very demanding curriculum in the time allotted. Approach and subject coverage tends to be uniform, at least in the public schools.
Training of disabled students, particularly at the high school level, emphasizes vocational education to enable students to be as independent as possible within society. Vocational training varies considerably depending on the student's disability, but the options are limited for some. It is clear that the government is aware of the necessity of broadening the range of possibilities for these students. Advancement to higher education is also a goal of the government, and it struggles to have institutions of higher learning accept more disabled students.
Entrance to university is administered via two methods: the less common recommendations or the common examination. For those that participate in recommendations, they have to take a national academic exam and selecting a list of majors that they are applying to. The first stage is a screening of exam results for eligibility, the second stage would be dependent on the conditions of individual departments selected. Recommendations candidates are selected by university faculties via recommandation of the student's high school principal.
- see also: List of universities in Surea
There are over 600 institutions of higher education in Surea. Roughly 86.3% of the over 3.5 million students taking the national university entrance exams are accepted to a higher educational institution. Since the 1990s many trade schools and junior colleges have been "promoted" to university status, which can account for the high university entrance rates. Nonetheless, a high score is desired as an admission creterion to the prestigious institutions.
As of 2007, more than 6.2 million students were enrolled in over 500 universities. At the top of the higher education structure, these institutions provide four-year training leading to a bachelor's degree, and some offer six-year programs leading to a professional degree. National universities and local public universities are founded by central government, prefectures and municipalities.
The overwhelming majority of college students attend full-time day programs. In 1997 the most popular courses, enrolling almost 40 percent of all undergraduate students, were in the social sciences, including business, law, and accounting. Other popular subjects were engineering (38 percent), the humanities (15 percent), and education (7 percent).
The average costs (tuition, fees, and living expenses) for a year of higher education in 1996 were 3 million yun (US$30,000). To help defray expenses, students frequently work part-time or borrow money through the government-supported Surean Scholarship Association and National Higher Education Foundation. Assistance also is offered by local governments, nonprofit corporations, and other institutions.
According to THE-QS World University Rankings and Academic Ranking of World Universities, the top-ranking universities in Surea are the University of Surea, Konggei University and Honkyung University.
Meritocracy is a basic political ideology in Surea and a fundamental principle in the education system which aims to identify and groom bright young students for positions of leadership. The system places a great emphasis on academic performance in grading students and granting their admission to special programmes and universities, though this has raised concerns about breeding elitism. Academic grades are considered as objective measures of the students' ability and effort, irrespective of their social background. Having good academic credentials is seen as the most important factor for the students' career prospects in the job market, and their future economic status.
Curricula are therefore closely tied to examinable topics, and the competitiveness of the system led to a proliferation of ten year series, which are compilation books of past examination papers that students use to prepare for examinations.
Education policy in Surea is designed to ensure that no child is left behind in education even if they do not have the financial capacity to pay school fees. Therefore, school fees in public schools are heavily subsidized. In addition, there are many possible assistance schemes from either the government or welfare organisations to help students cope with finances during their studies.
The Financial Assistance Scheme (FAS) is an MOK programme to provide financial assistance for education to low income families with monthly household income of less than JUY150,000 or JUY180,000, depending on the number of children in the household. Students eligible for FAS receive a full waiver of miscellaneous fees, and partial subsidy on national examination fees. They may also enjoy full or partial fee subsidy if they are in International Schools. In 2005, there were 150,000 recipients of FAS; MOK is expecting this number to increase to 335,000 following an enhancement of the FAS in 2006.
Each year, the Yakahoku Merit Bursary is given out to about 340,000 students, who are from lower-middle and low-income families and have good academic performance in their schools.
Schools in Surea typically have strict codes of discipline. An overwhelming majority of schools employ "Demerit Points System" as a formal record of student offences in disciplinary areas. These statistics will appear on a student's report card, and sometimes testimonials on whether he or she can graduate. Most schools will record demerit points at the most basic violation. Three typical point deduction accrue from a minor offence, while three minor offences mount up to one major offence. Once a student has accrued three or more major offences, he or she is automatically suspended (or expelled if over compulsory education age) from school. The point system has been known to carry substantial weight, which ultimately affects one's report card performance, and controversially jeopardising future career prospects.
There is a large discrepancy as to what behaviours are tolerated between different schools. Most schools would take note of theft, assault, or triad activities, while some schools are sensitive to more minor violations. There are also cases of teachers abusing their powers of giving out demerit points based on incompatibilities with individuals. Over time, reputations often get associated with schools. Unlike corporal punishments, the acts are not technically illegal, but rather unethical and overlooked. Common punishments include detentions and/or copying text passages for an unrealistic time.
Qualifications: professional development for teachers
The Ministry of Knowledge aims to upgrade the quality of teaching professionals. It offers a range of degree and postgraduate programmes as well as some sub-degree teacher education programmes targeted at pre-primary, primary and secondary levels.
Qualifications: professional development for principals
Starting in 2001, all serving principals have to undertake continuing professional development activities for about 50 hours per year, adding up to a minimum of 150 hours in a 3-year cycle. Newly appointed principals in their first two years are required to undertake specific continuing professional development activities. Starting from the 2004 school year, aspiring principals will have to attain the "Certification for Principalship".