Supplementary Education in Japan: Issues and Prospects in a Growing Unequal Society

Bérénice Leman



The increasing spread of shadow  education worldwide shows an evolution of school systems integrating more and more a commercial dimension of education. In Japan, this tendency is very strong  especially since the several neoliberal reforms undertaken at the different levels of the education system since the 2000s.

The rapid expand of shadow education - that is gakushū juku and yobikō - did not use to be questioned in the context of rapid growth and mass-education of post-war Japan; however, in the new context of growing social inequalities that characterizes today’s Japanese society, the stakes of private tutoring are changing.

Alongside the trend to invest into education at an early stage of schooling through using the services of private  tutoring companies in order to access prestigious private lower secondary schools or even primary schools or kindergartens, an opposite tendency may be also observed – a growing number of young people compelled to refrain from entering higher education  for economic reasons. 

Recent studies have showed the impact of economic resources of families on children’s academic  performances as well as inequalities in academic results depending on whether children frequented private tutoring companies or not. However, these facts run counter to the  fundamental principles of equality of access in education, on whichJapanwas based on after World War II.

In this article, we will focus on the stakes and prospects of private tutoring in the context of growing inequalities, as well as on the impact of such a tendency towards merchandising education on the perceptions of education and society as a whole that Japanese youth develop - through their experiences.

Słowa kluczowe

Japan; supplementary education; inequalities; gakushū juku; yobikō

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