Country Listing

Japan Table of Contents


Preschool and Day Care

Early childhood education begins at home, and there are numerous books and television shows aimed at helping mothers 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.

Preschool education provides the transition from home to formal school for most children. Children's lives at home are characterized by indulgence, and the largely nonacademic preschool experience helps children make the adjustment to the group-oriented life of school and, in turn, to life in society itself (see Values , ch. 2).

Preschools (yochien), predominantly staffed by young female junior college graduates, are supervised by the Ministry of Education, but are not part of the official education system. The 58 percent of preschools that are private accounted for 77 percent of all children enrolled. In addition to preschools, a well-developed system of government-supervised day-care centers (hoikuen), supervised by the Ministry of Labor, is an important provider of preschool education. Together, these two kinds of institutions enroll well over 90 percent of all preschoolage children prior to their entrance into the formal system at first grade. The Ministry of Education's 1990 Course of Study for Preschools, which applies to both kinds of institutions, covers such areas as human relationships, environment, words (language), and expression.

Data as of January 1994