Selective Secondary Education, 1900-1945

After graduating after six years at ordinary elementary school, children could continue their education by a variety of routes. It was most common to progress to two years of higher elementary school. However, better-off children with academic ability could apply to enter several types of selective secondary school, which were largely single-sex institutions. At the start of the twentieth century, only a small proportion of elementary school graduates were able to enter selective secondary schools – a reflection partly of the small number of such schools at the time, and of the cost of sending a child there, both in terms of school fees and other expenses, and in terms of wages or work foregone. However, the proportion of children entering these schools rose steadily, and sometimes sharply, in the following decades, as Japanese people became more prosperous, educational aspirations rose, and the number of schools expanded. It is difficult to be exact about the proportion of elementary school graduates who entered selective secondary schools, as some children entered such a school after a year or two studying in higher elementary school, but it seems likely that by 1940, about 30 percent of elementary graduates were entering some form of selective secondary education. The selective secondary education system was complicated; alongside regular academic schools for boys and girls, there were a variety of vocationally-oriented or practically-oriented schools. There was also a significant proportion of private schools, which accounted for about 25 percent of selective secondary students in 1940.

For more information about selective secondary education for boys and girls respectively, please see the webpages on those topics.

Peter Cave

How to Cite This Source

Peter Cave, ‘Selective Secondary Education, 1900-1945’, in Childhood, Education and Youth in Modern Japan [add URL and access date].