The 1947 Constitution of Japan (Article 26 paragraph 2) states that all citizens are obligated to receive education. Under the Education Basic Law issued in 1947, the term of compulsory education is set to 9 years (6 years of elementary school, 3 years of junior high school) and compulsory education is free.
The Basic Education law was revised in 2006 to specify gender equality and provide necessary educational support for people with disabilities.
The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) finances state subsidies which mainly focus on facility maintenance costs. Municipal expenditures finance school operation costs and facility maintenance costs. The total budget for education is JPY 5,666.5 billion (US$ 52.4 billion) in 2019. There were 6.4 million primary school students, 3.2 million junior high school students and 3.24 million high school students in 2018.
Early childhood education
The “Second Phase of Education Promotion Basic Plan (2013-17)” includes an objective to provide free comprehensive early childhood education and childcare for all children (OECD, 2015). For all children aged 3 to 5 who attend kindergartens, nursery schools, accredited nursery schools, etc free use will be implemented from October 1st, 2019. The overall budget for implementation is JPY 388.2 billion, which includes a grant for child support (US$3.6 billion). Of this amount, MOE’s budget for implementing pre-school education free of charge is JPY 70 billion (US$650 million. However, not all kindergartens are eligible for the plan.
Compulsory education (elementary school, junior high school)
While tuitions are free, families pay school lunch fees (according to a survey in 2006, the estimated monthly amount in elementary school was JPY 4,000 (US$37), and in junior high school JPY 4,500 (US$42) and school trip fees, expenses for special events and teaching materials. These school events are priced according to the standards set by each municipality Board of Education. In 2019, compulsory education accounted for 27.1% of annual education budget, accounting for JPY1533.7 billion (US$14.2 billion).
Tuition was decided to be free in principle following the Granting Measures of the Law on the Payment of Enrolment Support Funds for High Schools in 2001. In 2013, the support was changed from grant aid measures to enrolment support fees which go directly to school. The budget for enrolment support to high school students is JPY 387.3 billion (US$3.6 billion) of which JPY373 billion (US$3.5 billion) is appropriated for enrolment support subsidies for high schools etc. The remaining JPY13.3 billion (US$120 million) is used for high school student scholarships.
Special support education
In 2017, there are a total of 1,100 special needs schools and 142,000 students. The number of students enrolled in special support classes at the compulsory education stage is 235,000. The number of students being taught in regular classes is 109,000. All in all, 486,000 learners are identified as having special needs, 4.9% of the total number of 9,874,000 students. The 2019 Budget allocated JPY 5.7 billion (US $ 52.83 million) for special support education, which accounts for 0.1% of the 2019 MEXT annual budget. Of the total, JPY 3.1 billion (US$28.52 million) is used for the “Lifelong Learning Promotion Plan for Special Needs Education”.
There are 82,000 foreign students enrolled in public and private schools in 2015. According to the Main Items of the 2019 Budget Draft, the government set up a project to improve Japanese language education and education for foreign children. The educational budget for this project is JPY 1.35 billion (US$13 million), which accounts for 0.02% of the total budget.
A budget of JPY 6.9 billion (US$63.7 million) has been prepared for promoting measures against bullying and school refusal. JPY 6.7 billion (US$61.9 million) is used for early detection and response. Among the concrete measures, placing 10,000 social workers in all junior high schools and arranging school counselling in 27,500 public elementary and junior high schools in the whole country are the two priority methods.
The government expands assistance to students who are studying in regular classes from 2013. The expenses covered include transportation, school lunch , textbooks , school supplies , school excursions, daily necessities, bedding , homecoming from residences and similar positions..
According to the main items of the 2019 budget draft, the special support education enrolment and incentive expenses will be JPY 12.16 billion (US$110 million) with a subsidy rate of 1/2.
Compulsory education: In addition to the JPY 1,500 billion (US$14.2 billion) of compulsory education state treasury contributions, JPY 650 million (US$6.01 million) is spent onsupport for children from low income households.
High school students: The budget for supporting high school students is JPY 387.3 billion (US$3.58 billion). The financial aid ranges from JPY 32,300 (US$299) to JPY 138,000 (US$1,300) per child per year depending on the income level of households, number of children and public/private school attendance.
The welfare system is intended to provide those who need necessary protection, guaranteeing a healthy and cultural minimum life, to promote independence. The difference between the minimum cost of living minus the income is paid, which are determined according to the location of residence, needs for support such as disability, single mother household, education support. Education support ranges from ¥ 2,600 ($ 24) to ¥ 5,200 ($ 48) per child per month. 1.61 million people receive aid for education in 2016, accounting for 1.3% of the total population (127 million). The total amount of welfare settlement accounts for 2016 was ¥ 3.72 trillion, accounting for 0.69% of GDP (2016 nominal GDP: ¥ 536.0 trillion). This includes subsidies for education accounting for ¥ 594 million, or 16.0% of total welfare costs.