Career Colleges and Vocational Schools in Japan

Yokohama Design College

Nishi-ku, Japan
Yokohama Design College was founded in 1948, starting like a woman dressmaker school. Todays, it is a college preparatory, japanese language teaching school and a design college.

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About Career Colleges and Vocational Schools in Japan

Vocational education has become increasingly popular in Japan over the last decade and is now a very integral and important part of the Japanese educational landscape.  Many students, especially those who feel they are unprepared to take the rigorous university entrance exam, are now opting to attend one of the country’s many vocational schools, as opposed to entering junior college.  Some students even begin their vocational training in upper secondary school rather than pursuing an educational track that is wholly academic.

Vocational Schools and Career Training at the Upper Secondary Level

In Japan, education is compulsory for 9 years—6 years in primary school and 3 years in lower secondary or junior high school.  Upper secondary education, while not mandated by the government, is still very popular, with nearly 95 percent of all students opting to attend.  This impressive statistic can be partially explained by the fact that an upper secondary diploma is required to pursue any type of higher education opportunity, but it’s also due in part to the high value placed on education by the government of Japan and its people.

Students opting to attend upper secondary school in Japan have two choices in terms of school type:  general and vocational.  As you might guess, the general high schools help students prepare for admittance into one of more than 1200 public and private universities in the country, and to take and pass the required entrance exam.  Vocational schools, on the other hand, offer a combination of general and vocational education, ultimately preparing students to join the workforce upon graduation or to enter one of the tertiary or post secondary vocational schools.

Nearly 30 percent of all Japanese upper secondary students are enrolled in a vocational school program.  These educational tracks, at least at this point of their studies, are not job specific, but merely career oriented and aimed to help students find their niche with regard to potential future vocational pursuits.  There are six vocational areas from which students can choose during the three years they will attend upper secondary vocational school, including commerce, industry (technology), agriculture, home economics, fishery and health.  Of these, commerce and industrial technology are the most popular educational tracks among students, accounting for more than half of all vocational school enrollees.  In addition to studying the various career-related topics, students in vocational schools must also spend 16-18 hours a week studying general education.  These academic components, which include Japanese, mathematics, social studies, English and science, are not as rigorous as they are in the general high school, but students must show competence in these areas prior to graduation.

Post-Secondary Vocational Opportunities

Post-secondary vocational schools in Japan, which must be authorized by the local government, aim to provide education that is highly connected to the future job market.  The courses of study in these schools can be categorized as basic, taking two years to complete, and advanced, spanning 4 years of study.  Unlike graduates from the basic program, who generally pursue employment directly after graduation, students who graduate from the 4-year programs have the option of pursuing employment or applying for admission to the university to advance their skills.

These vocational schools are highly specialized and offer education in one of 8 categories, including engineering, commerce administration, medical, sanitation, liberal arts, education/social welfare, dressmaking/domestic sciences and agriculture.  The curriculum in these programs is a combination of theory and practical training, designed to ready students for specific careers important to the Japanese economy.

In addition to the vocational schools offering training in the aforementioned 8 career categories, technical vocational training, usually leading to careers in computer programming, database management, system analysis, information systems, maintenance and more, is also offered at the post secondary level.

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