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EDUCATION INDICATORS: An International Perspective

Indicator 24: Time in Formal Instruction

Organized instruction outside of formal schooling

For many students, classroom instruction is only one part of the total learning experience. It does not reflect the amount of time students spend in formal and informal organized learning situations outside of school, such as after-school programs, supplementary instruction at other schools in the evenings and on weekends, and private tutoring sessions.

Educational settings outside of school exist in the United States. However, these learning opportunities are often informal, and more organized learning activities are not uniformly available across communities. In other countries, organized education outside of formal schooling is more extensive. Perhaps the most widely known case is that of Japan, where large numbers of students of all ages throughout the country attend juku after school and on weekends. Juku are typically private schools offering instruction to help students get ahead in their schoolwork and prepare for the large number of entrance examinations that help determine students' chances to enter particular high schools or colleges and universities./1

Junior high school students have the highest rates of juku attendance, primarily because all students must take a rigorous entrance examination to enter high school (among high school students, only those wishing to enter college face similar examination pressures). One study estimates that between 60 and 70 percent of all students in the seventh, eighth, and ninth grades (the junior high school years in Japan), attend private classes after school at least two or three times a week for two hours a session./2 Rates of attendance among elementary school students are also high, particularly in urban areas.

The type of instruction received in juku ranges from basic drill-and-practice sessions, which are intended to reinforce information learned in school or prepare students for examinations, to creative and innovative instruction not available in the typical school. The most commonly studied subject at juku is mathematics, although English is also very popular./3 Public opinion in Japan is divided on whether the extra time and money spent on juku is worthwhile, but the feeling among parents and students remains strong that attending the schools will provide an added academic advantage, or, more typically, that not attending the schools will result in students falling behind their peers.

Regardless of the merits of juku, attendance at them can add significantly to the total time spent in a structured learning environment in a way not normally accounted for by most measures of learning time.


1/ B. Duke. The Japanese School, Lessons for Industrial America (New York: Praeger Publishers, 1986); B. Feiler, Learning to Bow: An American Teacher in a Japanese School (New York: Ticknor and Fields, 1991); T. Rohlen, Japan's High Schools (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1983).

2/ Duke, The Japanese School, Lessons for Industrial America, op. cit.

3/ Duke, The Japanese School, Lessons for Industrial America, op. cit.

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