Last week, the Organization for Economic Cooperation released a list that ranked the 31 member countries with “comparable data” in terms of public spending on education as a percentage of gross domestic product. Japan came in last at 3.3 percent. The average percentage was 5.0, with Norway at number one with 7.3 percent. However, in terms of private spending as a proportion of all expenditures on education, Japan came in third out of 28 OECD member countries with comparable data, at 33.6 percent. Only South Korea and Chile were higher.
These findings were based on data from 2008, which means they don’t take into consideration recent changes implemented by the Democratic Party of Japan. The most relevant change in this regard is the government’s decision to waive tuition for high school students by paying subsidies to local governments. High school is not mandatory in Japan, and even public high schools require fees of some sort. These subsidies will probably change the OECD’s rankings when it compiles a list for public spending in 2011, but it may not have any effect on the list for private spending. One of the reasons the DPJ pushed the tuition-free policy is because the party recognizes that in the current job climate even entry-level, minimum-wage service employment requires a high school diploma. The days when junior high school graduates were solicited for factory jobs and other blue collar work is long gone. But compared to many of the other costs that parents pay to have their children educated, public high school tuition is almost like a drop in the bucket. According to education ministry figures for 2006, the average public high school student paid ¥112,000 a year in tuition, which is certainly high for lower income families; but at the same time, the average public high school student also paid ¥176,000 a year for outside cram schools, or juku. Altogether, parents paid on average ¥520,000 a year in education costs for a child if he or she went to public high school, which is about half the cost for private high school students, who paid on average ¥1,045,000 a year (including ¥785,000 tuition and ¥260,00 for juku). Continue reading about spending of private education →