Declining Birth Rate and Changes in High School Opportunities in Japan

Thursday, 19 July 2018: 17:50
Oral Presentation
Mei KAGAWA, Institute of Social Science, University of Tokyo, Japan
Maintaining opportunities in high school when the number of students is decreasing is challenging in many aspects. When education was expanding, the primary concern was to cope with the growing demand quantitatively. However, when education is being downsized, providing adequate education involves dealing with problems quantitatively as well as qualitatively. The challenge is to downsize education while guaranteeing equal opportunities for everyone. In other words, society has to offer a variety of programs that students want, while simultaneously shrinking them in size. How can this be accomplished? What can cause its failure? What kinds of problems can arise in the process? I focus on the changes in the high school structure in Japan, namely providers and programs offered, to answer this question.

The number of high school students in Japan has been decreasing over the past 25 years; the highest number was recorded in 1992; it then declined sharply to about two-thirds in 2016. Despite the decline in student enrollments, public and private balance in terms of ratios remains unchanged. The reason for this is that the public-private high school cooperation council in most prefectures sets the permitted allocation of students in each sector. However, a change in the functions of the council is indicated in the coming years. Regarding the variety of programs, two changes can be pointed out. One is the decline in the number of public schools that offer vocational programs, especially in prefectures where the drop in student numbers is severe. The other is that the education contents that each school offers are diversified reflecting high school policy. We will discuss the consequences of these changes to the high school structure.