Even public high schools charge tuition in Japan, but that’s going to be ending soon in the nation’s largest city.

Despite its characterization as a studious society that values formal education, high school isn’t part of compulsory education in Japan. That said, the chances of finding employment that pays enough to become financially independent with merely a junior high education in Japan are extremely low.

In other words, legally, Japanese kids don’t have to attend high school, but practically, they pretty much do. But since high school isn’t technically required, parents have to pay tuition, even if their children are attending public high school (much like how state universities in the U.S. charge tuition).

However, that situation will soon be changing in Tokyo. Governor Yuriko Koike has announced that for the 2024 academic year (which begins this coming spring), the Tokyo metropolitan government will be abolishing its current income cap for tuition waivers.

Under the current system, Tokyo families with a household income of under 9.1 million yen (US$61,900) are exempt from tuition fees for public high schools, while those earning more must pay. In 2024, however, the income condition will be removed, making public high school free for all Tokyo families. In addition, Koike is pledging that Tokyo will provide supplements to national government subsidies for students attending private schools, with the goal being for the financial burden to be completely eliminated for their families as well.

“We will be urgently making the utmost effort to provide support to child-raising households,” said Koike in announcing the policy changes.

With a post middle-school education now practically a must for becoming a self-sufficient member of Japanese society, a strong argument can be made that the time has come for local governments to provide one. In addition, as with all government initiatives benefitting child-raising households, it’s likely the new policy’s architects hope that it will help boost Japan’s historically low birth rate, as financial concerns and pressures are a common reason Japanese couples remain childless.

At the same time, though the current yen/U.S. dollar exchange rate may not make the converted value appear particularly rosy, a household with an income of 9.1 million yen is relatively well off, even in Tokyo, and even with consumer prices in Japan rising. There are many full-time jobs that pay less than half of that figure, especially positions held by workers at earlier stages of their careers. For the many dual-income households of young, child-bearing-age couples who already make less than 9.1 million yen a year, expanding the free high school availability to wealthier families doesn’t create a smoother path to parenthood. It’s also unclear whether the Tokyo metropolitan government’s coffers are so full that it’s willing/able to cover the loss of tuition from families earning more than 9.1 million yen all by itself, or if the expanded benefits will be financed by increased taxes, and which sections of society will be paying them.

Source: FNN Prime Online via Hachima Kiko
Top image: Pakutaso
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