|Calligraphy by children|
|Photo credit: Kanko*|
|Used under a Creative Commons licence.|
The Japanese education system is a three-part system which begins at
age six, and usually continues to age eighteen. Children attend
elementary school, shōgakkō (
Children begin officially learning reading and writing at the age of six, when they enter elementary school. They learn hiragana and katakana during the first year of elementary school. (See Hiragana and katakana for more about these.) They may already be able to read hiragana and katakana, but this is not part of the official curriculum.
One thousand and six kanji (Chinese characters, see Kanji for
more about them) are learnt over the six years of elementary
school. The kanji are divided into six one-year grades of 80, 160,
200, 200, 185, and 181 characters. These grades are commonly known as
the kyōiku kanji (
The rest of the Jōyō and Jinmei kanji (see What are the Jōyō Kanji? and How many kanji are there?) may be taught at junior high or high school level, and further non-Jōyō kanji may be taught at high school level. There is no set list of grades for the Jōyō kanji of junior high school or high school.
Children learn calligraphic writing using a brush in the kaisho
form (see Handwritten styles) during their third year
of school. Many children also study penmanship or calligraphy,
Romanized Japanese using the Kunrei system (see What are the systems of romanization of Japanese?) is taught in the fourth year of elementary school.
A recent proposal suggests adding twenty kanji to the list of characters to be taught in elementary school in 2020. These characters are the kanji for the names of Japan's prefectures which are not already in the list. (See How does the Japanese addressing system work? for more on prefectures.) The names of the prefectures are taught to children in the fourth year of elementary school, but since not all of the kanji are taught, furigana is currently used. (See What is furigana? for more about furigana.)
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