Familiarizing yourself with Japan’s Early Childhood Education System (Hoikuen and Youchien)

Early Childhood Education has become a priority in many countries. Over the past few years many studies have recognized that early childhood education programs can provide a variety of benefits ranging from better supporting a child’s development to improving socio-economic lives of kids. UNESCO also said that countries that pay attention to their childhood education systems have better invested in the expansion of higher quality human resources.

Essentially, the early childhood education system refers to the learning processes of children from during the time they are born until the period during which the child has entered Kindergarten. This learning process is aimed at helping children in the development of intellectual abilities, physical skills, as well as more coherent social & emotional abilities. In addition, “fun” methods of early childhood learning can bring out a love of learning in children.

In Japan, the role that early childhood education plays is considered essential due to its major influence on the development of one’s personality. Japanese society realizes that in order to create a well-adjusted and stable next generation, they must establish a fully functional education system. The system should be able to instill discipline, responsibility, as well as build character.

Characteristics of Japan’s Early Childhood Education System 

Japan views education as an essential feature in the development of their nation. Better education produces high quality human resources, which leads to advancement in science and technology, preserving culture and community values. It is due to these key points that the Japanese government aims to strengthen the nation’s early childhood education system.

Here are some characteristics of the early childhood education in Japan:

1. Teachers working within early childhood education will work in tandem with researchers and institutions so as to thoroughly review their methods of teaching. This is done in order to formulate better systems of education.

2. There are several philosophical approaches that are applied within the education system, each with their respective methods of teaching. However, this approach can still be applied flexibly according to the needs of the individual child.

3. Schools or classes establish close links with teacher training institutions. This is done not only to train prospective teachers but also to develop better and more practical methodologies.

The Japanese Early Childhood Education Model: Hoikuen and Youchien

The early childhood education system in Japan is divided into two parts, namely Hoikuen, commonly known as day care, with the second being Youchien, or Kindergarten.


Hoikuen is a day care facility provided for infants several months to 5 years old. The purpose of this Hoikuen is to assist parents who are unable to care for their children during the day due to work or health reasons.

Each Hoikuen in Japan operates during different hours. However, most of these daycare centers provide fairly long service hours, generally operating from around 7:30 to 18:30. In Hoikuen, parents do not need to provide lunch, because the school provides it.

In general, children who are enrolled within the Hoikuen system are not required to wear any sort of special uniform and there are no academic targets to be achieved. However, the teachers in a Hoikuen will provide a variety of activities that can hone basic and necessary skills in young children.


A Youchien functions as a Kindergarten and is aimed at children from 3 to 5 years of age. Its functional hours are much shorter than a Hoikuen, operating from 9 am to 2 pm. In addition, most Youchien require children to bring lunch from home. There are also Youchien which require students to wear school uniforms.

Just like in Indonesia, Kindergartens in Japan are also devoted to the purpose of early education, better preparing children to enter elementary school. So Youchien possess a wider range of learning materials than that of the Hoikuen system. Here children learn to write, read, count (math), and/or foster English skills.

What Education System Should Parents Choose?

Because the Japanese early childhood education system is appropriately adjusted to the child’s target age, neither Hoikuen nor Youchien will burden the children with too many lessons. Their main activity will be playing within a safe and educational environment, where they can improve their vocabulary, begin to identify colors, or improve their counting abilities through songs as well as learn to communicate with their teachers & friends through play.

Parents faced with choosing one of these systems first need to make sure that they will be able to adapt to the educational conditions that come with their choice, and also need to better understand the educational goals they have for their children.

As previously explained, Hoikuen is aimed at helping parents who are busy working and thus cannot take care of their children. Here, teachers will work closely with doctors, nurses, and nutritionists, paying attention to the child’s growth and development both physically and mentally. So, if working parents don’t have much time at home to spend with their children, then the Hoikuen can be the perfect solution to help with the child’s care.

In contrast to Hoikuen, the Youchien educational system is aimed at providing academic materials and preparation for entry into elementary school. Teachers in Youchien must be a licensed kindergarten teacher. Therefore, if parents specifically seek to prepare their child for elementary school, then Youchien may be the more appropriate option.

In addition, Youchien’s relatively short operating duration of about 5 hours encourages parental participation in providing the child with a supplementary education where appropriate. So, Youchien is a suitable option for parents who are currently not employed and are able to spend more time at home with their children.

The Role of Parents in Early Childhood Education

It is important to understand that parents in Japan are very concerned about the quality of their child’s education. Even though children engage in education at school, Japanese parents will still be inclined to provide additional education at home. Therefore, they will still take on an important role in a child’s early educational period.

Parents need to be aware that a critical part of a child’s cognitive development occurs during preschool age. By taking an active role in providing children with a proper early education, parents can further help ensure that their children have all the support they need to develop their potential. In addition, parental involvement can also expand learning outside of the classroom and create a fun and exciting experience for children so that they can perform better when they are at school.

While at home, parents can invite their children to play stimulating and educational games. During early childhood, learning while playing can indeed be the most appropriate strategy. Their love for playing activities can be utilized so as to teach them to learn real life concepts, as well as to stimulate the child’s creativity and imagination. That is why it is important for parents to introduce their child to both interesting and educational games, one example being the Gakken Play Smart Workbook series.

The Gakken Play Smart Workbook is an educational series of books developed by Japanese education experts and is intended for children within the 2 to 4 year age range. Equipped with various educational activities such as puzzle games, mazes, as well as dot connecting challenges, the Gakken Play Smart Workbook Series can be relied on by parents to help hone their child’s skills in regards to their fine motor, cognitive and language skills, as well as being able to improve the child’s ability to focus.

Childhood is a wonderful once in a lifetime experience. This stage is critically important for growth and development within a person’s life. You need to prepare them as much as possible to improve the quality of their intellectual growth and development. To purchase the Gakken Play Smart Workbook series, you can visit Gramedia, Kinokuniya and Paper Clip or the online bookstore KingKongBooks.com

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