School Grade and Age Structures in Japan

Poste date: Tuesday, January 25, 2022

The education system and structures vary from country to country. Here we have made an easy to understand comparison between the ages and grade structures in Japan and other countries. You can also find a list of what the ages for compulsory education in each country is and how to use that information choose a grade in Japan. Japan is also highly invested in early education, with young children often starting preschool around 2.5–3 years old. 

How to choose a school grade by age in Japan

In Japan, the school year starts in April and ends in March. Children who were born between April 2nd and April 1st of the following year are placed within the same grade. This could change your child's grade when you move to Japan from another country.

If your child has difficulty in accepting the Japanese grade which matches their age, you can also ask the school to change the grade to a lower grade. This usually happens when a foreign child enrolls in a Japanese public school because it is hard for them to understand everything in Japanese.

Compulsory education in Japan lasts from the 1st grade of Elementary School to the 3rd year of Junior High School (9 years in total). Foreign children/students can also have the option to enroll in a Japanese public school, however it's not mandatory that they participate in the Japanese compulsory education. International schools in Japan follow the system of each country however, Japanese public schools and private schools follow the same system. For more information, please read Japanese education system and which school is the best for your child.

Comparison between the Age and Grade Structures in Japan and other countries

*swipe or scroll to see the complete table

Age Japan Australia U.K. U.S.A.
   Apr - Mar Jan - Dec Sep - Aug Sep - Aug
3-4 Kindergarten Kindergarten Nursery Nursery
4-5 Kindergarten Kindergarten Reception Pre-K
5-6 ​Kindergarten Prep Year Year 1 Kindergarten
6-7 ​ELMN 1 Year 1 Year 2 Grade 1
7-8 ​ELMN 2 Year 2 Year 3 Grade 2
8-9 ​ELMN 3 Year 3 Year 4 Grade 3
9-10 ​ELMN 4 Year 4 Year 5 Grade 4
10-11 ​ELMN 5 Year 5 Year 6 Grade 5
11-12 ​ELMN 6 Year 6 Year 7 Grade 6
12-13 JHS 1 Year 7 Year 8 Grade 7
13-14 JHS 2 Year 8 Year 9 Grade 8
14-15 JHS 3 Year 9 Year 10 Grade 9
15-16 HS 1 Year 10 Year 11 Grade 10
16-17 HS 2 Year 11 Year 12 Grade 11
17-18 HS 3 Year 12 Year 13 Grade 12

Education System in Japan

School Year
From April to March
Grade Division
Children born between April 2nd and April 1st of the following year are placed in the same grade.
Elementary School
ELEM 1 to 6
Junior High School
JHS 1 to 3
High School
HS 1 to 3
Compulsory Education
From Elementary School to Junior High School

For more information please refer to Guidebook for Starting School published by Ministry of Education in Japan.

Education System in Australia

School Year
From the end of January or beginning of February to December
Primary School
Prep Year to Year 6 or 7
Secondary School
Year 7 to 10, or Year 8 to 10
Senior Secondary School
Year 11 to Year 12
Compulsory Education
From Prep Year to Year 12

For more details, please visit Australian Government - Department of Education.

Education System in U.K.

School Year
From September to August
Primary School
Year 1 to 6
Secondary School
From Year 7 to 11
Secondary School or College
From Year 12 to Year 13
Compulsory Education
England: Age 5 years to 18 years
Scotland and Wales: Age 5 years to 16 years
Northern Ireland: Age 4 years to 16 years

For more details, please visit UK government information website.

Education System in U.S.A.

School Year
From September to August
Elementary School
Grade 1 to 5 (5-3-4)
Grade 1 to 6 (6-2-4) (6-6)
Grade 1 to 8 (8-4)
Junior High School
Grade 6 to 8 (5-3-4)
Grade 7 to 8 (6-2-4)
High School
Grade 9 to 12 (5-3-4) (6-2-4)
Grade 9 to 12 (8-4)
Grade 7 to 12 (6-6)
Compulsory Education
Age 5 years to 18 years (from Kindergarten to Grade 12 - K12)

* The system varies between different states. For more details, please refer to the department of education of the state you would like to know.

>> List of international schools in Japan

>> Primary - Elementary School System in Japan

>> Enrolling in a Japanese public school and materials you need to prepare

  • The Best Way to Learn Japanese: 7 Savvy Strategies

    What are some great ways to learn Japanese while living in Japan? From passive to active learning methods, give these strategies a try and find what works best for you.
  • Yearly Activities and Events in Japanese Public Schools

    In Japanese public elementary schools and junior high schools, there are many activities that take place throughout the year. Some of these activities you may not be familiar with. Here are the main activities that take place in Japanese public schools throughout the year.
  • What You Should Know about Japanese Public School Customs

    There are certain things done in Japanese Public Schools which may be quite different from the school customs you are familiar with in your home country. In Japan, children go to school alone (or in a group), healthy lunches are prepared at school, children clean the school themselves, no accessories are allowed to be worn, and so on.
  • Japanese education system and which school is the best for your child

    You may wonder how does the school system in Japan work? When and at what age does school start? When does it end? For those in Japan, you may be trying to decide if your child should attend a Japanese school or an international school. Our guide to Japan’s education system will help you choose what type of school is best for your child or at the very least satisfy your curiosity.
  • Arts and Culture Learning experiences in Tokyo

    Classes in Tokyo for English speakers interested in Arts and Culture are available for any level and age. There are various classes from Ikebana and ceramics to piano and ballet, so why not partake in a new cultural and artistic experience and learn something new with your kids?
  • Learning Japanese for Free: Great Online Tools

    Learning Japanese online has never been easier. There are a lot of great free online materials for learning Japanese online and they are perfect for self-study. In this article we cover some of the best learning websites, apps, and tools for studying Japanese.