College entrance is based largely on the scores that
achieved in entrance examinations. Private institutions
for nearly 80 percent of all university enrollments in
with a few exceptions, the public national universities
most highly regarded. This distinction had its origins in
historical factors--the long years of dominance of the
imperial universities, such as Tokyo and Kyoto
trained Japan's leaders before the war--and also in
quality, particularly in facilities and faculty ratios. In
addition, certain prestigious employers, notably the
select large corporations, continue to restrict their
hiring of new
employees to graduates of the most esteemed universities.
a close link between university background and employment
opportunity. Because Japanese society places such store in
credentials, the competition to enter the prestigious
is keen. In addition, the eighteen-year-old population is
growing, increasing the number of applicants.
Students applying to national universities take two
examinations, first a nationally administered uniform
test and then an examination administered by the
the student hope to enter. Applicants to private
to take only the university's examination. Some national
have so many applicants that they use the first test, the
First Stage Achievement Test, as a screening device for
qualification to their own admissions test.
Such intense competition means that many students can
compete successfully for admission to the college of their
An unsuccessful student can either accept an admission
forego a college education, or wait until the following
take the national examinations again. A large number of
choose the last option. These students, called
ronin (see Glossary),
spend an entire year, and sometimes longer,
another attempt at the entrance examinations.
Yobiko (see Glossary)
are private schools that, like
many juku, help students prepare for entrance
While yobiko have many programs for upper-secondary
students, they are best known for their specially designed
full-time, year-long classes for ronin. The number of
to four-year universities totaled almost 560,000 in 1988.
Ronin accounted for about 40 percent of new
four-year colleges in 1988. Most ronin were men,
14 percent were women. The ronin experience is so
Japan that the Japanese education structure is often said
an extra ronin year built into it.
Yobiko sponsor a variety of programs, both
part-time, and employ an extremely sophisticated battery
student counseling sessions, and examination analysis to
their classroom instruction. The cost of yobiko
high, comparable to first-year university expenses, and
specialized courses at yobiko are even more
yobiko publish modified commercial versions of the
proprietary texts they use in their classrooms through
affiliates or by other means, and these are popular among
general population preparing for college entrance exams.
Yobiko also administer practice examinations
year, which they open to all students for a fee.
In the late 1980s, the examination and entrance process
the subjects of renewed debate. In 1987 the schedule of
First Stage Achievement Test was changed, and the content
examination itself was revised for 1990. The schedule
the first time provided some flexibility for students
apply to more than one national university. The new Joint
Stage Achievement Test was prepared and administered by
National Center for University Entrance Examination and
designed to accomplish better assessment of academic
The Ministry of Education hoped many private schools
adopt or adapt the new national test to their own
requirements and thereby reduce or eliminate the
But, by the time the new test was administered in 1990,
had displayed any inclination to do so. The ministry urged
universities to increase the number of students admitted
alternate selection methods, including admission of
returning to Japan from long overseas stays, admission by
recommendation, and admission of students who had
upper-secondary schools more than a few years before.
number of schools had programs in place or reserved spaces
returning students, only 5 percent of university students
admitted under these alternate arrangements in the late
Other college entrance issues include proper guidance
college placement at the upper-secondary level and better
dissemination of information about university programs.
ministry provides information through the National Center
University Entrance Examination's on-line information
and encourages universities, faculties, and departments to
brochures and video presentations about their programs.
Data as of January 1994