Parents Push Toddlers Into Japan's 'Exam Hell'

Parents move back starting line for race to secure best schools
By Katherine Thompson,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 26, 2009 3:55 PM CDT
To get into Takahata high school, and almost all other schools in Japan, students must pass an entrance exam. Special preparation courses for such tests are growing in popularity.   (©f_a_r_e_w_e_l_l)
camera-icon View 4 more images

(Newser) – While most 3-year-olds romp and fingerpaint, a growing group of Japanese toddlers are working through stacks of worksheets taller than they are. Enrolled in courses called ojuken, they're studying for entrance exams to enter top-tier elementary schools. Despite Japan's declining birth rate and schools clamoring to fill seats, well-heeled parents have become more competitive than ever, ABC News reports.

"The low birthrate does seem to be pushing parents to give all they can to the one child," one professor said. "It's an act of selective extravagance." Hoping that their kids can avoid public school and make wealthy, well-connected friends, parents pay well for the training—$22,000 for 2 years at one school. And toddlers don't seem to mind. "The snacks were yummy," said one 4-year-old. "The classes were fun."