Teaching Module

Educational Reform in Japan (19th c.)

Meiji Era School Attendence [Tables]


Below are two tables that reveal both the accomplishments and the limitations of Meiji educational reforms. Table 1 shows an impressive increase in the number of schools and the enrollment rates for both girls and boys, one that culminates in 1905 with near-universal enrollment rates. Table 2, however, reveals the fact that enrollment rates and attendance rates were not identical. In this particular elementary school, the average daily attendance rate dropped sharply at two times: in winter, when severe weather made commuting difficult, and in summer, when children were expected to perform agricultural work for the family. While this table shows statistics for only one village, similar patterns prevailed throughout rural Japan well into the 1920s and 1930s. These patterns suggest the difficulties that governments encounter when they attempt to implement compulsory schooling. Schooling involves a basic change in the patterns of childhood and the family economy. For most families, sending children to school all day for most of the year involved a significant loss of available labor for household tasks, as well as a change in the schedules and rhythms of family life. Even when parents began to send their children to school, they often did so only insofar as it conformed to those schedules and rhythms.


Platt, Brian. Burning and Building: Schooling and State Formation in Japan, 1750-1890. Cambridge: Harvard University Asia Center, 2004.

Primary Source Text

<h3>Primary School Enrollment Rates (percent of children of primary school age who were enrolled in school)</h3> <table cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0"> <thead> <tr> <th>Date</th> <th>Primary Schools</th> <th>Boys</th> <th>Girls</th> <th>Total</th> </tr> </thead> <tbody> <tr> <td>1873</td> <td>12,597</td> <td>39.9</td> <td>15.1</td> <td>28.1</td> </tr> <tr> <td>1874</td> <td>20,017</td> <td>46.2</td> <td>17.2</td> <td>32.3</td> </tr> <tr> <td>1875</td> <td>24,303</td> <td>50.8</td> <td>18.7</td> <td>35.4</td> </tr> <tr> <td>1880</td> <td>28,410</td> <td>58.72</td> <td>21.91</td> <td>41.06</td> </tr> <tr> <td>1885</td> <td>28,283</td> <td>65.80</td> <td>32.07</td> <td>49.62</td> </tr> <tr> <td>1890</td> <td>26,017</td> <td>65.14</td> <td>31.13</td> <td>48.93</td> </tr> <tr> <td>1895</td> <td>26,631</td> <td>76.65</td> <td>43.87</td> <td>61.24</td> </tr> <tr> <td>1900</td> <td>26,857</td> <td>90.35</td> <td>71.73</td> <td>81.48</td> </tr> <tr> <td>1905</td> <td>27,407</td> <td>97.72</td> <td>93.34</td> <td>95.62</td> </tr> </tbody> </table> <br /> <h3>Enrollment and Attendance in Yoshida Elementary School, 1883</h3> <table cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0"> <thead> <tr> <th>Month</th> <th># children enrolled</th> <th># children attending</th> <th>Avg daily attendance</th> </tr> </thead> <tbody> <tr> <td>January</td> <td>100</td> <td>90</td> <td>80</td> </tr> <tr> <td>February</td> <td>100</td> <td>90</td> <td>50</td> </tr> <tr> <td>March</td> <td>132</td> <td>120</td> <td>111</td> </tr> <tr> <td>April</td> <td>119</td> <td>109</td> <td>100</td> </tr> <tr> <td>May</td> <td>119</td> <td>106</td> <td>93</td> </tr> <tr> <td>June</td> <td>119</td> <td>80</td> <td>68</td> </tr> <tr> <td>July</td> <td>119</td> <td>77</td> <td>54</td> </tr> <tr> <td>August</td> <td>119</td> <td>94</td> <td>75</td> </tr> <tr> <td>September</td> <td>118</td> <td>89</td> <td>83</td> </tr> <tr> <td>October</td> <td>118</td> <td>92</td> <td>81</td> </tr> <tr> <td>November</td> <td>118</td> <td>76</td> <td>66</td> </tr> <tr> <td>December</td> <td>118</td> <td>87</td> <td>82</td> </tr> </tbody> </table>

How to Cite This Source

Brian Platt, "Educational Reform in Japan (19th c.)," in Children and Youth in History, Item #125, https://cyh.rrchnm.org/items/show/125 (accessed August 10, 2021).