Night high schools, established after World War II for working youths who were unable to attend ordinary schools, are now providing opportunities for all kinds of people, from former truants to foreign residents with limited Japanese skills.
According to the education ministry, as many as 567,000 students enrolled in such schools in fiscal 1953 and the number of schools peaked at 3,188 in 1955. In 2018, after diving from the 1960s to the 1980s, the figures stood at 85,000 students and 639 schools.
A survey for the ministry in fiscal 2017 found working youths scarce among those enrolled, with just 2.2 percent holding regular jobs in 2016, versus 68.4 percent in 1982.
Among its other findings, 40 percent of night students had been truants in elementary, junior or senior high school. They included many whose native tongue was not Japanese, and people with special needs.
“In increasing numbers of cases, students who were truants in junior high school go to night high schools due to the good relations between teachers and students,” said Emiko Kaneko, an associate professor at Saitama Junshin College who has been studying issues related to truancy and night and correspondence high schools.
As night schools usually have small classes, teachers can provide education to students in a detailed and careful way and are accustomed to dealing with truancy, Kaneko said.
Sundaigakuen, which runs private junior and senior high schools in Tokyo’s Kita Ward, has about 10 students in each year at its night school. Classes run from 4:30 p.m. until 9 p.m. Monday through Wednesday and until 8:10 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Students can work part-time for a few days a week, but none has a full-time job.
Many had failed to keep up with classes in their youth or had trouble with other students, according to Sundaigakuen, which opened the school over 80 years ago.
The school is “full of people with distinctive personalities,” said Kenichi Sasamoto, a supervisor at Sundaigakuen. “Education in small classes enables us to provide academic support matching the students’ personalities.”
“It’s our pleasure to see students who lacked confidence in junior high school graduate with confidence,” he added.