Yoyogi Seminar, the third-largest cram school in Japan, has announced the closure of 20 of its 27 schools and facilities by March 2015. That’s more than a change in business plan for the large and profitable entrance exam industry. It may well signal the end of the annual ritual called “exam hell” and a major shift in Japan’s attitude toward higher education in general.

The high competition that spawned the cram school industry in the late 1950s came from large numbers of students competing for the limited spots at universities. Students needed whatever help they could get, and their parents were willing to pay for it. The cram schools (yobikō or juku) analyzed the results of past exams and provided practice tests, drill practice and test taking tips.

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