Vocational Education

Publication List of this Subject

For Meiji Japan, a country that was setting out on the road to modernization, the promotion of education was an important policy. The government established a primary education system in as early as 1872 and from the mid-1870s set up various institutions for higher learning. Apprentice schools and vocational continuation schools were established from the mid-1890s with the aim of providing primary school graduates with the opportunity of acquiring higher vocational skills.

The purpose of apprentice schools was to educate young primary school graduates to become workers who were skillful enough to take part in the modernization of traditional indigenous industries. As the industrial structure of Japan began to shift towards heavy industry from the beginning of the 20th century, the subjects in the curriculums of apprentice schools also shifted, to mechanical, electrical, and chemical sciences. In 1920 apprentice schools were formally upgraded to middle-level industrial schools.

In contrast to apprentice schools which were full-time establishments, vocational continuation schools were part-time schools and provided vocational education as well as supplementary elementary education to working youths. It is notable that the majority of vocational continuation schools were established in rural areas and their curriculum tended to be agriculture-oriented. The looming wartime period, however, changed the nature of rural continuation schools and by 1935 they were integrated into youth schools which were founded mainly to provide rural youths with military training.

This study group also examined the types of vocational education that were carried out within large corporations. Mitsubishi and other corporations started in-house technical training schools from around 1900 to make good shortages of semi-skilled workers.