Shōgakkō are elemementary schools in Japan.
More than 99% of Japanese elementary school-age children are enrolled in school. All children enter first grade at age six, and starting school is considered a very important event in a child's life.
Virtually all elementary education takes place in public schools; less than 1% of the schools are private. Private schools tended to be costly, although the rate of cost increases in tuition for these schools had slowed in the 1980s. Some private elementary schools are prestigious, and they serve as a first step to higher-level private schools with which they are affiliated, and thence to a university. Competition to enter some of these "ladder schools" is quite intense.
Although public elementary education is free, some school expenses are borne by parents, for example, school lunches and supplies. For many families, there are also nonschool educational expenses, for extra books, or private lessons, or juku. Such expenses rose throughout the 1980s, reaching an average of 184,000 Yen in FY 1987 for each child. Costs for private elementary schools are substantially higher.
Elementary school classes are large, about thirty-one students per class on average, but higher numbers are permitted. Students are usually organized into small work groups, which have both academic and disciplinary functions.