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The Flow of the Japanese School Year… and When You Should Start Applying for the Next One

Hint: it's when the leaves start changing colour!

The Japanese school year at public and private junior highs and high schools, as most of you will already know, starts in April. If you are thinking about finding a new teaching position, you should always consider the time period when you should start sending your resume to schools and companies. Allow me to break down the school year a little bit to give you an idea of the general flow.

The school year is divided into three terms (usually, but it depends on the school). The first term starts at the beginning of April, and is often divided into two “half terms”. The dreaded midterm exams and final exams for the first term will be pretty evenly spaced between the start of April and before summer vacation.

Summer vacation is usually fairly long at all schools, but many schools offer summer school courses. Some private schools allow native English teachers to participate voluntarily for extra pay, but other schools require participation as part of the contract.

The second term is divided in half similarly to the first semester, evenly spaced between the end of the summer holidays and the beginning of the winter holidays. Many schools have festivals before the midterms, so this is usually a lively time of year at schools all over Japan. Third-year high school students at certain schools will be very nervous as they study for their impending college entrance examinations.

After the winter holidays, the new year starts, and the third semester lasts from January until the end of March. Third year high school students at most schools (though not all) do not have to attend classes during the third and final semester. The third semester is not divided in half, so there is only one set of final exams.

When applying for a position at a typical junior high or high school, you should be thinking about your plan for the next school year during the middle of the second semester, which means October to November. Most teachers already employed at Japanese schools are asked by management sometime in mid-October or early November whether or not they want to stay at their current position. This is because the heaviest period for interviewing for the following school year happens as early as November all the way through the end of February (and sometimes later if the school is having trouble finding a good candidate).

So just remember that at the end of autumn each year, you should already be thinking about your future plans, and brushing up your resume and interview skills. Remember that experience counts for a lot, but personality can make or break the deal. Prepare well for your interview and do your best.

You can send your resume to EduCareer at anytime to keep your profile up to date so we can keep in touch and speed up the application process when a suitable position comes up.

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