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Q. At what times does school begin and end?

Children from the same neighborhood often head to school in a group.
Children from the same neighborhood often head to school in a group.


Japanese elementary and middle schools begin around eight thirty.

On Monday, at the beginning of each week, a morning assembly is held before classes begin. Everyone attends the fifteen-minute assembly, and the principal addresses the student body. On other days of the week this time is spent in making announcements and taking attendance in each classroom. After this, classes begin.

Each class lasts between 40 and 45 minutes in elementary school and 50 minutes in middle school. Students are given a 5- to 10-minute break between consecutive classes. During the morning hours there are four classes, and many elementary schools also include a 20-minute recess.

Lunch time starts at twelve thirty and lasts for about 40 minutes. At public schools, where school meals are provided, the students are responsible for carrying the meals to their classroom - where they eat - and serving portions, and for cleaning up afterwards.

After lunch it's time for recess, which is about 20 minutes long. Some schools use this time for cleaning the classrooms: The students move the desks and chairs to one side of the room, then broom and wipe the floor, clean the blackboard, and throw away the trash. Afternoon classes begin after the cleaning.

In lower elementary school classes are only in the mornings, and the children go home after lunch. But in upper elementary school and higher there are five classes each day; middle school students even attend six classes on some days of the week.

Elementary school students can choose from a wide variety of after-school clubs, which usually meet once a week. Through club activities the students have the opportunity to receive training in sports, or to deepen their understanding of subjects that interest them. Elementary school students in Japan usually leave school at around three o'clock.

Once the students enter middle school, though, extracurricular activities take on a bigger role: Some clubs meet several times a week, or even everyday, and on some days the students won't leave school until around five o'clock.