Japan Data

First-Grade Wall: Elementary School Places New Burdens on Working Parents

Society Family Work

Many working parents struggle with the so-called first-grade wall when their child leaves preschool behind and enters elementary school, where classes end in the afternoon and parental roles increase. The gaps in Japan’s child-care system present guardians the difficult question of how to ensure that their child will have a safe place to stay until the end of the workday.

Entering elementary school is a great milestone for children, but for many working parents, it can also be a major ordeal. A survey of 1,014 parents of first- to third-grade children by publisher Seigetsusha found that 49% of respondents experienced what is known as the “first-grade wall,” characterized by difficulty in finding after-school care and other issues that occur when a child leaves daycare and enters into primary education.

Did you experience the “first-grade wall” when your child entered elementary school?

The most common issue, mentioned by 54.7% of the parents surveyed, was difficulty in balancing work and home life. This was followed by difficulties in dealing with long school vacations and increased parental roles due to such things as PTA and school events, mentioned by 41.7% and 38.0% of those surveyed, respectively. Many parents are forced to change their work from full-time to part-time positions when their child leaves preschool, where care can be provided until the evening, and enters elementary school, which send students home when it is still light outside.

Comments from parents who were surveyed include having to use up their allotted paid vacation days when their child’s school was closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and finding there were no places available when applying for after-school care programs.

What issues arose from child entering elementary school?

The most common difficulties that children themselves face in elementary school concern learning, including not studying enough (23.1%) or not being able to keep up with classes (15.8%).

Issues elementary school students face

When asked if their child had a place to stay outside of home and school, 79.2% of respondents said they did. Specifically, 66.4% said their child takes private lessons outside of school, while 40.7% and 33.0%, respectively, said their children do some athletic activity or attend after-school care. It is apparent that working parents are trying to bridge the gap between the end of school and the end of work by filling it with extracurricular activities so that children are not left alone at home.

Activities for children outside of school hours

(Originally written in Japanese. Banner photo © Pixta.)

children work family childcare