In the hope of improving equity in education, the DPJ has made good on its campaign promise to eliminate tuition at public high schools. Until this year, public high schools
Funding for tuition remissions will come primarily from a progressive tax increase on families with high school-aged children . After the tax increase is factored in, a middleclass family with one child in high school and an income of $50,000-$60,000 can expect to be better off by $500-$600 a year, while families with annual incomes over $200,000 will only see a benefit of about $70 .
But will this actually increase equity in education? According to Ministry of Education statistics, 97% of children who complete middle school proceed to high school , and in 2008 only 2208 students left high school for financial reasons . So financial barriers to attending high school are not actually a widespread source of inequity in Japanese education, and a smaller program, targeted only at students financially unable to attend high school at all, would have been a more efficient use of these funds.
A more serious issue is the link between students’ wealth and the quality of the high school education they receive. Students in the public school system attend neighborhood schools during elementary and middle school, but for high school, students compete for slots in high-quality public high schools. Although middle school tuition is fully funded by the government, parents of children in the public school system spend an average of $3000 per year per child on supplemental tutoring and classes during the middle school years to bolster their children’s chances of earning a place in a top high school . Students with the resources to get outside education are more likely to get good grades  and have an obvious advantage when it comes to placement in a top-notch public high school, which in turn affects their competitiveness in college admissions and the job market. To seriously address inequity in education, the government should pay out more to families earlier in their children’s educational careers, even at the expense of reducing the subsidies for high school education.
*Even though tuition has been eliminated at public high schools, attendance is not completely free of charge. The average cost to parents of sending a student to high school is still around $2400 per year; this figure includes non-tuition school fees, books and supplies, after-school activities, fieldtrips, and commuting expenses .
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