In many ways, Japan is an embodiment of meritocracy, stressing academic achievement and disapproving of social class influences. Before 1970, Japan had a strong tradition in which public schools were superior to private ones. However around that time, a progressive movement succeeded in implementing detracking policies in some prefectures, which also had some unintended consequences, the opposite of their egalitarian intentions. This article presents case studies and multivariate analyses that find that prefectures with egalitarian detracking reforms had the most flight from public to private schools and the emergence of the most within-school grouping. We conclude that when policies tried to get less separation of students among public schools, separation emerged in other ways. The results have implications for the design of tracking policies.
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