|International Schools / Internationally Oriented Local Schools -An Overview|
|How to enroll your child in an international school (external link - scroll down page to read article)
|Life in an International School|
|Directory of International Schools|
International Schools and Internationally Oriented Local Schools
More and more international schools are being added to the educational market in Japan each year. These past few years have seen the largest increase since 1951. Most of the new schools are preschools and kindergartens.
In the past, there persisted a perception that attendance at international schools seldom led to a mastery of Japanese language proficiency and that international students lacked an understanding of the host country's culture. Graduating from an international school could create a dead-end for graduates in Japan as the resulting diplomas often did not constitute eligibility for application to local colleges and universities. This is because diplomas from international schools did not have the same status as that from local Japanese high schools. Only a handful of international schools are accredited by the Japanese government and even graduation from these accredited institutions did not give automatic access to the higher education system in Japan. A special exemption is however under consideration by the Japanese Monbusho (Ministry of Education) or MEXT as it is now called.
The number of international schools offering a bilingual (or in some cases trilingual) education has been on the rise in recent years. The observable trend is probably a response to that perceived deficiency of the old established international school system as well as an attempt to take advantage of the rising interest in bilingualism.
Interestingly, a parallel interest in bilingualism has been showing among the local Japanese population, evidenced by the emergence of local "international schools" or English language immersion schools that cater for an all-Japanese student population. In some instances, the level of dual language proficiency attained is so high that there are for all purposes no differences between the native bilingual school and the international school - with the great advantage of the former's graduates having access to both international as well as local higher institutions of learning. Due to recent national educational reforms, more local schools have been trying to raise the level of English language learning in their schools, spurred on often by the need to accommodate returnees (students returning to Japan from countries overseas), or in pursuit of their stated goal of internationalization. As a result, more and more local elementary schools across the country are offering English exposure classes at earlier and earlier grades and many schools such as specially designated SELHis (Super English Language High Schools) have increased the number of hours of English language instruction. A quick survey of local top-tier private secondary schools will show that the majority of such schools offer as many if not more hours of English language instruction compared with Japanese language instruction.
For a listing of schools that offer bilingual / trilingual immersion programmes, click here.
For more on dealing with international schools, read How to enroll your child in an international school, from Metropolis magazine's website.
Life in an International School
My oldest son went to International Secondary School last year. In fact, it was his first time to go to school - we had homeschooled prior to that. This year my younger son also attended - again his first school experience. ISS is a very small school of about 50 students in Mita with students from Grade 6 through 12. They have about 6 teachers and sometimes bring in teachers for specific needs for specific students. It is like other international schools, very expensive, and so it is not an option for everyone.
I liked the school because they have been very flexible about meeting my sons' needs. I haven't chosen to get formal credit for the classes the boys have taken but they offer credits through distance learning programs in the U.S. They are moving to a program in conjunction with Laurel Springs.
I also like that ISS offers quite a few special interest project type courses including theater, IT (information technology), sports, producing magazines, animation, band, gardening, woodwork. What they offer depends a bit on what the students are interested in. Any programs they offer after school are open to the public and as they are very flexible I think they would allow students to attend specific classes if that was what you wanted. The principal is very approachable. My oldest son has loved attending ISS and thinks I made a great decision to send him there and my youngest son has enjoyed it too. I would certainly recommend ISS if you want a more individual approach to learning as the class size is usually around five students. They offer study periods where students can get additional help if needed. The student mix is very diverse. It is also very supportive of students who learn differently.
Directory of International Schools
A directory of ESL or English conversation schools may be found at this link.
For more information about International Schools in Japan, visit the following external links:
How to enroll your child in an international school, from the Metropolis magazine website.
International Schools in Japan Cater to Growing Need for Diversity, Alternatives by Michiru Yoshino.
The Compleat Education by Nobuya Ochinero
Ahead of the Curve (Advertising Supplement) at Metropolis website
Bilingual International School Guide by Yohan (The East Publication) first published in December 1999, a guide in Japanese and English on international schools. Detailed info on cost, philosophy, academic program. Invaluable research especially for bicultural families wanting to make shared decisions. 1,800 yen. Available from Kinokuniya or phone: 03-3224-3751
Third World Culture Kids by David C. Pollock and Ruth E. Van Reken
(See also the TCK website)
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