Printer Friendly

Tips for finding an international school: experience is the best teacher.

Sitting down in the park one day, I got chatting to a Japanese mother of two about her son's schooling. "When my son does drawing at school, the teacher tells him, 'you have to hurry up!' They tell him, 'the tree has to go here, and the sun has to go there.' They are very strict."

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Being of the laid-back Australian variety of person, I was slightly horrified at the prospect of my effervescent child being beaten into a creative box. I promptly crossed that school off my list, and realised why so many parents have the 'school' conversation long before their child is even out of nappies. (Note to myself: begin research much sooner next time ...)

Of course, as revealing as these discussions can be, they only make up a small part of your school hunt. Learning more about the styles of teaching and the formal recognition of a school is equally as important. Let's face it, finding the right school for your child, even in your own homeland, can be like a cross-country event through a minefield of information, requiring agile navigation between varying philosophies, teaching styles, arts programs, sports programs, and, of course, the success of a school's alumni.

In Japan, it can be even more daunting. There's no doubt that placing your child in a Japanese school at a young age will be a valuable experience for them, immersing them in Japanese language and culture, but this can be tougher on older children with no Japanese skills. As excellent as many Japanese schools are, a sharp jump in the incidents of bullying are off-putting for many foreign parents, who are increasingly turning to international schools to provide a more familiar environment for their children. Whether in English, German, French, or Chinese, there is a virtual smorgasbord of international schools for parents to choose from. Now bilingual schools are beginning to fill a much-needed gap for children with both foreign and Japanese parents.

Wakana Farrell-Whelan and her Australian husband, Max, decided to send their son to the Bilingual Kids International (BKI) pre-school in Musashi-Sakai. "Firstly it was affordable," Ms Farrell-Whelan explained of their reasons for choosing this school. "Secondly we wanted to give Jade an English environment because he doesn't have much opportunity to speak English while his father is away at work. Thirdly we like the school attitude. They let the children think and decide what they want to study (with the teacher's help), and teachers always encourage the interests of the children."

BKI is the only school in Japan that is based on the Reggio Emilia method, where the teacher 'co-explores' the learning experience with children, and works on a project-based curriculum. Projects can be initiated by the children, or instigated by the teachers, based on the interests of the children. Effectively, it encourages children to be their own teacher, while their teacher acts as a facilitator for their learning.

When the Farrell-Whelans returned to Australia, their son's experience at BKI made his integration into an Australian school easier. "He's got more confidence in himself because of his experience with BKI. He did a lot of show and tell, which helped him to express his opinions in front of his friends. He was also encouraged to help the younger ones."

We chose SIS International School (Smiley Kids) for our son, and soon discovered that well over 90% of the students were Japanese! As it turns out, this is both a blessing and a curse. While our son comes home singing songs in a jumbled language at times, there is no doubt that he is rapidly expanding his knowledge of both English and Japanese at the same time. The school uses the Calvert system, which was originally set up as a home schooling support system in 1907. Classes are "keyed to the development of a child's sensory and social skills", and include maths, science, plenty of stories, play time (inside and outdoors), music and art. They also have a computer lab at some campuses for the older children.

There were other reasons for choosing the school as well. Access to child care can be challenging at best in Japan, with preference given to children whose mothers are already working (the question begs: how can one GET a full-time job before securing child-care?), so an international pre-school has helped fill that gap. While the fees are not exactly cheap, they are reasonable, with not too many hidden extras, such as school uniforms. Luckily, we are very close to the school, so we don't have to fork out additional fees for a bus, which can be hefty.

One of the drawbacks has been the difficulty in finding a school that teaches British-English. While they do exist, they are overwhelmingly in the shadow of schools that teach US English, and this poses some problems for families who come from British-English speaking countries. If repatriation in a few years is likely, it would be prudent to keep an eye on grammar and spelling at home, making reintegration easier for your child later on.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

By far the greatest discovery has been our campus' principal. She pays great attention to the development of the children, not just academically, but also emotionally and behaviourally, and fosters cooperation between home and school. Importantly, she always has time to talk with you about your child, and is never in a hurry to get to somewhere else. It is worth choosing a school where you can develop this type of rapport with your child's teachers. If nothing else, it can lead you to many new discoveries about your own child.

The choice of schools will always depend on the needs of your child and what is available in your area, but with this list, we hope to make the search just that little bit easier. While there are many International schools in Japan that cater to native speakers of other languages, and an increasing amount of schools outside the Tokyo area, we have limited our list to English-language and bilingual schools in Tokyo. For further information on other schools, we have made a list to a few websites you might find useful. Take special note of the Japan with Kids' website, which is a wealth of information, not just from the site administrators, but from other parents who have been there, done that. There's no finer teacher than experience!

And now for some homework!

Once you have a school on your radar, there are some very good websites to further your research. The 'Japan with Kids' website is a great place to get in touch with other parents, while other online school guides are useful if you are outside the Tokyo area, or require a school that teaches in languages other than English.

Japan with Kids:

www.tokyowithkids.com/fyi/international_schools.html

Stamford Guide to International Schools:

www.jguide.stanford.edu/site/international_schools_in_japan_237.html

Global Daigaku:

www.globaldaigaku.com/global/en/schoolsearch/based/inter/index.html

Choosing a school may be as easy as picking the one that's in your local area, but if you have a few to choose from, it's worth looking into what kind of methods they base their teaching on. Here's a list of some of the main methods in Tokyo International schools.

Montessori

Maria Montessori, the first woman to become an MD in Italy, founded the Montessori method. Born in 1870, her work was pioneering for its time, recognising that children are not merely 'blank slates' to be written upon, but learn through their own inquisitive natures. There are many Montessori-based schools in Japan.

Supposing I said there was a planet without schools or teachers, study was unknown, and yet the inhabitants--doing nothing but living and walking about--came to know all things, to carry in their minds the whole of learning: would you not think I was romancing? Well, just this, which seems so fanciful as to be nothing but the invention of a fertile imagination, is a reality. It is the child's way of learning. This is the path he follows. He learns everything without knowing he is learning it, and in doing so passes little from the unconscious to the conscious, treading always in the paths of joy and love.

Maria Montessori

More: http://www.montessori.edu/

The Core Knowledge Curriculum

According to the St George Academy in Nagoya, a recent study by John Hopkins University found that "Core Knowledge students learned more advanced language arts, science, and social studies topics and skills than did their non-participating peers." Professor E. D. Hirsch, Jr., author of Cultural Literacy and The Schools We Need, founded the movement. Based on cognitive psychology, as well as a careful examination of several of the world's fairest and most effective school systems, Professor Hirsch argued that, for the sake of academic excellence, greater fairness, and higher literacy, early schooling should provide a solid, specific, shared core curriculum in order to help children establish strong foundations of knowledge.

More: http://coreknowledge.org/CK/

Reggio Emilia

Reggio Emilia is fast becoming one of the world's favourite forms of teaching pre-school-aged children, and is only just making its way into Japan (see BKI school listing). In 1991, Newsweek hailed Reggio Emilia pre-schools as the best in the world (a big claim!). The method encourages children to be their own teacher, the teacher instead becoming a facilitator to their learning. The environment is often considered 'the third teacher', so within Reggio Emilia schools, you will find an interesting and stimulating school, where great attention has been paid to the look and feel of the setting. Founded in the northern Italian city of Reggio Emilia by Loris Malaguzzi (1920-1994), the approach requires children to be seen as resourceful, competent, curious, imaginative and inventive, possessing a desire to interact and communicate with others. Often, teachers will initiate a long-term group project, based on a child's ideas, that the class will collaboratively work on. Reggio Emilia schools can now be found in the USA, UK, Australia, Canada and other countries around the world.

More: http://www.reggioinspired.com/

The Calvert System

Celebrating its 100th Anniversary in 2006, the Calvert system was originally designed to provide quality teaching materials for home-schooled children. Today, it provides materials for schools around the world, including some international schools in Tokyo. According to the Calvert organisation, courses are approved by the Maryland State Department of Education, and the school is a member of the Educational Records Bureau and the National Association of Independent Schools. Focusing on the classics of maths, science, literature and the arts, Calvert continues to be a popular method of teaching.

More: http://www.calvertschool.org

Accreditation

There are many forms of accreditation, so it helps to know what you are looking for when researching through school websites. The most popular accreditation for International schools are:
The National Association of Independent Schools;
The Western Association of Schools and Colleges;
The Independent Association of Preparatory Schools;
The Council of International Schools;
The Western Association of Schools Committee; and
The European Council of International Schools.


It may also be worthwhile to check whether your local International school is recognised by the Japanese Ministry of Education or your local ward office.
International Schools List

Name Campus/es Phone

American School Chofu & Roppongi 0422-34-5300
Aoba-Japan Meguro & Suginami 03-3335-6620
Axis International School & Kichijoji 0422-20-3626
 Pre-School
The British School in Tokyo Shibuya & Showa 03-5467-4321
GREGG International School Jiyugaoka & Yokohama 03-3725-8000
International School of the Sacred Hiroo 03-3400-3951
 Heart
Bilingual Kids BKI International Sakai 0422-54-1898
 Pre-School
Kikokushijo Academy International Ohara 03-3324-9903
 School
The Montessori School of Tokyo Minami Azabu 03-5449-7067
New International School Minami Ikebukuro 03-3980-1057
ABC/SIS International School Nishi-Funabashi, 047-333-6969
 Nishi Kasai, Hirai,
 Makuhari-cho, Yawata
Nishimachi International School Moto Azabu 03-3451-5520
Saint Maur International School Yokohama 045-641-5751
Seisen International School Yoga, Setagaya-Ku 03-3704-2661
St Mary's International School Seta 03-3709-3411
Tokyo International School Mita 03-5484-1160

Name Fax

American School 0422-34-5303
Aoba-Japan 03-3332-6928
Axis International School & 0422-20-3626
 Pre-School
The British School in Tokyo 03-5467-4322
GREGG International School 03-5701-2554
International School of the Sacred 03-3400-3496
 Heart
Bilingual Kids BKI International 0422-54-1898
 Pre-School
Kikokushijo Academy International 03-3324-9903
 School
The Montessori School of Tokyo 03-5449-0087
New International School 03-3980-1154
ABC/SIS International School 047-333-6968
Nishimachi International School 03-3456-0197
Saint Maur International School 045-641-6688
Seisen International School 03-3701-1033
St Mary's International School 03-3707-1950
Tokyo International School 03-5484-1139

Name Email

American School info@asij.ac.jp
Aoba-Japan a-jis@a-jis.com
Axis International School & office@axisk.com
 Pre-School
The British School in Tokyo admin@bst.ac.jp
GREGG International School balloon@gis-j.com
International School of the Sacred info@issh.ac.jp
 Heart
Bilingual Kids BKI International robandkumi@m4.dion.ne.jp
 Pre-School
Kikokushijo Academy International info@kaischool.com
 School
The Montessori School of Tokyo info@montessorijapan.com
New International School contact@newinternationalschool.com
ABC/SIS International School info@smiley-kids.com
Nishimachi International School info@nishimachi.ac.jp
Saint Maur International School office@stmaur.ac.jp
Seisen International School sisinfo@seisen.com
St Mary's International School admissions@smis.ac.jp
Tokyo International School admissions@tokyois.jp

Name URL

American School www.asij.ac.jp
Aoba-Japan www.a-jis.com
Axis International School & www.axisk.com
 Pre-School
The British School in Tokyo www.bst.ac.jp
GREGG International School www.gis-j.com
International School of the Sacred www.issh.ac.jp
 Heart
Bilingual Kids BKI International www.bkipreschool.com
 Pre-School
Kikokushijo Academy International www.kaischool.com
 School
The Montessori School of Tokyo www.montessorijapan.com
New International School www.newinternationalschool.com
ABC/SIS International School www.smiley-kids.com
Nishimachi International School www.nishimachi.ac.jp
Saint Maur International School www.stmaur.ac.jp
Seisen International School www.seisen.com
St Mary's International School www.smis.ac.jp
Tokyo International School www.tokyois.com
COPYRIGHT 2006 Japan Inc. Communications
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2006, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Wahlin, Willhemina
Publication:Japan Inc.
Date:Dec 22, 2006
Words:2293
Previous Article:The 2007 problem: Tokyo's hotel market near saturation.
Next Article:Brian Tannura, pioneer of the vending machine nation.
Topics:


Related Articles
Building Classroom Communities at the University Level.
Mystery of good teaching: the evidence shows that good teachers make a clear difference in student achievement. The problem is that we don't really...
The teach for America evaluation: herewith, the first evidence on its recruits' actual performance in the classroom.
Keeping high quality teachers: it's difficult to argue against ensuring a "highly qualified" teacher in every classroom. But some legislators are...
The revolving door: a path-breaking study of teachers in Texas reveals that working conditions matter more than salary.
Impact of pre-service student teaching experience on urban school teachers.
Retaining teachers: district finds induction program crucial to success.
Getting the most out of your student teaching experience.
Hunting for talent: school administrators try innovative strategies to recruit and retain teachers.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2021 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters |