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Alternate schools in Japan? - 12-20-2010, 06:52 PM

Yes, I'm 17 and have no plans on having kids anytime soon, but I want them one day, and I'm thinking ahead I guess.
I want to live in Japan one day... and part of living there, and wanting kids, is raising them there.
I've heard horrible things about the Japanese school system, such as the pressure put on students to pass, and I've heard about students trying so hard to fit in and suppressing their own personality and thoughts on something to do so. Like whether they know it be wrong or right or whatever, partaking in something to be "like the others".
So, my question is, are there alternate schools in Japan like there are here in the US? I know they probably would not be exactly the same, but someplace where one's individuality is encouraged, and perhaps not as pressured whilst still aiming for the best grade they can make?
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04-11-2011, 05:08 AM

I have heard of "international schools" in the big cities. I hear that they even teach a lot of the subjects in English too so your child will get a great mix of Japanese and English throughout their education.
I think they are pretty expensive though.
Does anyone out there have any kids in one of these schools or know of someone who does?


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04-11-2011, 05:24 AM

There is a branch of the Hokkaido International School being set up here in Niseko later this year as there are so many foreigners living here now who have kids. Fees are up around $10,000 per year.
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04-11-2011, 09:49 AM

As a parent with a child in school, I really think that the poor view people tend to have of Japanese schools is almost entirely unjustified. This is especially true at the lower grade levels - and even at the higher if you take certain things into consideration.

Japanese elementary schools encourage expressions of creativity, individualism, etc - but within the realms where it does not harm others. There is more focus on getting along rather than getting ahead. There tends to be a bit more focus on teamwork than just doing it all by yourself. There is emphasis that a child is not alone in the world, and that they will have the support of others in the community... And at the same time, they`ll likely have to deal with unpleasant people in their lives too, so should learn the skills to avoid pointless conflict.

When it comes to higher grades, something that people need to remember is that Japanese compulsory education ends at junior high. High school is not compulsory.
This means that students/parents are free to choose the type of high school they attend. You can go to an extremely uptight and strict school, or you can go to a school with art as the focus. As high school is NOT compulsory, the curriculum and style varies an incredible amount. There is no set curriculum or style for somewhere to be an alternative to.

How much pressure a student is under really has to do with personal and parental expectations, not the school system itself. Students (or parents...) will choose a high school and then do an exam to get in - the difficulty of the exam reflects the "difficulty" of the school. The high school I attended had three "programs" - an international program with heavy focus on English and a year spent in Australia, a dance program with connections to pro dancers, and a standard program aiming at university admission. The entrance exams were different depending on the program a student wanted to enter. It was down to choice.

There are extremely strict schools with serious amounts of pressure, but no one HAS to go to one of them. The problem isn`t the school system as much as it is parents who pressure their children to achieve beyond their capabilities. To put it simply, if you are not going to pressure your child there would be no problems as you wouldn`t be forcing them into that environment to begin with.

Quote:
I have heard of "international schools" in the big cities. I hear that they even teach a lot of the subjects in English too so your child will get a great mix of Japanese and English throughout their education.
I think they are pretty expensive though.
Does anyone out there have any kids in one of these schools or know of someone who does?
True International schools are following the curriculum of another country, in the language of that country, and using textbooks from that country. Think of them as little school outposts from other countries - they are usually designed so that a child could attend one and then move from it to a school in the other country without any hiccups in learning schedule. Whether they are "alternative" or not is down to the country`s curriculum they are using.
This is why you will see lots of "international" kindergartens and after-school programs, but very very few elementary, junior high, and high schools. They need to be licensed as a learning establishment (with teachers licensed) in the country their curriculum is from.
International schools are used mostly by expats who are in Japan at company expense for limited amounts of time. It seems to be pretty rare for anyone in Japan for life or native Japanese to use them... The costs really are prohibitive. To make the comparison, the fees GoNative quoted are pretty standard (sometimes up to double that). The normal fees for a Japanese public elementary school is about 6000yen a month. Less than $500 a year at current exchange rates.

When you get up to high school, the sky is the limit when it comes to fees as there are so many different options.


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04-12-2011, 03:15 AM

Wonderful info Nyororin!
So often I have heard negative things about the Japanese school system focused around this issue of all the children being in this nationwide battle to outperform each other and get into uni.
I hadn't heard about high school being non-compulsory and that there is a wide range of different programs. It sounds like a great system that allows you to choose a path based on the individual strengths of the child, providing the parents are willing to follow those strengths.
And thanks for the clarification on the international schools and their main purpose.

Another question. I have heard that the whole bullying thing in schools is often a result of parents actions. Two or more sets of parents will gossip about another child who may be overweight or have a disability etc, and their children will hear this and repeat it to their friends at school and as the snowball builds it results in some students bullying the child directly.
Have you experienced this?


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04-12-2011, 03:37 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by tenmins View Post
So often I have heard negative things about the Japanese school system focused around this issue of all the children being in this nationwide battle to outperform each other and get into uni.
The top universities are hard to get into. They have some incredibly difficult entrance exams... But they`re not the only universities in the country. They tend to fly by reputation though, so just getting into one increases your future job opportunities... Along the same lines as someone who has graduated from Harvard or Princeton is going to have more opportunities than someone who has graduated from a small local university.
Getting into a university isn`t hard - getting into a prestigious university is.
Parents want their children to attend prestigious universities, so tend to push their children to get into better high schools so that they`ll have a better chance of passing the prestigious university exam... Which is really the root of the whole negative image.

Quote:
I hadn't heard about high school being non-compulsory and that there is a wide range of different programs. It sounds like a great system that allows you to choose a path based on the individual strengths of the child, providing the parents are willing to follow those strengths.
On one hand it is, on the other, well, focusing on interests and individual strengths doesn`t necessarily mean that the child will be able to make a living off of it later. In Japan, the norm is still for the children to care for their parents - not to mention that a prestigious job means a LOT - so there is a lot of pressure to set yourself up for a solid career.

Quote:
Another question. I have heard that the whole bullying thing in schools is often a result of parents actions. Two or more sets of parents will gossip about another child who may be overweight or have a disability etc, and their children will hear this and repeat it to their friends at school and as the snowball builds it results in some students bullying the child directly.
This is true anywhere when it comes to small children. It is most definitely not a "Japan thing".
More subtle differences aren`t usually picked up by children, or if they are they do not connect anything negative to the differences... Unless, of course, someone they respect is pointing it out as something negative.

Quote:
Have you experienced this?
Not so far.


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04-12-2011, 04:00 AM

Again, wonderful info!
It interests me greatly as my wife is Japanese and we have 2 young children. I lived there for 3 years around 10 years ago and am very keen to live there again. Til now all of the negative info I have heard about Japanese schooling has put me off moving back with children but you have given me renewed hope that it may be an option worth considering.
Thanks again.


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