Ms. Regina Doi Rogers speaks to The Weekender
Ms. Regina Doi Rogers was born into an upper-middle class family in New York during the Depression. While studying education at the New York State Teachers College and classical singing at The Julliard School in New York, she worked in a variety of jobs, including time spent at the New York Stock Exchange and Reuben H. Donnelly Corporation, well known as the Yellow Pages. She developed a telephone network system guiding customers on how to use the Yellow Pages more effectively. Her true passions – classical singing and education – have remained with her throughout her extraordinary life. Ms. Rogers came to Japan in 1964. She founded the Aoba-Japan International School in September 1976.
Interviewed by James Mulligan
WEEKENDER: How did it all begin?
MS. REGINA DOI ROGERS: When I first moved to Japan it was a struggle. My first job was with a major Japanese company, then I moved on to Nishimachi and Seisen International Schools. I decided to establish my own business, one where I could earn enough money to support myself and educate my son. But of course, it had to be the field that I enjoyed.
I considered going back to the business world in America. Business always paid well for me there. I had even worked for a Japanese company in New York. I really couldn’t go back to singing as I had already reached an age limit. I had highly considered coaching singing, as this was my field, however, I would only enjoy that part of my teaching given the opportunity to coach highly motivated students, perhaps semi-professionals.
What made you think of a school?
I thought, what was the one thing I could do really well here. So I decided I would open up a four-year level academic kindergarten giving good training in both English and Japanese languages. And when the child would reach compulsory elementary level, then parents could then make the decision whether or not to continue with international education.
Were you anxious about it?
If by anxious do you mean whether I was taking a gamble by starting a school? I think that anything you do for the first time may be considered a gamble. If I did not succeed, perhaps, I would be back in business in the U.S., or teaching at a junior college.
What is the philosophy behind your teaching?
The philosophy behind teaching is the love for teaching itself. Routine is extremely important. Guidance is also very important. Learning is a responsibility. Good teachers will always convey that responsibility. And, you need to teach the practicality of life in school.
How important are teachers?
The teacher is the guiding instrument for every child in a classroom. Every teacher must have the love of learning in her/his heart as teaching philosophy. Teachers come from different cultural background and with various experience, and as long as the program is well set, transfer of learning should happen optimally.
What are your schools’ strengths?
The school’s medium of instruction is English (except of course during Japanese classes). The non-native speakers of English learn to speak the language effectively in a year or two. We do teach Kokugo for Japanese native speakers and Japanese as a Second Language for foreign students. Reading, Math, Science (hands-on) programs are excellent. Music and Sports are fantastic, and I am always proud of our continued growth in all curriculum areas.
Why would Japanese parents send their child to your schools?
The most common reason from parents during admission interviews is the parents’ wish for their child to have an opportunity for international education, with long-range goals of sending their children to schools overseas as well as other international schools. Our school programs are geared toward these and effectively prepare the learners for further challenges as they progress into the higher educational fields.
Where do parents’ fees go?
I am sure that’s a question that many people would like to know the answer. I am sure every school will tell you that it’s very expensive to run a very good school. Fees go in all areas of school operation. If there is excess fund, this is used to develop better programs.
What do you think of the Japanese education system in general?
There really is nothing wrong with the Japanese System. Look at the people that the system has produced – Mr. Morita of Sony, Mr. Matsushita of National. I won’t exactly call them failures in life. We should make more analyses of what made those era or these people so successful. If there are perceived weaknesses in the system, I don’t think it’s the school system’s faults. I think it is society itself. There is a multitude of social changes taking place in this “small” country.
What about plans to introduce more English programs in Japanese schools?
Introducing English into the educational system is not a bad idea at all, as long as it is there to be used as a tool for communication. That is all we can hope for from English. However, we must not delete from a public school system what is very precious about one’s own culture – its own language and customs and heritage.
What is your advice to parents?
When a child is born, the first thing you have to ask yourself is who is going to set the routine here, the parent or the child. If you want to have a successful child, and if you want an easy life for you and your child, dedicate yourself to his/her routine until that child is 12 years old (or may be even older).
What plans do you have for the future?
We’re aiming to advance to the 12th grade. I’d like to increase our space in order for us to increase our program. A bigger school. Ever since the school started in 1976, there has been a goal. And there is a responsibility to meet that goal. So while I’m here, I’m going to try to meet the goal and its responsibilities.
Aoba-Japan International School