Choosing the best international school for your family
by Danielle Tate-Stratton
When moving with children to a new country, perhaps one of the most overwhelming obstacles to overcome is choosing a suitable school. While back home, you are likely to either follow the public system, working through a set series of public neighborhood schools, or enter into the private system on the recommendation of friends, family, other parents, and general reputation.
Unfortunately, its not quite as easy here in Tokyo, where local schools, though certainly accessible, are not always the best choice for families with older kids who don’t speak Japanese, or those who know that they will be heading home after a short time and are looking to ensure smooth integration back into their home country’s school systems. Newly arrived families often need to choose schools quickly, without the help of a trusted network. In these cases, one of the many international schools here in the city will be more than capable of fulfilling your family’s educational needs. While choosing a school essentially sight-unseen can be a challenge, there are several questions you can ask to determine the best fit for your family.
According to Tokyo: Here and How, a book put out by the Tokyo American Club (TAC) Women’s Group, these include things such as the school’s proximity to your home, how transportation will be handled, what the facilities are like, academic questions such as curriculum, standards, learning assistance, similarity to your home country, and ease of repatriating into your home school system. Also consider things such as extracurricular programs, the incorporation of Japanese language and culture, safety and security, teacher turnover, and the parental community. Deciding what aspects of each of these categories are most important to your family and then finding a school which best meets those needs is the most logical way to ensure you find the best fit for your family under such unfamiliar circumstances.
There are also unique benefits to enrolling your child in an international school and one of them is a celebration of multiculturalism—with student bodies made up of students from the world over, there is no shortage of opportunities to learn directly from students—tasting food, learning dances, speaking languages, and discussing cultures—which far surpasses anything which could be learned out of a book. As you will read in the following pages, Tokyo’s international schools are not only accommodating international learners but also embracing and celebrating their diverse backgrounds. Whether it’s International School of the Sacred Heart’s yearly One World Day celebrating the school’s fifty-plus country population, or Global Kid’s Academy’s email-based exchange with schoolchildren in Cambodia, there is sure to be a program where your child, irrespective of their nationality, will comfortably fit in. For more information about finding a school for your child, pick up a copy of Tokyo: Here and How (through TAC) or visit one of the many great online resources for parents here in town such as www.tokyowithkids.com, www.tokyopreschools.org, or head to www.realestate-tokyo.com/info/school for a nearly complete list of schools in the area. For more information about the multicultural aspects of area schools—read on!