The international school system lies completely outside of the Japanese education system. While this allows international schools the freedom to follow the teaching styles and curricula of other countries, it also means that graduation from an international school does not necessarily make student eligible to attend a Japanese university. If there is a chance your child will stay in Japan to attend university, you should not enrol him or her in an international school unless it offers an International Baccalaureate (IB) diploma (these are accepted by Japanese universities).
International schools are organized into different “associations.“ The Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC), for example, consists of schools that follow the North American model. The European Council of International Schools (ECIS) follows European models, and so forth.
While international schools in Japan follow different curricula than Japanese schools, most do make an effort to provide their students with courses in Japanese language and culture. At some schools, non-academic courses (such as PE or art) may even be taught in Japanese.
Admission requirements and costs
If you will be sending your child to an international school, you will need to collect documents and references. Make sure you have the following:
- School application forms
- Report cards from your child´s school at home
- A basic medical examination
- Reference letters from previous teachers
Most schools require applicants to take a placement test and complete an interview. Parents may be interviewed with their child or separately, and interview styles vary from school to school. Applications are accepted in the fall of each year, and you must apply for your child´s admission one year in advance.
Tuition and fees for private schools in Japan
With application fees in the tens of thousands of yen, entry fees in the hundreds of thousands of yen and annual tuition costs considered expensive even by university standards, international schools are not for foreign families on limited budgets. In the first year (when you are usually required to pay one-time entry and maintenance fees), costs can easily amount to 2.5-3 million yen. In Tokyo, where the schools are the most expensive, a single year´s tuition can run upwards of 3 million yen.
Special needs students
International schools do not offer extensive resource to special needs children. The application process is designed to eliminate children with learning difficulties and behavioural problems, so most schools do not the develop infrastructure to support them.
A friendlier option for foreign students with disabilities is the Tokyo International Learning Community, which provides support for school-age children (up through 15 years of age) with special needs. TILC designs individual programs for students, and is run by qualified staff from numerous medical and educational disciplines.