Sorry for the late reply, DD!
These are very good questions for discussion.
I don’t have that much personal experience with the school systems in Japan yet (which is why I’m not ready to write a post about it) but here are my thoughts based on what my husband has told me about his experience and what I’ve heard from others:
do you feel international / private schools are significantly better?
It depends. I’ve heard international schools aren’t worth the cost and are mainly for the kids of rich expats. I’ve also heard that ones with English (only?) programs don’t teach Japanese very well so you’d have to make sure your kid learns kanji on their own.
But when considering the cost, both private and international tend to have children from similar economic backgrounds. Children who are already enrolled in the school don’t have to study for entrance exams either, so no need for juku usually (unless they want to go to a Japanese university). Most private schools are escalator schools and some have a university attached to them as well. This means students will automatically get into the university, so no juku at all! (Some might have a test but the pass rate is ridiculously high.) A friend of mine in Tokyo went to a school like this and she’s doing well.
At an intl school, your child may also be surrounded by people from similar (multi)cultural backgrounds. It would make it easier for them to go to a university abroad or transfer to a school abroad as well, especially if they go to an accredited international school associated with that country (like Canada or America). At the same time, you need to make sure it’s recognized by the Ministry of Education in Japan so that your child has the option to go to a Japanese university as well. I’ve heard of students at some international schools having trouble with this when trying to apply to a national Japanese university because their school wasn’t recognized, but they also couldn’t apply as an international student because they lived in Japan.
I will say that at my previous job, I organized an event once a year for high schoolers from international schools across Japan and I was quite impressed with the students from some of them. They blew the Canadian undergraduates I taught as a TA out of the water!
Now, when it comes to whether these schools are better than public, it depends. There are good public schools and bad international/private schools and vice versa. So you need to do some research. My husband went through the Japanese public school system and he has no complaints, and he’s doing well for himself. But then again, he’s ethnically Japanese. However! I taught at a public high school in the inaka for three years where there were some bicultural kids and they were totally fine. Very bright and happy kids. Many of my former students are quite successful now and some are living abroad!
Oh, I should also mention that my coworkers kept telling me to send my kid to an international school so I wouldn’t have to do annoying things like PTA.
what age do you think is best to start if so? Kinder, grade school, jr high or high?
Before we decided on having A go to a private school, we thought we would have her try public and then move her to an international school if she’s struggling. It’s important to check the entrance requirements though, such as whether there’s a test or how many new students they accept each year.
If you’re thinking private, it’s best to try to send them as early as possible because they’ll have to take an entrance exam to get in.
approx cost? I know this would vary but just wondering if anyone has experience.
International schools vary, but the ones we looked at started at 2.5-3 million yen a year. I’ve heard of some being around 1.5 million but I don’t think they’re the more well-known/reputable ones.
Private schools are around 1 million and up.
If you are strongly thinking of a second child, would that play into your decision making process a lot?
I hope someone else can answer this! (But if I had a second kid, public school all the way!)
- This reply was modified 1 year, 1 month ago by Kay.