How many times have you heard people talking about finding a “good school” for their kids? But what exactly does “good” mean? Is it a school where average test scores are high? Perhaps it means one that has lots of extracurricular activities and student support. Or maybe a school with a really challenging curriculum? In all likelihood, it’s some mixture of these and other qualities. But if the formula for a good school is so complicated, how will parents ever know which school meets their needs?
That’s the question behind "Guide to International Schools in Japan," the new book by bestselling author and publisher Caroline Pover. Covering over 100 schools, the guide weighs in at an encyclopedic 659 pages.
“I’ve aimed to provide detailed information about a wide range of international schools throughout Japan,” says Pover, “in a consistent and easy-to-use format [to help parents] in making an extremely important decision.”
The story behind the book’s inception is almost as interesting as the content itself. Pover, who runs Alexandra Press publishing house here in Tokyo, suffered a series of strokes back in 2006 and 2007 — which, seeing as she’s still in her 30s, was downright shocking. After undergoing successful surgery in July of 2007, she was on the road to recovery, but cognitive damage made it seem unlikely that she would ever be able to write another book.
As her physical health improved, so did her mental acuity, and in the spring of 2008, she finally felt ready to tackle something new. Around the same time, Pover noticed that a lot of friends were having difficulty finding schools for their kids. Naturally, this is a big decision, but combine that with the obstacles inherent in living in a foreign country, and the whole task can become overwhelming.
And so she got to work compiling the guide, interviewing teachers and staff and collating all the necessary information. Of course, quotidian details like school hours, makeup of the student body, language of instruction, fees and uniform requirements are covered, but the book also details more telling information about the schools: their general ethos, a typical day’s activities, policies on discipline, and expectations about parental involvement.
“Each school has a personality,” she explains. “I hope it came through, so parents can find a school that matches the way they’re raising their children and their child’s personality.”
Indeed, some of the entries demonstrate the individual character of the schools. KAIS International School in Jiyugaoka, for example, shows a distinctly modern bent, providing each student with a MacBook and wrapping up each day with a yoga class. Global Kids Academy in Minato-ku focuses on language, offering total immersion programs in both Japanese and English. Jun International Preschool in Kumagaya takes a more laidback approach to early childhood education—a typical day includes a lot of playtime, trips to the park, games, art projects and songs.
While the current edition of the guide is in English, Pover says she and her team are working on a Japanese version so that the information will be equally accessible to cross-cultural partners. She then plans to release a revised and expanded second edition in 2011, possibly having a new edition every two years after that.
Pover hopes that the variety of schools and approaches to education covered in the Guide will help parents to realize that schooling can be about a lot more than hyper-competitive test preparation, which is often a focus in Japan.
“Parents need to step away from the idea of the ‘best school’ and find the best school for their children,” she says. “I sincerely hope that this book helps [them] to find the perfect school for their child, a place that will inspire in that child the same lifelong love of learning and education that I have.”
For more information on the "Guide to International Schools in Japan" or to buy a copy, see www.internationalschoolsguidebook.com.
This story originally appeared in Metropolis magazine (www.metropolis.co.jp).© Japan Today