The Yomiuri Shimbun White coats designed by students at Bunka Fashion College

The Yomiuri Shimbun
White coats designed by students at Bunka Fashion College

A happy autumn day’s and Halloween to all our readers,

Depicted to the left, are designs by the creative Bunka Fashion College students for the commercial production of personalized doctors’ white coats… part of the launch of a series of products based on college students’ ideas have been commercialized by Tokyo companies, providing real-life experience for the students and fresh inspiration for companies.  read more about in the Yomiuri Shimbun’s article here. Other than hospital doctors, many doctors purchase their white coats individually. Responding to this demand, Oct Co. will launch the sale of the student designed original white coats, including some with polka dot or leopard-print linings.

And below you’ll find our latest update giving you the roundup on what’s happening on the educational scene in Japan. We’d also like to give you the buzz on the following new schools with fresh new concepts:  Morey English Academy (Minato-ku. Tokyo)Kawasaki International Preschool (Kawasaki city, Kanagawa); the World International Preschool(a bilingual school in Matsumoto city, Nagano); the Central Forest International School (Yamato city, Kanagawa); Hitokoe Yokohama International School; Chateau BonBon School (Shibuya, Tokyo) and Tokyo West International School (Tachikawa, Tokyo) and its affiliated CFIS Sports and Music Kindergarten Tachikawa a school with resort-like learning and sports facilities will be opening APRIL 2014!!! Please note also that the British School(Showa campus in Setagayaku) has  introduces a new FT pre-A-level course, a modular course that will allow students to enter at any time of the year on the basis of an interview, see The British School. For more news like this, visit at The Scoop on Schools page.

Here’s the latest on education in Japan:

Japan to allow firms to operate public schools in special zones

Tokyo, Oct. 18 (Jiji Press)–The Japanese government will allow private companies to operate public schools in special zones that will be created to promote deregulation, officials said Friday.
The special zones are a key item in a package of pro-growth deregulation measures that the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe adopted in June.
“There is no end” to the government’s regulatory reform efforts, Abe told a meeting of his Headquarters for Japan’s Economic Revitalization where details of the special zone scheme were adopted.
“Further reform efforts should be made aggressively so that we can create the world’s best country for business,” Abe added.
The government aims to submit bills needed to introduce the special zones to the Diet, the country’s parliament, in early November, hoping to get them enacted during its current session set to end in early December.

Govt adopts bill on income cap for tuition-free program (Jiji Press — Oct 18)

The Japanese government on Friday adopted a bill to introduce an income cap in fiscal 2014 for its tuition-free program for public high schools. 
Households with annual income of 9.1 million yen or more will become ineligible for the program, which was introduced in 2010.

The government hopes to get the bill to revise the law on the program to be enacted during the current extraordinary session of the Diet, which started Tuesday for a 53-day run through Dec. 6.

Parents of public high school students will need to report their annual income to the schools or the local boards of education after the introduction of the income cap, which is seen affecting some 790,000 students.

Tuition fee collection will start with first-year students joining high schools in fiscal 2014, while students in their second and third year in the fiscal year will continue to be covered by the current blanket free education program.

Union: Teachers work longer than 10 year ago NHK — Oct 20


A national confederation of teachers’ unions says teachers in Japan are working as many as 20 hours more overtime per month than a decade ago.
The All Japan Teachers’ and Staffs’ Union conducted a survey in October last year. It received responses from about 6,900 teachers in 39 prefectures. A similar survey is conducted every 10 years.
The most recent survey showed elementary school teachers work an average of around 68 hours overtime per month, 17 hours more than 10 years ago.
The average amount of overtime for junior high school teachers is about 91 hours, up 23. For senior high school teachers, it is about 79 hours, which is an increase of 20.
The poll also showed school teachers work 16 hours a month on Saturdays and Sundays.

Though relations between Japan and its neighbors South Korea and China have been less than rosy in recent years, Japanese companies are increasingly looking to hire foreign students from these and other Asian countries who have studied in Japan, according to the Tokyo-based recruitment and consulting firm Disco Inc.

With companies focusing on finding the most talented people to help them expand into foreign markets, the practical necessities of business seem to be overriding political wrangling.

The survey, released this month, found that 35.2 percent of 539 companies across the country said they have hired, or plan to hire, foreign students in the 2013 business year. Looking ahead to 2014, nearly half of these companies say they are planning on hiring foreigners who have studied in Japan. Larger companies with more than 1,000 employees appear even more willing to hire such people. Nearly 70 percent of these firms said they plan to hire such graduates in the next fiscal year.

The reason given by most companies was rather simple — they want the most talented people possible, especially as businesses move into other Asian markets. Around 40 percent of the firms said they were seeking to hire Chinese nationals, and 24.2 percent said they wanted to hire Vietnamese and Thais.

The hiring of more foreign students is a sign that Japanese businesses are increasing their efforts to expand in Asian markets.

While 32.6 percent of foreign students hired during the past year graduated with a master’s degree in the sciences, about half of the students majored in the humanities or the arts, suggesting that firms want employee with a well-rounded perspective and a wide range of interests.

In addition to communicating fluently in two or more languages, foreign students’ cultural knowledge and social know-how are considered valuable assets that bring in relevant viewpoints when Japanese firms enter overseas markets.

The information in the survey is also good news for Japanese universities, which have tried, though not always successfully, to internationalize their campuses.

With the prospect of employment at the end of their studies, more foreign students will be willing to study in Japan. That in turn provides benefits to Japanese students, who will have more opportunities to study alongside students from other countries and to expand their viewpoints.

At the same time, this new hiring trend also highlights the importance of Japanese students’ studying foreign languages. Relying on foreign nationals will not be sufficient for many companies. They will also need Japanese students who have studied abroad and learned important language and cultural skills.

The future of business and education is, from this survey at least, looking more truly international than ever.

Practical fashions based on student ideas hit the market (Oct 13, 2013)

Next article spotlights a promotional drive by public schools to make themselves more attractive viz. private schools…

Public high schools tout their strengths to primary school kids (Oct 14, 2013, Yomiuri Shimbun)

An increasing number of school administrators in the Tokyo metropolitan area are trying to convince primary school students and their parents that public high schools have advantages over private institutions.

The move is apparently aimed at encouraging more high-achieving primary school students to enter public high schools in the area.

To achieve this goal, public high schools and boards of education in the region are holding informational meetings to promote the advantages of local public high schools. Education experts believe the efforts likely aim to demonstrate the attractions of public high schools before children take entrance exams for private middle schools, including those with integrated middle and high school curriculums, and thereby prevent excellent students from being taken away by private schools.

Many parents in the metropolitan area want their children admitted to private middle schools. Nearly 20 percent of children in Tokyo who go to public primary schools enter private middle schools.

In early September, the Setagaya Ward Board of Education held a meeting at a public primary school in the ward to let primary school students experience part of a public high school life.

A teacher from Tokyo Metropolitan Aoyama High School in Shibuya Ward told parents of fourth- to sixth-grade primary school students: “Our study room is open until 8 p.m. and many students study there. Our school is a place where students can feel how delightful studying is.”

About 400 primary school students and their parents attended the forum, at which principals and other officials from eight metropolitan government-run high schools held an informational session for parents and a mock class for the students.

In March last year, the Setagaya ward office introduced its own integrated curriculum for primary and middle schools. A forum has also been held since last year, coinciding with the introduction of the integrated curriculum.

In Setagaya, 35 percent of graduates from public primary schools enroll in private middle schools.

One middle school teacher lamented the situation, saying, “It’s my impression that even though we enthusiastically teach students with a curriculum integrated for primary and middle schools, students who have acquired sufficient basic academic skills prefer private schools.”

Metropolitan Nishi High School in Suginami Ward has held informational meetings for primary school students and their parents since fiscal 2002. This year’s meeting was held in the high school.

During the meeting, Principal Hisaya Miyamoto said: “We’re enthusiastic about helping students enroll in universities, and our school can compete with private institutions. As various types of students attend our school and compete with one another, many eventually became talented human resources in society.”… Read more...


An article spotlighting a different sort of school in Okinawa school that seeks to reddress biracial, bicultural issues, is worth reading …

School aims to give biracial kids a place to ‘be themselves’ Japan Times, OCT 20

NAKAGUSUKU, OKINAWA – Melissa Tomlinson doesn’t have very happy memories of elementary school. As an 8-year-old, she “never had a chance to eat lunch normally — the other kids put something in it, or they mixed the milk and soup and orange together and told me to eat it.”

Like the three or four other mixed-race children in her class, Tomlinson was bullied on a daily basis. Now a 26-year-old high school English teacher, she still recalls how “they told me to go home to America, and they talked bad about my mom.”

Her teachers did little to stop the abuse — indeed, some, wittingly or not, even contributed to it. Every summer, on the anniversary of the end of the Battle of Okinawa — the three-month assault in which around 100,000 Okinawan civilians perished — Tomlinson would become the focus of the class. “The teacher always said, ‘Melissa, can you stand up? So, you are half-American, what do you think about this?’ For me, I was like, ‘I grew up here, I don’t know about American things.’ ” Tomlinson had no memory of her father, a U.S. serviceman who’d split from her mother when she was still a baby.

Tomlinson’s story is far from unique. Since 1946, many children here have been born to U.S. military fathers and Okinawan mothers. Sometimes (and especially when the fathers are deployed elsewhere) the mothers are left to bring up the children by themselves, and, like Tomlinson, those children don’t always have an easy time at school.

When five single mothers set up a school for their own “Amerasian” children in Okinawa 15 years ago, they were not so much worried about bullying as concerned about getting their kids a bilingual education. The only one of the women still involved with the school — the current principal, Midori Thayer — explains: “Our children needed to learn both languages because of their two different heritages. They had to be themselves.”

Because the children couldn’t get such an education at public schools, weren’t eligible to attend schools on the U.S. bases, and simply couldn’t afford the existing private international schools, the women felt they had no option but to go it alone. The local board of education was persuaded to sanction the project, which at first involved just one American teacher and 13 pupils meeting in a regular house.

Today, the AmerAsian School in Okinawa (AASO) has 78 students, 12 full-time teachers, eight part-timers and a host of volunteer tutors. They have a modern, bright facility in Ginowan, which they get to use rent-free, thanks in large part to Thayer’s powers of persuasion. (She managed to secure a promise of support from then-Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi when the pair met in Okinawa in 2000.)

It is not a school, Thayer says, for the “trendy” Japanese middle class who want their kids educated bilingually. “There are trendy schools out there. This school is for not-wealthy parents.” In any case, monoracial Japanese children are prohibited from attending by the board of education — unless they can’t speak Japanese. While the majority of AASO pupils are Amerasian, there are others of Filipino or European extraction.

Thayer, whose background is in pharmacology rather than education, runs the school with Executive Director Naomi Noiri, a sociology professor from the University of the Ryukyus. Noiri has been closely involved with the AASO from its inception and receives no payment for her work there.

A fervent believer in the school’s mission, Noiri recalls how one “double” (as she calls mixed-race children, in preference to the more commonly used “half”), an Okinawan/African-American child, arrived at the school with very low self-esteem. “He’d asked his mother, ‘Which soap is good to wash off my color?’ But once he was here, he started to help his classmates in Japanese class, and in English class the classmates helped him. He began to think, ‘I’m OK, I’m popular, I’m happy with myself.’ And that’s our goal.”

A quick look at the school’s Facebook page shows more warm words from former students who were able to escape bullying by attending AASO.

The AASO story, however, is not an unqualified success. There have been ongoing funding difficulties and rumblings of discontent from former insiders.

In some ways the school does not even exist. Its students are registered with local schools, from where they are then seconded. Also, the school receives virtually no public funding, aside from its arrangement with the rent. Two of its Japanese teachers do receive their salary from Okinawa Prefecture, but all the other running costs come out of student fees — ¥30,000 a month — or donations. And because it doesn’t receive any state money, the state has no say over how the school is run, leading some to query its accountability mechanisms.

In writing this article, I interviewed three people who had taught at the AASO at different times over the past six years, as well as the parent of a current student. All agreed that there are excellent teachers at the school and that many pupils thrive there. However, they also shared some very similar misgivings.

One issue was the relatively high turnover of staff, something which the school acknowledges. “It’s out of our control,” says Noiri. “Many of our American teachers are the wives of military personnel and they need to move on, and it’s very difficult to find a teacher who can stay with us more than three years.” Often, it seems, they stay shorter — one teacher recalled that in his two-year stint, he saw around 10 teachers come and go.

At just ¥170,000 a month, perhaps the wages are part of the reason. Noiri disagrees, arguing that the pay is comparable to that at both commercial language schools and international schools. She also rebutted a suggestion that not all the teachers were fully qualified. “I think only one teacher is in the process of getting a degree, but the majority of teachers have a teaching license.”

Another concern was the wide spectrum of ability within classes. It wasn’t just that the level of English (and Japanese) varied greatly from one student to another, but that some pupils also had learning difficulties. Again, Noiri agreed this was an issue. “At the moment we have several learning-difficulty students and we have been dealing with that.” While they could not afford classroom assistants for these children, Noiri went on to explain that a counsellor was available to advise staff. “Most of our teachers can deal with that situation. And our teachers could ask how to do (that), to the counsellor and to the principal.”

I also heard grumblings about how the staff were sometimes managed. “There’s always been a lot of politics and turmoil there. From what I saw, there wasn’t much room for constructive criticism or other ideas,” said Akemi Johnson, a former teacher and researcher at AASO. When I put the criticism to Thayer, she responded: “We are a nonprofit organization. We are not getting any government support. We run ourselves. Of course we have to protect our children — of course we have to protect ourselves.”

There was no mistaking the embattled tone. No doubt it is a measure of how deeply Thayer and Noiri care about their pupils — and the fact they have so little official support — that they sometimes come across as defensive. It probably also explains why, when I started to ask about the departure of a handful of former teachers (whom I didn’t interview), they cut short our interview. [Ms. Noiri maintains that the tone of the interview was antagonistic.]

Of course, professional disputes and personality clashes happen in every workplace. On those occasions when grievances can’t be resolved, teachers in other schools can appeal to governors, boards of education or even the ministry of education. So what’s the situation at the AASO? Noiri said teachers were, of course, free to air any grievances at faculty meetings: “If a teacher has a problem with Ms. Thayer they can come to me, same as a normal school — a principal and a board, Ms. Thayer and me.”

Reservations aside, most of the people I spoke to felt that Amerasian children benefitted from attending the school. One was particularly positive: “The overall objective is really good — their hearts are in the right place, but there are just some little kinks.”

One way to deal with those kinks might be for the government to step in and take over the running of the AASO, says professor Stephen Murphy-Shigematsu, of Stanford University. Himself an Amerasian, he has written and researched extensively in this field for more than 20 years. “The Japanese government is too willing to segregate minority groups and allow them to have their own education, but I think they need to learn how to integrate children who are different.”

He says the school has undoubtedly been good for two kinds of Amerasian children — those who were bullied in state schools and those English speakers who returned from America, usually following marriage breakdowns. But he wonders if the school is appropriate for the majority of Amerasians who don’t fall into these categories.

“I think the school really does serve well those kids who need their education in English, but for kids who want their future to be in Japan, then the school needs to have a strong Japanese language curriculum,” he says. At present, 80 percent of the curriculum in the elementary portion of the school is taught in English, while the junior high school lessons are divided equally between English and Japanese. There is no high school, so most students transfer to public high schools at the age of 16.

One AASO graduate — Eduard Thayer, now 24 — wonders if he wouldn’t have been better off going to a regular Japanese school from the start. “I sometimes question if I would have had better opportunities if I spoke the language better, but (on reflection) I would rather speak both languages because it has brought me to a global or international world — it makes you more open to other things.”

One of Principal Thayer’s three children, Eduard admits he did have linguistic difficulties when he entered high school. “Even now I’m not really good at expressing myself in Japanese — I do speak fluent Japanese but I sometimes have difficulty expressing myself.”

There is little doubt that, proportionally, there are more biracial children in Okinawa than elsewhere in Japan, thanks largely to the presence of some 25,000 U.S. military personnel. Current statistics are hard to come by, but in 2007, 63 percent of all biracial children born in Okinawa had American fathers. The corresponding figure for mainland Japan was just 7 percent.

So what about Tomlinson, whom we met at the beginning of this article — in hindsight, would she have been better off going to the AASO? “No,” she says emphatically. “I know I had bullying and it was really hard, but I survived and now I’m really happy”.

For Eduard Thayer, though, the AASO was a valuable experience, as was his time at a Japanese high school. Both helped him become comfortable with his own identity, he says. “When I was in my senior year, I finally understood that it didn’t really matter if I was Asian or American — it just matters that I act myself.”

“An increasing number of universities are stepping up efforts to teach students how to give effective presentations in English, with the aim of developing their skills in communicating ideas to compete at an international level.There is a growing interest among many Japanese in acquiring presentation skills, partly because of Japan’s excellent presentation in its bid to host the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics in Tokyo.Presentation skills are essential, for instance, for introducing plans and products to corporate clients.“What makes a good presentation?” Kenichi Sato, an associate professor at Musashino University, asked his students during a seminar in the university’s Ariake campus in Koto Ward, Tokyo, on Sept. 23.

The seminar was part of the Faculty of Global Communication’s business communication program.

Sato’s class, which targets junior and senior students, was launched in fiscal 2005. His lessons introduce students to the basics of business administration while encouraging them to deliver presentations in English on such topics as their research on individual corporations.

During the Sept. 23 lesson, Sato’s students watched a recording of Japan’s final presentation in Buenos Aires in early September to promote Tokyo as a candidate city for the Games. This was followed by a group discussion on what makes an effective presentation. Some students shared their opinions in English on Japan’s presentation in the Argentine capital.

One student emphasized the need to “speak with enthusiasm.” Another said it is necessary to “pronounce words clearly so customers can understand what you want to get across.”

“Cultivating skills for expressing your opinions in English and making your ideas more communicable to others are the tools you need to compete at a global level,” Sato said.

J.F. Oberlin University in Machida, Tokyo, also has emphasized development of English presentation skills. In fiscal 2007, the college expanded its list of English language programs to include an optional course designed specifically to teach how to deliver presentations. The course is open to all students.”…Read more

***Students from abroad who are seeking to study at Japanese universities should check out the Global30 programme website universities under the “Global 30” Project also provide an international student-friendly environment, offering support for living and studying in Japan. No Japanese proficiency is required of students at the time of application – with the best universities in Japan now offering in English a range of degree programme courses in a number of fields under the “Global 30” Project. The same universities also now offer paper and interview-based admissions procedures which allow international students to apply while still in their respective countries. Interviews can be done from their current location using TV conference systems or other devices.The universities under the “Global 30” Project provide high-quality instruction in Japanese language and culture while also allowing students to gain a valuable degree in another subject. The universities also provide assistance regarding academic matters, career planning, visas, financial support, housing, etc.

Miscellaneous news and article links to muse upon:

U.S. Private College Tuition, Fees Rise Least in Four Decades

Tuition and fees at private, non- profit U.S. colleges rose 3.6 percent in 2013-2014, the smallest increase in more than 40 years, as families struggle to afford college costs. Read more

As Japan moves towards increased standardized testing, the US moves away from it …

Gov. Brown signs testing overhaul bill, ending old state tests (LA Times)

California Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation Wednesday that replaces current public school state standardized tests with ones aligned to new national learning goals.

And just as Japan debates getting its schools back to Saturday school routines, the French are abandoning four-day school in favour of five… see Weird about Wednesday (The Economist)

The governor’s decision also tees up a looming confrontation with the Obama administration, which criticized the California legislation.

The new law will pay for school districts to shift quickly to new computerized tests that would be based on learning goals, called the Common Core standards, adopted by 45 states. The new approach is intended to emphasize deeper critical-thinking skills.

The mental and physical impact of bullying 

20% of Tokyo university students want to die, NPO suggests Japan Today Oct 19, 2013


About 20% of university students say they would like to die, according to a survey carried out in Tokyo this summer.
According to the NPO Lifelink which conducted the survey, 122 university students were asked to fill out a survey. TBS reported that of the group, 26 students, around 20% of the total, answered that they would genuinely like to die. The NPO says it believes the statistics are related to job-hunting failures and rejections.
Police statistics show that the total number of suicides in Japan last year dipped below 30,000 for the first time in 15 years. However, the number of suicides among people in their 20s increased and 149 people are believed to have committed suicide due to problems finding employment.


Hike in daily hostess hiring leads to college gals hooking on the side

A 24-year-old hostess employed in Tokyo’s Ebisu district tells weekly tabloid Shukan Jitsuwa (Oct. 24) that she is envious of the opportunities now available to female college students being hired by clubs on a part-time basis. (Tokyo Reporter)

Take know that the 2013 expo for English Language Teachers in Japan is upcoming as well as the JALT conference here:

Last but not least, check out this fun video on A Day In The Life Of A Japanese Highschool Student

Digitally yours,

Aileen Kawagoe