Q&A on integrating foreign kids into local public school system


The following are Q & As posed on our Yahoo Groups! discussion forum on Education in Japan …

Q: Does anyone have the information for bringing a non Japanese speaking child into a Japanese school and having a translator available for classes?
A1: Yes, I am in Kanagawa Prefecture. My son is registered as a full student in a public school. He has a translator who is currently in the class with him 3 days a week. We were asked to go to a school that is
out of our school area (we live on the border) because the school had “extra staff” for helping my son, and maybe because the principal was simply more interested in having a foreign student than the principal of the nearer school.

An American friend of mine had 2 children at the same school several years ago. She said that there is someone who helps foreign students at the school who rotates between schools in 2 other cities. This is the person we will have helping us from next month (I don’t know why she wasn’t available in April– she has apparently worked in the schools for many years.) During April (the first month of the school year) we had a temporary person who was brought in specifically for my son. We were surprised that by the first day of school no help had been offered–help that we were initially promised when we agreed to go to the further school. We called the person we initial interacted with at the City Hall Education Department and he called us 2 hours later telling us that this temporary man was going to help. I am explaining all this because I don’t know if our situation is due to the stars or certain circumstances, or if it is a policy in schools. I know that the permanant lady starting next month does not sit in the classroom with the foreign students– she does a pulls the kids out of class for tutoring.

If I were you I would start with the City Hall Education Department. They seem to be in close contact with the schools (at least in my city.) Also, if they don’t offer help you might suggest that you bring in your
own tutor to sit with your daughter. I know that my friend sat in her daughter’s 1st grade class for the first week (her daughter is bi-racial but Japanese is not her strong language. She had never been to yochien
so was crying about 1st grade.)

However, another friend who has had her kids in Japanese schools for 5 years never got any such assistance. Maybe the school just figured her girls were fluent already from yochien?
K. in Kanagawa
A2: If she is going to go to Japanese school, there is the Kamakura fuzoku in your area which has a holistic education approach. It is
run by Yokohama National University. There are also a number of foreign children there. Getting in might be tough as they only
accept a certain number of kids. Because they have a limit to the number of students they can accept, they appreciate serious
applications meaning if you are uncertain about whether you would stick with the Japanese school or do homeschooling you should think
about applying there. They definitely offer support, and there are even some bi lingual (actually speaks german as well) 12 year olds
there that I could introduce you to. The Kugenuma area in Fujisawa have a few bi lingual children in the Jr. Highs as well.

I’ve heard that the center you work for has been trying to get a program for after schoolers and homeschoolers (fluent English
speakers) off the ground for awhile. If there is a need to start a class for a certain age range, they seem to be cooperative–I think
they just added a fourth class at somebodys request and have been looking for other pre schoolers to join the class. They seem to
have good teachers this year, and offer a holistic approach.

R. in Kanagawa

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