The unified school option

We’ve just looked at one private school to see what great features it had to offer, and what parents found so desirable about the school. One of the most compelling advantages of the private school is the comprehensive education or curriculum being offered. So if you do not have the financial resources to send your child to a private school, do you have any other options?

The answer is yes, you can look out for the “unified” public school option or what is sometimes called the “combined school” option.

By April 2007, there were in operation 149 such unified schools in Japan, according to MEXT sources.

BACKGROUND: In 1991, the Central Education Council, an advisory panel for the education minister, proposed the introduction of a unified middle and high school education system, but it wasn’t until its report sixth years later that implementation began and finally in 1999, the first unified middle and high schools were introduced. You can read the Central Council’s report The model for Japanese education in the perspective of the 21st Century (The 2nd Report by the Central Council for Education) 1997/06 at the MEXT link to find out more on the background of unified schools …scroll down to CHAPTER 3 to avoid having to wade through other irrelevant details. You will recall that in 1997, it was the age of the relaxed education policy, and so the unified school system was in line with the goal of reducing the stress that kids faced from having to undergo upper secondary entrance exams.

Unified or combined schools are of 3 types:

1) Some new middle-through-high schools are built from scratch (Note: some schools are being fused to have an elementary-through-middle school instead, one such popular new school is the Haruhino Elementary – Junior High School in Kawasaki City);

2) The second type is when a new middle school is added on to an existing high school sometimes termed the “on-campus” type of school, with the high school accepting graduates from the middle school without the requirement for an entrance exam;

3) The third kind is a pairing up between high and local middle schools which has the advantage of pooling of resources and manpower as speciality teachers can be despatched from the high school to the middle school (or vice versa) — high schools and middle schools are managed by different bodies, prefectural and municipal governments respectively. (That arrangement is also being tried out in the elementary-and-middle school combo, eg., Fujinoki Elementary School is one such school being paired with the nearby middle school.)

Such unified schools are in high demand.

Chiba prefecture’s Chiba Middle School had 27 times the number of applicants as it was permitted to enroll.

Osaka’s Sakuya Konohana Middle School recieved about 15 times as many.

Today’s issue (Thursday, May 15, 2008) of the Daily Yomiuri offers highlights schoollife in three of these unified public schools Chiba prefectural Middle-High School, Kudan Secondary School, in Chiyoda ward, Tokyo and Koishikawa Secondary Education in Tokyo. Read it here. (Note: the link will expire in a few weeks)

Among the features of the schools highlighted were overseas language-learning programs, international education and English immersion programs such as those offered by British Hills, and special relationship building camps.



British Hills is “located in Teneimura, 115 miles north of the capital, the institution – completed in 1994 for $70 million – teaches English with a heavy dose of atmosphere.

Students live in Tudor-style accommodations and have the opportunity to speak English while hanging out at the Falstaff Public House.

Students pay for the extras. Prices for a weekend of classes run around $400, while longer or more elaborate courses – including gourmet food – can run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.” — Source: “JAPANESE STRUGGLE WITH ENGLISH” Associated Press Article by Joseph Coleman

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