Miki House websites:
Miki House Babycare and Kids Pal; Miki House Infant Educational website (in Japanese) and to view what the classes and courses look like, see this Miki House Kids Pal page also in Japanese. Azumi My Princess Story is a blog chronicling Azumi and her Mum’s, largely, days spent (four years worth) in Kids Pal’s infant enrichment classes.
“Miki House Kids Pal” offer premium top-branding infant learning classes or enrichment daycare programs, as well as Miki House English Club programs by Miki House Happy Note, a corporate outfit mentioned in the article below:
Japan’s continuing recession is dragging down almost every sector of the economy. But the preschool education industry, aimed at children six and under, seems to be an exception. Although the market for juku (cram schools), which cater to children in primary school and above, has become saturated, the early education market–ranging from correspondence courses to computer classes–is booming. Businesses are entering this market one after another, from education to publishing to children’s clothing, and competition is heating up.
Courses for Toddlers Popular
At present 1.39 million, or one in five, Japanese children between one and six years old are enrolled in Kodomo Charenji (Kids’ Challenge), a correspondence course offered by Benesse Corp. Each month parents are mailed such materials as picture books, videos, and toys featuring a striped baby tiger, the program’s main character. By playing with these materials, children learn basic skills like how to use the toilet, pick up after themselves, and use proper greetings. In 1996, Benesse added a course for one- to two-year-olds to their Kodomo Charenji series, a first for correspondence courses. This addition greatly increased enrollment: In the last five years, enrollment has increased nearly five-fold.
A subsidiary of publisher Shogakukan Inc. and Miki House, a maker of children’s clothing, recently launched six preschools located in department stores in large cities. These schools have received more applicants than the spaces available. Especially popular is a class for one- to two-year-olds, accounting for about 70% of all enrollment. Class activities center around arts and crafts. Asked why they enrolled their children, parents respond that there are no parks nearby where they can take their children, and these classes ease their worries about their kids falling behind.
Computer and English Classes Popular Too
A wider range of courses have become available along with this increased demand. Today more and more parents are sending their young children to computer and English classes. Software maker Justsystem Corp. in April 1998 started a children’s educational software program where parents receive one CD-ROM per month; there are already over 10,000 families enrolled. And computer schools affiliated with such companies as NEC Corp. and Fujitsu Ltd. are offering an increasing number of courses tailored for children.
Starting in April 1997, a major producer of correspondence language courses began offering an English course designed for children aged three to six. Sales have grown for English language learning tapes aimed at infants and toddlers, apparently because parents want to acclimate their children to naturally spoken English from an early age.
Looking for Growth in Younger Markets
According to a private think tank, in 1997 the market for children’s education in the six-and-under age group was 205 billion yen (1.7 billion U.S. dollars at 120 yen to the dollar), with stable growth of 2% per year. In contrast, the market for private education as a whole, including college preparatory courses, was 987.2 billion yen (8.2 billion dollars), a decrease of 1.8% from the previous year. A recent jump in bankruptcies among educational companies geared to the older market is attributed to heightened price competition and market turbulence stemming from a decline in the child population. The education industry is increasingly turning to the six-and-under market for new business; even the computer game and baby-sitting industries are getting in on the act.
One reason for this boom in infant education is that parents have comparatively more money to spare before their children enter kindergarten. There is also, however, a psychological reason on the part of parents: According to one educator, parents in their early 30s were among the first generation to be sent to juku by their parents. Having spent less time in their own childhoods playing with their parents, says the educator, they may be looking for a “parenting manual” to guide them on how to play with their own children