I don’t plan to be one of those over-demanding and over-zealous parents, who put a lot of undue pressure on their kids to do better in school, despite being told by many people that I probably will be one. Whether it’d be a rocket scientist or a clerk at a Seven-Eleven store, It has always been my contention to let Haru do or become whatever makes her truly happy. Of course I do have my own hopes and dreams for her, and I will do my best to put her on the right track to success so that she can go for the bigger goals in life. And as an incentive to do and be better, she will be rewarded and supported when she accomplishes the higher goals.
However, there is and always will be a prime directive, no matter what she should decide to do in life, and that is to be at a minimum a bilingual (able to speak both Japanese and English fluently.) With the spoken language between my wife and me being 99.9% Japanese, and with me being Haru’s only source of English at home, this may prove to more difficult than planned. There are a lot of English language programs in Japan that will allow her to receive her education completely in English, but they aren’t without their own set of issues.
The main issues with foriegn taught education are:
International schools aren’t usually for the Japanese public, but rather for children of foriegn expat professionals, who usually have extravagant CEO level salaries, and paid room and board while in Japan. As a matter of fact most of these schools will not admit kids unless they have at least one English speaking parent. Tuition alone for many of these schools can run between 10 to 15 thousand dollars a year. Add to that, supplies and materials for extracurricular activies, uniform fees (if any), text book fees, and transportation to and from the school, and it can easily add up to 20 to 25 thousand a year, which is nearly up there with some of the private universities in the States. And we’re only talking K-12 here. And although we are above the average household income line in Japan, we still would never be able to afford to send Haru to International school for the entire K-12 education period.
International schools focus on teaching in English. Many even forbid the use of Japanese in the classrooms in order to enhance the overall quality of education. However in the process, the kids get less exposure to Japanese language and culture and often only associate with those at school. Unfortunately this can introduce the lack of understanding of Japanese culture, popular culture, and the subtle nuances that encompasses it.
I find foriegn accents charming. Prior to moving to Japan, I didn’t know that I had an accent, but apparently I do. I was told that I have a Californian-American accent. Going to international school won’t guarantee that Haru will come out of it with the same accent that I speak. I personally don’t mind this, but I do have preferences which may not fit well with some schools. Being American, of course an American accent is always welcomed (as long as its not a Texas or an Oklahoman accent). A British accent would be very cute and charming, and I would also welcome that as well. If Haru was a boy, an Australian or New Zealand accent would be okay, but for a girl I think its a bit rough, but not completely unwelcomed. However, something like an east Indian accent might not agree with me. Not to say anything is wrong with it. I think east Indian English is perfectly fine, but for east Indians. For a girl who will probably wind up looking south east Asian like her father, it may lead to identity issues later.
I plan to get as invloved as much as feesibly possibly in Haruka’s education, to not only ensure she that she understands what’s being taugh, but to also make sure that what’s being taught is correct. However, in many international school environments, they require that the English speaking parent (me) get MUCH more involved in their child’s school activities and projects. Although this sounds good on paper, the reality ( and my take on this) is that the schools should be educating and giving homework to the child and not the parents or familes of the child. I read about a school in Tokyo where the homework and projects given to the kids were so intense, that it required the entire family to work throughout most of the night to complete them. I think all this serves to do, is to train the children to work excessive overtime (which is the accepted norm in Japanese society) , and spend less quality time doing more fun stuff with their families and friends, and being childrenas they should be.
My initial plan is to try to get Haru into an international pre-school, so that she can pick up English in her initial stages of language development. This way, she is exposed to English most of the day and she will be more compelled to speak to me in English, and to her mother in Japanese. Kindergarten has still yet to be decided. For the reasons above, we may just send her to a regular Japanese taught public Kindergarten, depending on our financial situation as well as Haru’s willingness to continue her English program at home. But of course, the Japanese school system is not without it’s problems either.
Crawling around in the living room