Global focus for Japan’s preschools with IB introduction and assertiveness focus

by Freya Lucas

May 14

A number of preschools in Japan have begun to broaden their offering, and “globalise” their curriculum in a bid to become more appealing to parents, and to take into account the changing face of the country, given Japan’s declining population figures, and the Japanese Government’s newly introduced policy of accepting more foregin workers, Japan News has reported.

 

Local writer Ikuko Higuchi spoke of a “growing dissatisfaction among parents with the current governmental educational curriculum”, outlining that preschool providers are seeking to diversify their offering to parents by adopting curriculum programs, such as the International Baccalaureate (IB), or private preschools running programs designed to prepare Japanese children to compete in a global employment market by providing programs which focus on independent thinking and assertiveness.

 

A southern Tokyo preschool, Machida Kobato Kindergarten has recently become the first preschool in metropolitan Tokyo to be certified by both IB and the Japanese Government, and is only the third such facility in Japan.

 

Many of the 36 elementary and preschools following the IB Primary Years Program in Japan, Ms Higuchi said, are attended by foreign children living in Japan, and operate outside of governmental authorisation.

 

The Machida Kobato Kindergarten has 280 children – aged between two and five years – attending, of whom approximately ten have one or both parents from foreign countries, making the kindergarten an unusual addition to the Japanese early childhood education and care (ECEC) landscape.

 

Vice Principal of the program, Kaoru Kanzo, outlined the value of the IB program for children attending the Kindergarten, saying that the changing face of Japanese society meant that “it will become normal for our children to have neighbours and coworkers from different cultures. The IB program, followed in many countries, will help them acquire common grounds of interaction with those people”.

 

To obtain the IB certification, the kindergarten increased the number of native English teachers, and participated in customised professional development in relation to the IB program. As a result of the training and the certification, the kindergarten has also overhauled the curriculum to provide a greater focus on developing initiative and creativity, and a reduced focus on “discipline”.

 

Preparing Japanese children to live and work across borders is an increasingly prominent theme in the country, according to Ms Higuchi, who wrote also about First Classroom Setagaya, a private preschool in Setagaya Ward, Tokyo.

 

First Classroom Principal Kenji Hashii developed his preschool 12 years ago, after working for a foreign company in Japan. Mr Hashii noticed that, although many of his colleagues spoke English, their lack of assertiveness proved a hindrance when negotiating business deals.

 

Speaking with Ms Higuchi, he said: “Most preschools in Japan tell children to listen to their teachers. We encourage children to express themselves, and say what they like and what they want.”

 

Mr Hashii’s preschool has reportedly received “a flood of applications” despite only having capacity for 36 children, and charging almost four times the national average for tuition and other fees per month.

 

A surprise for Mr Hashii was the origin of the applications, which he says reflect the changing priorities of Japanese parents. When the business started 12 years ago many of the applications were from doctors and professors. Now, many applications, Mr Hashii said “are from ordinary company workers” – something he attributes to “a growing dissatisfaction among parents with the current governmental educational curriculum”.

 

A senior Japanese researcher from the Japan Research Institute, specialising in ECEC, told Japan News the Japanese ECEC landscape faced “an urgent need to change their curriculum to conform with international standards”.

 

The original story Progressive preschools press to meet high global standards as published by Japan News can be viewed here.

 

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