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The Humanities Conference 2003

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The "Other" Option: Japanese Children Attending International Schools in Japan

Momo Kano Podolsky.

Judging from the number of books and articles recently published on the topic, there seems to be an increasing interest among the Japanese in the International School Option for the education of their children. These international schools are to be distinguished from the already wildly popular English Conversation classes, in that they are full-time establishments providing elementary, junior-high and high-school education in English, based on the American or British model. Attending such a school means an outright rejection of the compulsory education program provided by the Monkasho (Japanese Ministry of Education and Sciences) and thus comes with the risk of being alienated from the mainstream social system.
A couple of decades ago, Japanese children who attended an international school in Japan were mainly kikoku-shijo, that is, returnee children who had lived and gone to school outside of Japan because of their parents job requirements. Even in the case of returnee children, the more popular choice was to reintegrate the Japanese education system, and international schools were seen as the option of last resort. However, we can now observe quite a substantial number of parents who deliberately choose to send their children to an international school, sometimes without ever having resided abroad.
Why is the international option so attractive that some parents will brave their children's potential marginalization from the rest of the Japanese population? What do they hope is to be gained from the experience? In this paper I will present the case of an international school in the Kansai area (West-Japan), and try to answer those questions through the analysis of field-work and interview data. I will also relate the experience of one young mother and her son, who are just starting an odyssey toward international education in Japan.


Momo Kano Podolsky  (Japan)
Faculty for the Study of Contemporary Society
Kyoto Women's University

  • Education in Japan
  • International schools
  • Diversity
  • Internationalization

(Virtual Presentation, English)