*to Hanlon's razor: Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

The plight of the 'local hire' Gaijin parent.

She has bigger problems.

I've got a friend who is a Anglophone local hire at a company downtown in Tokyo.  It's not education, and she's not on an expat package: there lies her problem.  She's here because she has a Japanese husband, and they have some kids.  Kids are soon to enter school.  She is very worried, and she doesn't have the money to send both to 'international school', which would be more than four-million yen: her full net-income used up.  She'd also have to sell that to her husband.  'Your education was so bad we need to throw away half our coin.'  Being correct never helps.

There's a lot you can say about Japanese schooling, and I have; however, it wouldn't tear me up too much to send my kids to Japanese elementary, with certain caveats.  Japanese JHS and SHS: no fucking way.  If you've a passing experience with Japan, I won't need to spell out the reasons not to do that to your children.  Why would Japanese wealthy enough fill half of 'international schools' with unhybridized whelps?

I am a certified teacher, by which I boast nothing, except that if I were staying through my child's education I would be able to find employment at one of the 'international schools' which include free education for staffs' children: better than half.  Many schools with middling salaries can attract teachers with excellent pedigrees as putting two of their children in the school for free doubles their net income.

A 'foreign hire' with a good (financial) package has nothing to worry about.  The bastards.

What are you going to do if you are not employable at an 'international school', or on an expat package?  Yes, I am looking at you AETs and owners of ESL schools.  I worry for you.  Put it another way: what's wrong with Japanese school for your kid?  You want your child to become an adult who can think.  No, I am not calling Japanese stupid.  I have met a lot of stupid N.Americans, Brits and others.  However, our education systems, if reinforced with good parenting by intelligent and curious parents, sets up kids to be successful for a variety of futures.  Japan's system makes sausages: some filled with choice cuts, and others with sawdust, but all put in the same casings.  Rote learning is not a curiosity-killer in elementary.  I'd even say we should do more rote than we do in English countries in elementary, instead of 'letting children discover' at an age before they know anything, including what they might be curious about - much less capable at.  So send them to Japanese elementary by all means but worry about these: racial insensitivity, English language capability, intellectual agility and university entrance opportunities.

You could make short-work of the racial insensitivities in many parts of urban Japan, so long as you have not bought property yet...  Live in an area with other Gaijin and hybridized families.  There is a lot of it going around in Tokyo.  If my kid's in a class where not more than three-quarters are full-blood Japanese, at the very least a buddy's got his back on the playground.  At best, some poor family a few years ahead of us taught the staff to do their jobs with an unhomogeneous student body (homogeneous Japan is a myth, but never mind that).  If you are in the sticks, this isn't going to help.

That's not going to teach your kid academic English, analytical or rhetorical skills: neither will the Japanese education system or you (certainly not, and realistically not).  So what do you do?  What do you do if you don't have two-million yen to spare for each kid, for fifteen years?  Well, what do ethnic groups in N.America do?  They start their own Saturday language and culture schools.  They go so far as to organize their own cultural centres.  Are Gaijin doing that here?  I don't know.  I could research it, but I bet it would be the more numerous and marginalized in Japan who do: Filipinas, Chinese...  I know the N.Koreans do.  It would take more than Saturdays to make sure your kids were prepared to go to an Anglophone university, but hey, every kid in Tokyo seems to waste their youth at juku on weeknights.  It might be possible to organize one not-for-profit, but my guess is that there are enough parents in a similar boat this is a viable business-plan.

If you keep it below a third of the cost of the 'international schools', you have a winner.  We're gone within two years.  If any reader can make use of this notion, consider it a gift.


  1. I would be moving out of this country if they were looking at 1st year J.H. cuz I couldn't afford otherwise.

    I don't have kids and reading your post makes me happy about that so long as I live in a country where harmony overrules authority and effectiveness. Japan has a dark future because the future is in School now...I have seen them...so I can say with authority that Japan is doomed.

  2. Cold, Hard, Fact: You are your children’s examples by which they live, regardless of formalized education.

    Dude… I’m not even three paragraphs down and I’m freaking out.

    Then, I find calm. “Are Gaijin doing that here?” Ever take a look at ‘Language Tree’? http://www.languagetree.org/ja/directory/article/1-language-groups/21-saturday-literacy-community-program-slcp

    If you live in Tokyo, this should be easy.

  3. Having taught both elementary and junior high school classes, I've seen Japanese boys go from being happy and outgoing in the sixth grade to brooding and withdrawn by the eighth grade (2nd year of junior high). Giving these kids free reign while in elementary school, then suddenly taking it all away and kicking them in the ass to pass all exams and fit in is f@#king cruel. Who kids are to become as adults is mostly defined by the time they're 6 or 7 according to modern psychology, so why kill that person the way Japanese junior and senior high schools do?...

  4. Will, thanks for that. Sorry if I made any parents anxious, though I bet you were without my help. There must exist solutions already. If not, sound out your local Gaijin parents to start your own. This is how it's done in N.America I imagine. Of course, your kid would still have to go the Japanese JHS and SHS, but they wouldn't have to care as much about it. Having peers like them out of school helps a lot.

    The challenge would be keeping the integrity of the English at the school. Japanese law might let you discriminate against Japanese kids joining (Canada's would not) but I see no reason you'd need to keep out the returnee kids (帰国子女). You'd simply have to have a hard minimum level of English, written and spoken, for each age, and the ability to toss out families who did not make their kids keep up. Which means you'd have to have enough demand this did not make you bankrupt...

    Chris and Billy, thanks for dropping in. Billy, thanks for adding me to your blogroll. You are also on mine.

    I spent three years as an AET in a Saitama JHS and saw the same as everyone else. Childlike first-years; curious second-years; dead-eyed third-years. I can't understand why anyone would work that hard to be a salaryman drone. The money's as good in a more creative or entrepreneurial job, and you don't spend fourteen hours of the day split between a JR sardine can and a 'veal-fattening pen' (cubicle).

  5. Yep, my wife and I have had this conversation. As a pinko lefty I have real moral problems with private education, but...

    And it's not even the High Schools. You know, if a Japanese High School diploma could realistically get you into a decent Anglophone University I might almost consider it, but the undergraduate unis here are an even bigger waste of time and money than the high schools. The challenge now is to make sure I'm still employable back home in a decade's time.

  6. I have the same problems, yet I work in one. Gotta eat. My take is here: http://hanlonsrzr.blogspot.jp/2011/08/uk-riots-horseshit-and-education.html

    A decade's a long time... Nothing wrong with staying here, so long as you carve out the right niche. For me, international school teacher isn't it. As for a kid's education, I could see paying for one, on the two incomes my wife and I could get here, but two?

  7. My solution, pick one and invest the full load in them. The other can make a reasonable living on a road crew or working in a combini.

    I guess that's why I only had one kid :)

  8. kathrynoh, that's why I told the J-wife we should have just one. Not to mention we can travel more often, retire earlier... She still wants two...

  9. I have no desire to send my kids to insular international schools. They enjoy and are doing well in their Japanese school, and foreign/international schools can be as problematic as Japanese. If my kids were not getting a decent education at their Japanese school then I would send them home to live with my parents before I would put them in an international school.

    I think you are underestimating the parents' role in the kids' schooling. Of course parents can raise bilingual kids who can think for themselves, if they put in the effort and are a good example.

  10. I would never underestimate the parents' role: 'the apple doesn't fall far from the tree' is often heard in every staff room. I'm also not going to be the one to defend 'international schools' or private education in general, with the politics I have. I do know that I have never seen whole classes look as miserable as I have the third year JHS students in Japan, never met children with as little free time as those whose parents have ambitions for them in Japan, and never lived in another country where the more 'educated' the person is the less they know anything worth the knowing.

    Sincerely I wish you and your child(ren) the best, and anything is possible from parental education. The truth is that though a parent may teach their child another language at home well in an oral and conversational sense, there's a lot of research showing that those kids are very deficient in academic vocabulary and grammatical fluency. Anecdotally, I've only seen support for that argument.

  11. Interesting post. Thank you.

  12. Just clicked the no tech magazine. Hell yeah! thanks again.