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

Friday, 14 June 2013

The truth about 'international school'

It's a racket, didn't you know?
Previous posts about 'international school'* in Tokyo:
- the Gaijin staff get screwed
- the Gaijin are kept 'soto'
- it costs $15K and up for less than you could get from that
- who want's to be a classist bastard anyway?

I have been back after JET in Tokyo as an 'international school' teacher for three school years now, and because I had not lined up work before I came, had not known I'd be here for the third year to secure employment for it ahead of time, had a conflict with a martinet curriculum coordinator at one school that led me to shorten my time there, and did daily substitute work and coverage of several months at different schools to make up the difference, I have a fair idea of the workings of four of them.  Unimpressed.

Would I send my kids to 'international school' if I were on an ex-pat package rather than to the local schools?  Fuck yes.  Would I pay for it out of pocket, now that most 'international schools' say they'll cover staff's children in their contracts, but make sure not to hire teachers with any so they do not have to honour this?  I am unsure.  Not that I have any respect for the local JHS or SHS (local elementary is not the worst), but where would a teacher come up with forty-large for two kids?  Fuck that: I'd do better to home school them and send the J-wife out to work.  No, fuck that: go home.  Summer 2014!!

With the exception of a few of the pre-war international schools (you won't be able to get your kid into those), the rest of them are profit-making enterprises, more than educational ones, and did you know they are owned and controlled by Japanese?  Yeah, that's good for educational integrity as a Japanese owner who made his money in construction (the mob) is going to prioritize the children's learning over his mistress' new mauve Benz: of the $20K you're spending, not much over half of it goes to anything but padding his mattress, as it were.

It's not that the staff are terrible: the Japanese owners make ignorant/selfish decisions the foreign administration are forced to implement on their foreign staff, and all the students.  Teaching staff in 'international schools' are better than what I know from the public system at home.  Let's not get into a social-democratic versus libertarian argument.  That's boring, and Randroids are fucking ignorant.  It's simple: all of the Anglophone countries have a glut of young teachers who cannot find work, only the hereditary-teachers get hired at home and are the worst, the others without any initiative to go abroad leave the profession within a year of desultory substitute teaching, for those with the initiative to go abroad Tokyo is a desirable posting (many teachers have fled 'international schools' in 'the Gulf', China or worse) which you're not going to get without a good resume, recommendations and interview.  The reality selects for better than the average.

You'd think Japan's future dooms 'international schools'.  You might be wrong.  A colleague recently attended a conference of Japanese private schools, which included 'international schools' and Japanese-language private schools, and the results of some research presented was interesting: Japanese private schools and universities are fucked, but 'international schools' are not; though the demographics doom all but the most prestigious Japanese private schools, the 'international schools' are going to survive because the percentage of Japanese kids in them increases faster than the decline in the youth population.  I have already seen this in just three years, though '311' was a big part of it.  To be blunt: smart Japanese parents know the Japanese system** is doomed, and those with the means are buying their kids a better future.  Hell, even if your kid stays in Japan in adulthood, better they went to a university in English (or other European language) where they're made to learn at all, and work in Japan for a foreign company so they can have any kind of life.

The same colleague told me it is illegal for Japanese parents to send their kids to an 'international school', except that 'The Law' means little in Japan, and this law is unenforced except verbal harassment by the ward office, but without any penalties.  Sounds believable.  If Japan did start to enforce it the 'international schools' would just have to get together to challenge that.***

For the ignorant Japanese parent with means, the good news is that no matter how stupid or lazy your kid is there will be plenty of places at 'good schools' open for your kid, because there will be few kids fighting for them.  On the other hand, everyone will know that, and there won't be many jobs...

*Single quotation marks because they ain't always that 'international': high proportions of local kids, especially since the quake.
**Education, business, society...
***Or buy off 'amakudari' and politicians, as it would be more effective.


  1. "some research presented was interesting: Japanese private schools and universities are fucked, but 'international schools' are not; though the demographics doom all but the most prestigious Japanese private schools, the 'international schools' are going to survive because the percentage of Japanese kids in them increases faster than the decline in the youth population"

    I have been seeing this (are we talking about Schools with developed/developing international communication programs?) If so my students are all aiming at Unis with programs similar to Akita

    1. Don't know any more than what I wrote, sorry. I've long said as much to anyone I thought would listen here,* which is to say other 'Gaijin' only.

      *Educate your kids in English even to stay in Japan.

  2. A bright young teacher from North America would do well to secure a job at an International school here in Japan while Abenomics fails and the yen continues to go back to the point where it's kicking the crap out of the US and Canadian dollars. Five years of gaining experience teaching abroad at a real school while saving an amount in yen that will give them a 20-25% increase in their savings upon converting and returning home, is a solid-gold deal if you ask me.

    1. I expect you're right. Staff have been bitching about the exchange rate now, and so has the J-wife, though she ought to realize that with one income and four people we are doing well just to be be breaking even, which we are. We've got nothing to send back anyway!

  3. It'd be interesting to see how Chinese and Korean schools compare to the English speaking ones.

    Tbh, I don't really understand why anyone would go into teaching anywhere! Poorly paid with too much responsibility! Unless you start your own school of course.

    1. Never go into education unless you are doomed to it: no other skills, and you actually care that kids learn.

  4. I think fear of proper education for my child is why I chose not to have a child. Step-son arrives in about 2 weeks.... I shall assess what damage public school has inflicted on him. I have hopes that maybe he still has an insatiable thirst for knowledge as I did and his bio father still does. *fingers crossed*