Guide to International Schools in Tokyo

By Kawai Porter | June 28th 2021

Are you a parent in Tokyo and worried about your child receiving the best education possible? Maybe your Japanese skills are limited and you have heard horror stories about foreign kids in Japanese Schools? Well, International schools might be your best choice, this guide will give you an in-depth explanation of what international schools are and how they are different from Japanese Schools. 

This article is part of our extensive series of ultimate guides to Life in Tokyo

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    International Schools in Tokyo - Classroom

    International Schools in Tokyo

    So you have just arrived in Tokyo and you have children. Which school should you send them to? Well, an international school might be your best choice. International schools are schools in Tokyo that are specifically tailored for students who want an internationally focused education. This means many of the teachers and students come from all over the world. The education environment is also much closer to western schools than a Japanese school is. So now that you know the general idea of what an international school is, what are the different types of international schools in Tokyo? 


    There are three main types of international schools in Tokyo. There are American schools, British schools, and IB (International Baccalaureate schools. Each of these schools have their differences and you can continue reading for more information on each type of International school in Tokyo! 

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    Benefits International School In tokyo

    What are the main benefits of International Schools in Tokyo?

    The main benefit of International Schools in Tokyo is that your child will be able to have an experience that is closer to your home country's education system. The Japanese education system is extremely taxing on students especially in high school so you can be assured the stress your children will experience will overall be less. International schools also make it easier to get into foreign universities. Also, International schools have different languages offered so it is a lot easier if your child has limited Japanese language skills. If you want to improve your Japanese language skills, consider reading our article on How to Learn Japanese.

    What are the main negatives of International Schools in Tokyo? 

    While International Schools are great places to send your children for a top-tier education they are not free from criticism. Japanese International schools can become bubbles and you may not be able to fully integrate into Japanese culture. International Schools in Tokyo are also more expensive than Japanese schools. Now, these are negatives but they have their own reasons and it comes down to language. English is the language of choice for International Schools and you have to pay a premium for English speakers in Japan. If you do not speak Japanese it may be easier to be in a bubble of fellow English speakers at your international school of choice. The next section of this guide will help you make the best choices to pick the international school for you. 

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    Choices International School in Tokyo

    Picking The Right International School In Tokyo To Fit Your Needs

    Every child has different needs so you need to determine the best school for your child. If you are British or American you may consider sending your child to a British or American International school in Tokyo. Or if you want a more well-rounded education environment you might consider an IB program. 


    What are the best international schools? 

    The highest-rated international school in Tokyo is an IB school called Aoba-Japan International school. Aoba Japan International School is a school that offers programs for students ages 2-18 and has a mix of Japanese students and expatriate students with students from 50 countries. The top American school in Tokyo is the Axis International school. Axis is a school that offers instruction for students ranging in age from 2-18 and small class sizes. The top British International School In Tokyo is Laurus International School of Science. Laurus offers schooling for students ranging from ages 18 months to 12 years old. It offers preschool and kindergarten as well as elementary schools that focus on science. 


    Are there specialty international schools in Tokyo?

    Yes, there are specialty schools in Tokyo that offer special courses for college prep, art, and science. College prep schools may include special classes and guidance counselors to ensure your student is as prepared as they can be for university. Art schools can help your child explore their creative side with special courses in music, visual art, or even digital art. Science schools can help your child be prepared for a career in science with special field trips and top-tier faculty to help them explore their scientific curiosity. 


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    Transportation International School in Tokyo

    Is there transportation offered for international schools in Tokyo? 

    Some International schools offer busses for their students. But if your child is old enough, many are located close to Tokyo’s intricate public transportation network. Some also have parking lots. If you have a car and work in the area you may be able to park at the international school you choose to send your student to. 


    Are international schools taught in English? 

    The majority of international schools in Tokyo are taught in English. But other schools have the primary language of instruction in other languages. The French-Japanese International School of Tokyo for example offers primary education in the French language. 


    Do international schools offer courses in multiple languages?

    While English may be the primary language of instruction in most international schools in Tokyo, many offer courses in other languages. Japanese is taught at most of the International schools as well as Spanish, French, Korean, and Chinese are common languages offered. The primary language of instruction can also be different. There are Spanish, French, and even Korean International schools in Tokyo. 


    International Schools in Japan Outside of Tokyo

    If you live in Japan but outside of Tokyo you can still send your children to international schools. There are International Schools in most of the major cities in Japan. There is the International School of Osaka and the Kyoto International School. Both schools are IB schools located in Osaka and Kyoto respectively. Outside of Kyoto-Osaka and Tokyo though you might be out of luck for a wide variety of options for International Schools so you can consider sending your child to an International Boarding School. 


    Are there International Boarding Schools? 

    Most international schools in Tokyo do not offer boarding options but some do. The Columbia International School located just outside of Tokyo is a Canadian school that offers boarding options for international students. This may be a good option if you are living outside of a big city in Japan that does not have any international schools for your student to attend. 


    Can I send my child to an international boarding school if I do not live in Japan? 

    If you do not wish to live in Japan but want to send your child to a boarding school in Japan it can be difficult. Getting a visa can be tricky while not impossible. It is highly unlikely to attend an international school in Tokyo. You can use this Guide to Moving to Japan if you have any more questions about moving to Japan. 


    When are international schools in session? 

    Most international schools in Tokyo follow the same calendar as Japanese schools. This means that the new school year starts in April and ends in March. There are breaks towards the end of the summer and in the winter for breaks from school as well as getting off on National holidays. 


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    Costs of International School in Tokyo

    International Schools In Tokyo Costs

    Private schools, in general, can be somewhat pricey but it is up to you if it is worth it. International schools are no exception to this rule and some can cost quite a lot of money. How much they cost depends on the school and continue reading for more information about the costs of international schools in Tokyo.


    How much do International schools cost in Tokyo? 

    There are a few different costs associated with attending an international school in Tokyo.The biggest expense will be the Tuition fee which can range from 1,500,000-2,500,000 JPY (13,600 - 22,700 USD) this fee will be paid annually. 


    There are some other fees associated with attending including Building Management fees which could be up to 200,000 JPY, and family committee fees which are usually around 20,000 JPY which are also paid annually. Then there are some other one-time fees such as application fees of 20,000 JPY, registration fees of 300,000 JPY, and development fees of 500,000 JPY. 


    Some other costs are lunch fees which can be up to 200,000 JPY and bus fees for up to 300,000 JPY. There can also be other fees for extracurriculars or field trips as well. In total on the high end, you could be paying up to 4,040,000 JPY (37,000 USD). 


    Are there scholarships offered at International Schools in Tokyo? 

    Some international schools do offer scholarships but it is somewhat rare and they are highly competitive. This makes the cost of attending an international school exceptionally high. You may consider asking the company you work for if there is any way they can help many companies offer help with tuition for school for expat workers. 


    What is the cost difference between International Schools in Tokyo and other schooling options? 

    The general rule of thumb is that public school costs about half as much as a private school does in Japan. Schooling in Tokyo costs different amounts depending on the year with pre-school being cheap and elementary school and high school costing more. On average, elementary school for public school costs around 2,000,000 JPY. and High school costs around 1,500,000 JPY. 


    Extracurriculars In International Schools In Tokyo

    Extracurriculars are a big part of the Japanese school experience with both sports and clubs being popular. International schools are no exception to this and they offer sports and clubs for their students to participate in. 

    What extracurriculars are offered at International schools in Tokyo? 

    Extracurriculars can Include art clubs, academic clubs, and sporting events. Art clubs can include pottery, drawing or painting and even phot editing. Academic clubs can include history clubs, geography clubs or math clubs. Sporting clubs can include track and field, soccer or martial arts.  This means that you can find something that your child will love to do. Extracurriculars are not only a great way to enjoy something your child is passionate about but also a great way to make friends. You can consult this page on the athletic extracurriculars offered at Aoba Japan International School

    What sports are at International schools in Tokyo? 

    Some common sports that are offered at Japanese International Schools are basketball, baseball, and cross country running. However many schools are different and if you shop around they may offer a specific sport you are looking for such as martial arts, soccer, or American football. Sports clubs often have competition with other schools in the area as well. 

    What are common clubs at international schools in Tokyo?

    Clubs are different at every school but there are a few common ones. Art clubs are very popular such as drawing clubs, sculpting clubs, and even digital art clubs such as graphic design are all common. History Clubs and science clubs are also common for students with extra academic interests. Some other clubs that might be present include robotics clubs or theatre clubs.  

    If my child does not see a club they are interested in can they start their own? 

    It depends on the school. Clubs will have to be supervised by faculty at the International Schools so if your child can convince the faculty there is a need for a new club then they may be able to start one. Resources can be limited and you may get denied if you want a specific or niche topic you can ask before attending your international school of choice if a specific club that you are interested in joining is offered.

    Are clubs required while attending International Schools in Tokyo? 

    Again it depends on the school but clubs or sports teams are both great ways to make friends and expand your student's interests. If your school does not require your student to join an extracurricular club you should still encourage your child to join an extracurricular. Extracurricular participation looks great on applications for universities or high schools and developing leadership skills and other intangible skills that cannot be taught in the classroom are best learned in extracurriculars. 

    Pre School Students International School Tokyo

    Preschool And Kindergarten In International Schools In Tokyo

    If you are a parent of a younger child then you will probably want to send them to a preschool or kindergarten. Preschool is a great way to prepare your child for their academic career and the skills that they learn in preschool and kindergarten are critical for the development of your children. 

    Are there International Pre-K and Kindergartens in Tokyo? 

    Yes, there are international preschools and kindergartens in Tokyo. There are many stand-alone schools that do not have elementary schools attached and there are schools that offer pre-K all the way through high school. Attending prestigious preschools may help your child get into more prestigious schools later on in their academic career. 

    Are there half-day or full-day classes in international preschools and kindergartens in Tokyo?

    Yes, some international schools in Tokyo offer half-day classes for preschool kindergarten. However, they also offer full-day classes. For example, the West Tokyo preschool offers both half-day and full-day classes. 

    What services do International preschools and kindergartens offer in Tokyo? 

    Each school offers different services but there are some common ones. Many schools offer childcare for after class is over but you are still working. They also offer bus services. The other services could include language classes or fitness classes. Lunch can also be served at full-day programs if you do not have time to pack a lunch for your student. 

    Can I choose to send my child to single-gender preschool or Kindergarten? 

    Yes, there are some single-gender preschools and kindergartens in Tokyo if you would like that. The main benefit of this is that it is a more relaxed environment, less gender stereotyping, and a more tailored curriculum. One of the top all-boys schools is St. Mary's International school. A top all-girls school is International school of the sacred heart

    Are there international schools in Tokyo that are preschool through high school? 

    Yes, there are international schools in Tokyo that are designed to prepare students for high school. High school Japan is different from western countries and countries and you oftentimes have to apply for them. There are prep schools that will look really good on applications to these prestigious high schools. An example is the Ivy Prep international school. If you plan on sending your child to an International school that lasts from preschool through high school you may consider having your child attend an IB school and an example is the Global Indian International School Tokyo. 

    What are the biggest differences between international preschools and kindergartens in Tokyo and Japanese schools? 

    The main difference is the language of instruction. The main language for international schools is English while Japanese schools are Japanese. If your child is not fluent in Japanese then it is probably better to attend an international school. International preschools can also be more specific such as a science-based program or even the Montessori school program. These are individual plans that are different from general preschools and kindergartens that many Japanese schools choose to do. 


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    International Elementary And Middle Schools In Tokyo

    Elementary schools are often combined with other schools in International schools in Tokyo. Some are combined with pre-schools and others are combined with middle and high schools. The point of these schools is to prepare students for high school. High school can be very rigorous and it is important to be fully prepared and the years your child will attend elementary and middle school can be critical not only for academics but social reasons as well. 

    Will international elementary and middle schools prepare my child for High school? 

    Yes, the main purpose of these schools is to prepare your student for high school. This will be done with experienced tutors and teachers with an in-depth curriculum. Many schools also offer prep courses and counseling services so you as a parent and your student will be prepared for the transition to high school. 

    Will my child interact with Japanese students at International schools in Tokyo? 

    It depends on the school but in general terms yes. Many international schools have a significant native Japanese population in attendance as well as ex-pat students. But other than the students attending the international school through extracurriculars your student will interact with Japanese students. If you want more information about making Japanese friends you can read this Guide to Making Japanese Friends

    What are the biggest differences between international elementary schools and Japanese elementary schools? 

    Other than the language of instruction some of the biggest differences come in the curriculum and extracurriculars. International schools are mostly modeled after western schools and because of this the schooling experience may be more similar to what you are familiar with. For extracurriculars, international schools usually have more options especially in sports with sports such as American football and basketball being popular at some of the schools. Also, many international schools are popular with international faculty so you will get a more international experience with your student being exposed to cultures all over the world. 

    What are the biggest differences between international middle schools and Japanese middle schools? 

    International middle schools have an extreme focus on preparing students for high school. This is not all that different from Japanese middle schools but some international middle schools also have high schools attached. Some of these schools will not have an admittance test to attend the associated high school. If this is the case then a great deal of stress can be avoided from your student for cramming for these difficult admittance tests. 

    High Schools International Schools in Tokyo

    International High Schools In Tokyo

    International high schools are significantly different from Japanese high schools and they are much more similar to western schools. These high schools still have admittance tests but there are plenty of prestigious options for you to consider. Continue reading this guide for an in-depth explanation of International High Schools in Tokyo. 

    Will my child be prepared for Japanese universities at an International High School in Tokyo? 

    Yes, International high schools will prepare your child for Japanese universities. However, the main language of instruction is in English so you may consider applying for an English program at Japanese universities. If you wish for your child to attend a Japanese language program they will have to be N1 level Japanese. International Schools In Tokyo do offer great Japanese language courses but it may be in your best interest to study outside of class to be fully prepared for Japanese universities. There are also guidance counseling services available at most International schools in Tokyo to make the right choice for Japanese universities for you. If you want to plan ahead you can read this Guide to Japanese Universities for more information. 

    Will International high school in Tokyo benefit my child for university admissions internationally? 

    It depends on the university. While a lot of universities favor having a diverse student body an International school degree may not benefit your student but it will not hurt them either. If you are applying to attend a university in the United States or the United Kingdom you will have to prove your English capabilities by taking a test. Your student will be able to pass this easily though if they have attended an International School in Tokyo even if English is not your native language. If you are attending a university in the United States you will have to take the SAT test. This is a standardized test that people around the world take to show that they are prepared for university. You can consult the college board website for more information about taking the SAT internationally. International schools offer prep courses for the SAT test.

    Will an International school’s degree be recognized internationally? 

    Yes, international high school degrees will be recognized internationally. High school degrees will carry across national borders so if you plan on moving back to your home country before you apply for university you can be assured the high school degree will be recognized. 

    If my child doesn't plan to go to university will the International school prepare them to join the workforce? 

    It depends on what field your student plans on entering. It's always best to consider all of your options and councilors at your school can help you determine the best path for your student. There are a lot of options for people other than college including trade schools and apprenticeships. But you should know the potential salary of your child will be hurt by not attending college. With that being said you may be able to find work without a degree but it may not be a career your child will want to pursue. The main goal of International schools is to prepare your child to attend university. If you do not plan on attending university you may want to consider another option due to the high costs of attending an international school. 

    What are the biggest differences between International High schools and Japanese High schools for foreign students? 

    Japanese high schools have extensive and rigorous testing that causes a lot of stress for the students. While International High Schools still have some of these tests due to the small class sizes your student will have less stress in preparing and taking these tests. Other than the testing and class sizes the main differences are the student body. International schools have students attending from all over the world. This will give your child a worldwide network and more global knowledge. Extracurriculars can also be different and the teachers as well. The faculty at International schools are extremely qualified and some of the best teachers in all of Tokyo. 

    Different Education Programs At International Schools in Tokyo

    International schools are different from Japanese schools; many are modeled after British schools or American schools but what about other programs. IB or International Baccalaureate programs or Montessori programs are both specialty programs offered at International schools in Tokyo. Continue reading this section for information on what these are and if they are the right choice for your student.  

    What is the IB program? 

    For over 50 years the IB program has been dedicated to giving students an international education. The Ib program has a presence in many countries all over the world and this program is meant to prepare students for university. The IB program is meant for students from ages 3 to 19 so it is from preschool all the way through high school. The IB program is great to help your child get scholarships or even get credit for some university-level classes while still in high school. Some of the benefits of the IB program are the enhanced research skills and critical thinking skills that are built up throughout their time within the program. The goal of the IB program outside of assisting with university admissions is to teach the students how to learn. The Aoba-Japan International school is the top IB program in Tokyo. 

    Is the IB program helpful when applying for University? 

    Yes, the IB program looks really good on applications for university. University admissions can be hard for international students and the IB program gives them something on their transcript that university admissions staff are familiar with and know the quality. Any high school can claim to be prestigious but the IB program is internationally recognized as prestigious. 

    What is the Montessori program? 

    A Montessori school is a school-based on the ideas of Italian children psychologist Dr. Maria Montessouri. The Montessori system is based on self-study and gives the child a lot of freedom to pursue their own interest with little supervision. This is great for extremely motivated students but may not be as good for less motivated students. Montessori schools are less about learning and more about nurturing. Montessori schools are also focused on younger children with the top Montessori school in Tokyo the Tokyo Bay International School only accepting students from ages 3-11. 

    Will the Montessori school prepare students for College or High School? 

    The Montessori school system is different from any other school system with an extreme focus on individual learning as opposed to group learning or classroom learning. Also, they have an individual curriculum with lots of student choices. If your student does not choose to study a wide amount of fields they may struggle in areas that they did not study. For example, if your student wanted to focus on literature or art in their individual studies then they may struggle with math or science in their later academic career. 

    Are there other programs at International Schools in Tokyo? 

    Other than the general education tracks such as British or American schools there are not any other options for international schools in Tokyo. However, you can look into taking AP tests or Advanced Placement tests if you wish to send your child to school in America or Canada. AP tests are tests you can take to get college credit for classes you have taken in High school. You may have to travel to the United States to take the AP tests but you will save money in the long run if you plan on attending an American University due to the high costs of a college education. There are also special education schools for students with disabilities if your child has a learning disability you may consider sending them to one of these specialty schools. 

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    Teachers at International Schools in Tokyo

    Special education at International Schools in Tokyo

    If your child requires special help such as if they have a learning disability or maybe they have ADHD or ADD don't worry there is an education solution for you. Whatever your specific needs are you can get help but there are some general guidelines of International schools in Tokyo. 

    Are there special programs for students with learning disabilities?

    Yes, there are, if your child has special needs there are places for you to be assured that they can still receive an education. The Harvey Maclaurin's school is a great place to start off with they have a great program for students with autism, LD. ADHD, or even cerebral palsy. Other international schools may be able to accommodate learning disabilities but Harvey Maclaurin's school is made for children with learning disabilities. 

    Are there programs for students with social problems? 

    Unfortunately, there are not any programs dedicated to students with social problems. If your child has extreme anxiety you may consider homeschooling. Or if your child has problems making friends you could consider participating in extracurriculars or asking guidance counselors to keep an eye on your child. 

    Teachers At International Schools In Tokyo

    Teachers are probably the most critical part of any school and International schools are not an exception to this rule. The faculty at international schools come from all over the world and this global faculty will influence your children's school experience but how do they compare to other teachers and what qualifications do they have? 


    What qualifications do teachers have at International Schools in Tokyo? 

    All International school teachers have a minimum of a bachelor's degree in their associated field as well as experience teaching. This means that a geography teacher will have a degree in geography not in education. Many teachers will also have a master's degree as well but it is not required. All teachers will have to be fluent in English and English teachers will have to be native speakers. 


    Are language teachers native speakers? 

    Yes at International Schools in Tokyo the instructors who teach languages such as French, Korean, or Mandarin will be native speakers. This is important because your students will also be exposed to the cultures of the native speakers and not just English-speaking culture or Japanese culture. 


    How do International School teachers compare to Japanese schools and schools in other countries? 

    In other countries, it is much more common for teachers to have degrees in education and not in their specific fields. This leads to a different teaching style and less focus on important information for the industry the teachers are teaching. Japanese schools also require their teachers to have a bachelor's degree but they may have degrees in education instead of in their associated field. 

    How do I become a teacher at an International School In Tokyo? 

    Becoming a teacher at an international school in Tokyo can be a great career choice if your spouse works for a Japanese company and you are looking for work. The requirements are generally a 4 years bachelor's degree and a teaching license in Japan. Teaching experience is generally required as well. Usually, a minimum of two years of teaching experience is required but this can be in your home country and does not have to be in Japan. If you do not have these requirements you may consider becoming an English teacher.


    What are the other non-teacher faculty International Schools in Tokyo? 

    Outside of teachers, there are administrators, guidance counselors, tutors, and coaches all at International Schools in Tokyo. Some also have psychologists on staff and many have facilities management teams such as landscapers or janitors. 


    International Schools in Tokyo are some of the best schools in the massive city and are definitely your best choice if you want your kids to receive an education in English. They have some of the top faculty in the city as well as having amazing extracurriculars and provide a lot of help when applying to university. 

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