The School Dilemma

A few months ago, Baggy and I were faced with a dilemma. We had to make a decision on where Aya will go for her schooling. We had to decide fast, because if Aya were to go to an international school, she will have to enroll in September. But if not, then she goes to public school in April next year.

As you could probably tell, we were fortunately saved from having to make this decision by leaving Japan and going to the UK. Just in the nick of time! No Japanese public school or international school for Aya, she’s going to a primary school in England! Yipee! How cool is that? :) Or as the locals say here, it’s brilliant!

ayaschoolnotice_2 But now, having recently received the official notice for school admission (see image on the left) from the city government (schools are assigned based on residence), we are back to facing the same dilemma. Akala niyo nakaligtas na kayo! After all, we won’t be staying in Cambridge forever, and surely by next year we will be back in Japan. Of course, we are not forced to put our child in the assigned school, but if we do give our consent, all we have to do is return back the card with our details and personal stamp (hanko). If not, then we’ll have to tick one of the boxes at the bottom to explain our reasons/circumstances why we refuse to do so.

Personally, I am not convinced that attending a public school in Japan would be the best thing for our daughter. Why? Primarily because of the following reasons:

  • If Aya were educated in a Japanese-based curriculum, then her choices for university will be limited to Japan, because by the time she finishes secondary school, she’ll be perfect in Japanese but very poor in English. If she were educated in an English-based curriculum, then at least her options are wider – the world is hers to explore! I’m daydreaming that she’ll go to Harvard or Cambridge someday. :)
  • I’d been miserable enough trying to cope with the Japanese public daycare. I begrudgingly attended PTA (or its closest equivalent) meetings, discussed with teachers about my daughter’s well-being, and painstakingly tried to read through all the handouts written in Japanese only (some of them were even handwritten! Oh the pain!) – all in the effort to try and understand what’s happening. Fifty percent of the time I understood. Fifty percent of the time I was simply driven out of my wits. Talk about lost in translation! Anyway, that was just the daycare experience. We are not even talking about the proper education of my child here. So I expect that it will be much, much worse in the elementary, what with the vigorous PTA and school activities. I just don’t have the strength to cope with that anymore. Amazingly, some parents do…well, good luck na lang sa inyo.
  • I don’t want to put my daughter under extreme stress when she should be enjoying her childhood. Among the parents I talked to, the common consensus is that schoolchildren in Japan are put under a lot of stress just so that they would excel in school. I don’t really like the idea of putting my kid in juku (cram school), where she will study for extra hours so she can make it good in an exam.
  • How on earth can we supervise and support Aya’s learning at home when both of us struggle with the language ourselves? (Ok, perhaps Baggy would do more struggling than I would, but just the same…) If Aya were in an English-based school, Baggy and I can give her our 100% follow-up and supervision. I tell you, with our combined efforts, magiging sobrang genius si Aya. 😉

But if not a public school, what is the alternative? An international school, of course. An English-based, international school. Fortunately, there are a couple of such schools in Tsukuba. However, here are the cons:

  • Only a handful of students attend these schools. Think two students for Grade One, three students for Grade Two. School is also about socialization. I remember how fun it was to interact with all sorts of personalities and characters in school, how it was wonderful to share your baon and have buddies and barkadas. What if there were only two of you in the classroom – each one gets 50% of the teacher’s attention, and each one gets to answer the teacher’s questions 50% of the time! That doesn’t leave you with much break, doesn’t it? So it seems to me to be no different from a private tutoring session instead of a school.
  • The locations are too far from where we live. That means that I have to drive Aya to school, everyday. How am I supposed to pick her up at 3 pm, when school normally ends? I’ll have to cut my work hours short and rush every time to pick her up. If Aya attends the assigned public school nearby, she and her friends can just walk together to and from school. The children are trained to go home on their own without assistance, with parents assigned to keep watch on the streets.
  • They don’t come cheap. If I want that kind of education for my child, I’ll have to shell out a lotta money. But for a public school – it’s free! ‘Nuff said.

Sabi ng Lola ni Aya, pauwiin niyo na lang yang anak nyo sa Pinas, para solb ang problema niyo. Susme!

Talk about a dilemma. If you were me, what would you do?

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8 Responses to The School Dilemma

  1. Vince says:

    Settle down in Cambridge :)

  2. herb says:

    ahhhh malaking dilemma ito! i don’t have kids but i think an english-based curriculum is best. i don’t want aya to turn into a robot.

  3. Ellen says:

    Hi Kathy, I really like your blog because you are so open about perspectives ,it is just like exploring my own plateful of dilemma..salamiin talaga hehe…

    That is a question I also struggled with my husband.. and actually we had no choice nga but to send our three kids to the public school..Surprisingly, they are well-adjusted naman and have become very self-sufficient pa nga..And now they are starting to want to learn English on their own..because they know how important it is..especially with it being the universal language.. I think learning Japanese is much harder to do than learning English which kids can do later for as long as you expose them to English TV ,movies and books….The Japanese curriculum is surprisingly good and comprehensive,with one hitch, the medium of instruction used..but as a whole, it is satisfactory naman..their hands-on style of teaching is also pretty instructive and children learn the Japanese way of doing things efficiently and promptly too..with enough regards for order, community and the environment…They also learn self-esteem since they are treated equally, there is no honor roll singling out only the gifted or the the behinds don’t feel behind at all…which is good ..So, everyone has a chance to be special..because nobody will feel insecure or dumb..hehe

  4. raqx says:

    Are there any other international school with more students? All the while I thought IS would be a SOLUTION i didnt know of its downside. I personally think with Aya’s abilities and learning skill she’s way too awesome to be in jap school. Striving to be the best and learning to accept failures are better taught in tender years i guess. growth would not be exponential if she has to “blend”. and if its the WORLD you want her to conquer, she has to be competitive but i guess you knew it already.

    What I’d do.. I’d try to find a way to extend my stay in Cambridge. this sounds radical pero… might consider migration for Aya’s sake.. shucks EASY FOR ME TO SAY!!

  5. Karmi says:

    Hi Kathy! I suddenly had an image of being in your living room. Herb, Ellen, and Raqx are here. The international school in Tsukuba sounds a little bit depressing, what with very few students. I guess there will be a lot of hardships if you go for a public school but Aya will have a lot of Japanese friends; she will really be there with Japanese learning about Japan and the language. Will that really limit her chances of studying abroad when she’s grown up? English, she can learn with you and other foreigners, and from books, of course.

  6. Toe says:

    Hahaha… ang ganda ng sagot ni Lola. :)

    But really… choosing a school for your child while abroad is no easy task. I’m sure that you and Baggy will make the right decision.

  7. kathy says:

    Vince, hahah…di papayag si Boss Baggy niyan. 😛

    Herb, neither do I. Well, I just want what’s best for my daughter, which is what all parents eventually want.

    Ellen, thanks for sharing your insights on this matter. You’re one of the few parents I personally know who actually has children going to public school in Japan. I am seriously taking into consideration your comments on this matter.

  8. kathy says:

    Raqx, I’m crossing my fingers that somehow the situation at IS would change. But with the recession in Japan and all, it seems that the more economical choice would be the public school. Find a way to extend my stay here? Hmm…but I really miss my home in Tsukuba! lol

    Karmi, thanks, I appreciate your input on this matter. Mastery of any language is essential to excel in school, and I just feel that English would pave to way to broader options for Aya.

    Toe, thanks for the vote of confidence. Well, let’s see how it goes. 😉

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