Over the last two months, I was trying to find information about getting my son admitted to a Japanese school. Though I did find some information, I could not get the complete information in a single article. So I thought I will post a small article to help other parents who might be in the same dilemma.
Japanese school system has three grades. The three grades are Elementary School, Junior High School and High School. The schooling begins at 6 years of age for a child. The Elementary school is the first 6 years of the child in the school equivalend to 1st to 6th standard in India. The Junior High School is the next 3 years equivalent to 7th Standard to 9th Standard in India. Finally, the High School is the final three years of schooling equivalent to 10th to 12th standard in India.
Generally a Japanese School year starts in the first or second week of April. So in case, one wants thier children to attend school from the start, they need to get the admission process out of the way before April. But generally children are allowed to join the school at all times, so parents who do come in after April can also get their children admitted, though how quickly the child would adapt to the new school is a point of concern.
The first thing to do is go to the nearest Municipal office alongwith the resident cards and address details. Kindly note that you need to have a resident card and a residence address to start the process. The municipal would allot you a school based on your address. This is quite different from system that we have in India where parents choose a school. Here each school has a designated area and if you stay in that area your child is assigned that school. I believe this restriction does not hold good for the private schools, but then they are a very costly option. From my understanding, each district also has one public school that has some kind of Foreigner support system built into it, like Japanese language class to enable students to quickly come up to pace with the language. For foriegn nationals it is better to get their children admitted to such schools.
Once the school has been assigned to your child, the municipal office would give a set of papers related to that school. The parents need to collect this paper and then go to the school with their child and submit these papers to the school. Kindly note that both parents are generally required to go to the school. Also the parents need to carry the municipal papers, Bank Account details, Resident card and a Hanko (Japanese Stamp). While filling in the forms, the parents can discuss about the food that is provided at school. As the food that is supplied at school is predominantly non-vegetarian, if the parents want to avoid it they can avoid it. Alternatively, they can ask the school to provide a part of the meal such as milk, fruits, bread, jam and rice. I recommend the latter option for vegetarians as it allows the child to settle down quicker with the other classmates and not stand completely apart.
So far so good. Now comes the slightly tricky part – the cost of education. Most public schools in Japan are said to be free – but there are some caveats. Only the tuition fees are free. There are other things for which parents need to shell out money.
The first thing that a parent needs to shell out money for is the Randoseru (Japanese traditional school bag). Randoseru’s traditionally come in two colors: Black for boys and Red for girls, though off late other colors are available. A Randoseru is supposed to last the entire duration of the Elementary school of 6 years. So the cost of Randoseru is pretty high with a decent Randoseru starting at 20,000 Yen and the really good ones going all the way up to 60,000 Yen. In the Japanese custom, the Randoseru is usually gifted by grand parents to their grand child as a gift to start the education. So parents are required to enter an agreement with their parents before embarking on Japanese education for their children. 🙂
The next thing is the school uniform. Again as per the norms, there is no school uniform. But the parents need to buy a sports uniform consisting of shorts, t-shirt and shoes. Additionally parents need to buy an additional pair of shoes for wearing within the school and one pair of shoes to wear to the school. Other dress items include cap, bandanas and scarfs depending on which public school the child joins. Again depending on the quality of material and quantity of dresses that a parent chooses, this could cost anywhere between 30000 Yen to 50000 Yen.
Next up the parents need to pay for the education materials. The school books per se are again free, but schools use a variety of educational aids for which the parents need to pay for. This will vary from school to school and could be around 3000 to 5000 yen per month. Similarly, the food charges would again vary from school to school and could roughly cost around 5000 yen per month. Finally there could be some other charges that a school can levy from time to time for events such as a field trips and excursions.
And now your kid is all set to join a Japanese school. Sit back and enjoy the experience.